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Coordinating the activities and interaction of a group of individuals.

We are well aware that structures such as buildings and organizational policies and operating processes support and constrain our activities. We tend to be much less conscious of smaller structures that influence our interactions with other people. In contrast to more tangible macrostructures, we call them microstructures.

Five elements define the underlying design of all facilitation microstructures—conventional or liberating. We call them design elements because you can make choices about them based on what you want to accomplish. The five design elements for a conventional presentation or lecture are illustrated below:  

  • a structuring invitation (listen to me);
  • how the space is arranged and what materials are needed (rows or U facing presenter, screen, projector and PPT slides);
  • how participation is distributed (nearly 100% of total time for presenter);
  • how groups are configured (one group, one presenter); and,
  • a sequence of steps and time allocation (presentation for most of time; possibly Q&A for balance of time). 

Liberating Structures are designed with variations on these five structural elements. The elements are the minimum specifications (Min Specs) or essential foundation required to generate results with each Liberating Structure. Understanding this foundation helps you prepare when leading and facilitating with LS.

Concepts in this Category

Planning Forums

Get a group of individuals to come together as a team, with a shared purpose and clear understanding of their personal relationship with the project mission. These structures can be used to help initiatives become resilient and enduring, and to bring meetings to productive endpoints.

Analyzing Patterns

Drive group activity towards agreement by identifying commonality in the data analyzed. This structure can be used to help participants sort challenges, reveal relationships among data, prioritize shared items, come to agreement on the boundaries of ideas, or prioritize group purpose. This structure can be used as an entry point to another liberating structure.

Revealing Behaviors

Enable participants to immerse themselves in the activities of a target group, opening the door to change and innovation by helping participants walk a mile in someone else's shoes. The observations and experiences can spur rapid performance improvements and expedite solution development. The combined observations of multiple participants makes it easy to spot important patterns.

Spreading Ideas

Enable any size group of people to rapidly build informal connections and share experience, thoughts, know-how, challenges or expectations with each other. This structure can be used to help participants drive conclusions, discover the root causes of systemic problems, make sense of complex situations, or as an entry point to another liberating structure.

Related Practices

Harvesting Wisdom

Engage participants in groups of various sizes in generating questions, identifying actionable ideas, discovering solutions to chronic problems, and/or providing suggestions of courses of action. These activities utilize rapid cycles in order to source knowledge from the whole group.