Liberating Structures: 1-2-4-All

After last issue’s look at TRIZ, a key part of the Liberating Structures online compendium of facilitation tools, how about something to support pure innovative thinking? Welcome to 1-2-4-All.

It’s the perfect method for segmenting time and space, in four simple parts. First, spend one minute alone, to come up with ideas: silent and introspective. Second, two minutes in pairs, sharing your ideas and building on each other’s suggestions. Third is four minutes in smaller groups (often two pairs) to share and further build on ideas. Finally, take five minutes to share one main idea with all participants and see what might be worth further consideration, or immediate action. It’s 12 minutes of varied, participative and iterative creativity, and it is remarkably effective in helping to overcome stuck and dysfunctional practices.

In one tech client’s highly competitive marketplace, product innovation wasn’t as easy as simply coming up with new features. We ran a session using 1-2-4-All. We discovered that the company’s marketing team knew more about current and prospective client user experience needs than the front-end design team. The sales team meanwhile came up with a smart idea for ‘freemium to premium’, which would engage a new client segment. And the client success team focused on issues in the sign-up process, coming up with a way to stop inflicting unnecessary bureaucracy upon former clients who had moved organizations but were being treated as new.

The process generated three standout suggestions in just 12 minutes. When rolled through, they caused a big shift in new business and created a better customer proposition.

There’s no excuse for sticking with tired tools for generating ideas like ‘Stop, start, continue’, or kicking off staff events with dreaded icebreakers such as human bingo or “What kind of animal are you?” Liberating Structures has a wide range of techniques for many of the things that give people agency and input and lead to socially constructed solutions. Suitable for use on-screen and in person, there’s something for everyone.

Perry Timms is founder and chief energy officer of PTHR, a consultancy aiming to create better business for a better world. He is a TEDx speaker, top-selling author, and three-time member of HR Magazine’s ‘Most Influential Thinkers’ list