Keith McCandless – On Liberating Structures

You could say I’m mildly obsessed with how to tap into deeper sources of knowing.  To me, it feels as though there is this vast reservoir of untapped potential just beyond the reach of conventional means of access.  How do we tap into this and can we magnify it through a collective process?

I have found that one of the gateways to this deeper potential revolves around presence and a sense of safe space.  But often, something more is needed – something to break through the habituated patterns of behavior that most people have grown accustomed to.  As humans, we tend to be naturally guarded and self-protective creatures of habit.  And yet, the promise of collective intelligence lies just beyond the boundary of our comfort zone.  How do we dissolve these self-imposed limitations?

I spoke with Keith McCandless this week, one of the co-creators of Liberating Structures.  Liberating Structures are a collection of simple, inclusive, and fun interaction templates designed to facilitate generative engagement.  Keith calls it simultaneously and mutually shaping the future.

The idea is that each moment offers a new view of what’s happening simultaneously to each participant and the mutual sharing of perspectives or data reshapes the space in which you can make choices.  Thus something truly new is generated by collectively tapping into the richness of what’s present.

We cover a range of topics including leadership in the context of collective intelligence and the importance of being in charge but not in control.  Keith shares, “our conventional habits are so fully engrained it really takes some strength from the leader or strength from everyone not to fall back into the old behaviors which are unwittingly exclusive, unwittingly stifling, of the richness that’s available to us all the time.”

There are so many things I learned in this conversation, from the origin story of Liberating Structures to the complexity science theory that underpins their architecture and the simple philosophy that makes them so effective.  I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.

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