One of our most versatile tools in the toolbox in a simple one called “Maximize/Minimize.” A facilitator can use this tool about many different kinds of challenges or topics. Click here for the facilitation instructions from Training for Change.
Pick a topic and ask workshop participants how we might maximize output or impact related to that topic. For example, “What could we each do to maximize our learning in this training?” or “What might we do to maximize the effectiveness of our plan?”
After getting a good list, you can ask what we might do to minimize the output or impact. Of course, nobody would admit to undermining our own work intentionally, but we often do take actions that limit or go counter to what we say we want to do. “What might we each do to minimize our learning in this training?” “What might we do that would minimize the effectiveness of our plan?” This allows the members of a group to identify and name behaviors that might be going on or could happen, to be mindful of them, and then to become responsible for the choice to maximize their experience rather than minimize it.
I’ve found this especially useful in a group where people think they already know everything related to the training topic. It puts the responsibility on the participant to make the most of their time and experience and to be accountable for their own learning. Of course, as facilitators we will seek to do the best we can in our task, but participants must own their own part in the learning process.
A variety of Maximize/Minimize is the Ambiguity Chart, a sheet with + (plus) on one side of the flip chart sheet and – (minus) on the other side. Again this tool can be used with any particular content concern the group is dealing with. Groups tend to feel the imbalance of an ambiguity chart that is slanted all one way or the other. This allows for thoughts, concerns, and problems to emerge that may not be the quickest to be thought of or presented, allowing for a more balanced and comprehensive dealing with the ideas or proposals.