Reviewed pieces of work: 1
Acted as reviewer: 3
Resolving a Difficult Challenge With SF
This work involved a two day forum for a charity. The charity were given the opportunity to run a forum to to enrich the debate on the topic of the Intellectual Property (IP) of indigenous peoples with a particular focus on their free, prior and informed consent to the exploitation of their natural and cultural heritage. The client wanted “to ensure that it is different to conventional symposia, that it is a closed and informal environment, that it encourages dialogue, builds relationships and has maximum benefit.”
The client had seen a talk on Solutions Focus by John and in discussions he reassured her that SF could provide a safe and encouraging framework for the forum. The forum brought together eighteen people, lawyers, indigenous people, academics, industry representatives and charity workers in a beautiful country hotel environment. To download a full article on this case study please click here.
The client’s opinion was that the forum: “built really good future relationships, which are now (12 months later) bearing fruit. And perhaps most important of all, the people who came realized that there were different approaches which could be taken in addressing the challenge. The whole symposium challenged the existing orthodoxies in peoples’ minds, and the positive effects of that will be felt for a long time yet. All those who came to the symposium seem to have spread the word that the work was really good, and the consequence is that those who couldn’t come then have been moved by the positive feedback of the symposium to engage with us further, in the next stages of the process”.
For me, much of what I felt was summarised very well by the client: “I liked the risks which we took. They were honest, and as we felt them, either when huge issues suddenly arose, or when someone challenged the solution focus approach out of defensiveness or obstinacy, they were really well resolved, with no sense of pressure or compromise. I liked the continual change of pace, the use of physical space, and the care which was taken to ensure that all participants had a fair share of the air time.”
Solutions Focus was a different approach, especially for those trained to look for the causes of problems and so there was risk and resistance. My reviewers asked how I had dealt with that, something I had not thought of before. My answer was that I didn’t defend. I asked participants to trust the process and I was resolute that I would not seek the cause of problems.
My reviewers also helped me to realise that, in seeking the outcome for a meeting with a client I often use the Future Perfect, by having them consider the end of the meeting and asking them what outcome would make them feel really good. Both these examples show the power of a review process to help us recognise intrinsic capability. The affirming discussion at the end of the interview helps boost confidence and elicit new trains of thought, e.g. How can one pose the miracle question in the best way?
Finally, my experience with SF over the last 5 years is that the methodology of SF works, particularly with challenges involving different perceptions, because as Edith Sitwell said, “There is no truth, only points of view” and SF allows those views to be heard with respect.
I liked John’s use of his knowledge of other models, which he successfully blended with solution-focused methods. He explicitly linked his past business experience and his Kaizen training with the application of solution-focused methods. The Constructive Rant has potential for other situations where past tensions need to be defused before work proper can continue. The avoidance of ‘ego’ and defensiveness helped greatly in allowing the solution-focused process to continue.
I think this case shows the width of topics where SF can successfully be applied. John uses SF techniques from the the first moment together with his client, and to the very end of the process. He had the courage to maintain the SF approach even when there was great resistance among the participants. His use of the scaling questions in this process is innovative and excellent from my point of view.
Lead reviewer: Alasdair MacDonald
Second reviewer: Hans Christian Nielsen
About The Candidate
John Brooker is a professional meeting facilitator and innovator, working with teams on a truly international basis, across Western and Eastern Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia. He encourages teams to think innovatively using his own Inn8 Approach and Solution Focus, so that they can achieve difficult targets, tackle complex challenges and maximise major opportunities. He is the author of Innovate to Learn, Don’t Learn to Innovate. John is a Board Member of the international Association for Quality Development of Solution Focused Consultants and Trainers. He has worked with Solution Focus since 2004.