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A cafe conversation

CoffeeJohn Inman has run strategic planning processes for 15 years. This week he tried a new way of doing it, adding a World Cafe session early in the process.

World Cafe is a way of hosting small group discussions around cafe-style tables; the participants move from table to table, with hosts staying where they are, so that ideas spread around the room and grow and develop. The person running the World Cafe may try to recreate the look, feel (and smell!) of a real cafe, with tablecloths and flowers on the tables, freshly brewed coffee, and background music.

The end result? The strategic planning session achieved more, and in less time, than the process John has been using for fifteen years.

It was the most productive planning session I have ever had and I believe that is in no small part due to driving them into conversation early and the power of conversation transformed the session.

Hat tip to Chris Corrigan for spotting John’s post. Chris writes about his own similar experience with Open Space

These participatory processes are far more than “just talk” and with wise planning and focused harvests, they are a very fast way to make headway on what can otherwise be tedious planning processes.

* The photograph at the top is from Flickr.com, reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence.