A facilitated World Cafe process is simple, but the steps are important. So it was a wonderful experience to walk into Lululemon’s large atrium and see it was transformed for a World Cafe.
Often, I’m at events where the World Cafe steps are squished or skipped. I hear, “We don’t really need three rounds of questions, we can do it in two.” Or the room logistics are overlooked: “We only have rectangular tables for 8, but it will be fine.” And maybe it would be, but mostly it results in asking people do to the same type of group work, but calling it a Cafe, then wondering why groups only get to the same type of thinking. To get to new thinking, we need to create the right spaces.
Lululemon ensured the detailed mattered. Round tables were brought in. Round tables mean no one is the “head” of the table. Bright colour adds visual interest. Round, ordinary paper becomes a tablecloth to draw on – everyone can write/draw their ideas, anywhere. There’s enough markers to share. Questions are succinct yet allow for reflection. And importantly, the agenda had enough time for everyone to change tables three times, finding new people to talk with.
The room absolutely buzzed with sustained energy throughout the morning’s World Cafe. I was on hand to visually capture the report out (called the Harvest) using graphic recording. This meant I listened to the report outs and graphically recorded it in pictures and words. This created two 7 foot posters full of people’s ideas and actions. In one, I used a metaphor of people running/exercising on the Vancouver seawall during a discussion about visioning – for taking “our next steps”. (I thought it was a good fit!)
These graphic recordings/posters become digital prints afterwards, and are a reminder of the work the group did together. Visuals keep the momentum and the good feelings going long after the meeting is over.
Read more about the Basic World Cafe method.
1) Setting that invites dialogue
2) Welcome and instructions
3) Small group discussions – with members moving to a different table after 20 minutes for a new discussion
4) Questions guide the process – they can repeat when people move tables, or build on each other
and finally 5) Harvest – sharing back the results and aha moments.