facilitating & hosting

XYBOOM Collective Story Harvest

I’m engaged in a variety of really exciting work these days, one of which is facilitating at the second annual XYBOOM Conference happening in Vancouver on May 28th. Part of this year’s agenda is Live Case Study Stories, and I shared some questions and answers to shed some light on this portion of the agenda:

1.What is exciting/unexpected about this method of knowledge sharing? 

We have all encountered traditional case studies: either beautifully written documents that live static on a page, or perhaps conference ballrooms presentations through a one-way exchange.

The Live Case Studies takes a different approach using a process called a Collective Story Harvest. We were excited to work with this process at XYBOOM as it aligned with the principles of the conference of facilitating intergenerational understanding and collaboration through shared dialogue.

With this process we are shifting the case study experience to live story sharing in small groups. Story is a powerful knowledge management tool as contained in our live case study stories are both the experience and learning that will grow our capacity for collaborative intergenerational workplaces. But these are not simply smaller group one-way exchanges; this is a participatory process with dialogue between the live case study storytellers and the participants. Through the use of a unique listening approach we track many arcs of a single story simultaneously and then report back the insights, innovations and ah-has discovered in the story. This creates strong connections between conference participants and storytellers, shared understanding and rich take-aways.

“This is one wicked process. Every time we use it it amazes me how simple, profound and potent it is for transformational shifts.” ~ Collective Story Harvest practitioner, Art of Hosting

2. What can storytellers expect from taking part in this process?

The story you plan to tell in front of a 200 person crowd is different than what you share in intimate circle of people, all leaning in fully engaged. It’s an incredible gift to have ten people listening to you and sharing back what they have heard. These external ears listening to your story can help to surface things you haven’t seen or noticed during the time you were living in the experience. Storytellers often walk away with insights and learning they received from the group, as though they are seeing their experience in a new light.

I remember one storyteller at management off-site who was incredibly nervous before sharing her story. She worried that she wouldn’t do it right, that people might judge her, or that she didn’t have anything worth sharing. In the end she was blown away by the level of engagement present in the group, how her story had been received and what was offered back to her as their learnings and take-aways. A year later there were people from that circle who were still speaking about insights they gained from her story. How rewarding is that?

3. What can participants expect from taking part in this process?

XYBOOM has curated a variety of stories from pertinent generational issues and career trajectories affecting diverse workplaces today. At the start of the Collective Story Harvest participants will decide to attend the story that most interests them, joining a small group of about ten other participants along with the live case study storyteller and a host.

This creates a more intimate space for targeted listening and group learning. In our fast-paced lives filled with multi-tasking and device-checking we don’t often get the opportunity to listen well, especially with a specific purpose, and to provide a feedback loop to strengthen our understanding and collaboration. Other groups who have used this process spoke of the insights participants gained and that they were able to apply the learnings of promising practices and new strategies directly into their work.

Participants sometimes worry that because they only join one storyteller’s group they will miss out on the rest of the stories. They can rest easy! After the Collective Story Harvest is over we will cross-pollinate the richness from all the stories by reconvening in a plenary Wisdom Café. We break off into smaller groups across stories, then mix together over several rounds of conversation to find out what we’ve learned and discovered from all the stories.

On a personal level, I also hope that participants leave with the seed of possibility of where they might be able to use the Collective Story Harvest process in their organizations and communities. As Peter Block said “These large group methods are too profound and too important to stay primarily in the hands of specialized experts. They need to be in the regular practice of community and institutional leaders. They are more than simply tools; they are the means of creating the experience of democracy and high engagement, which we say we believe in but rarely embody. As this thinking and practice grow, they have the potential to fundamentally change the nature of leadership, which would be a good thing.”

*A special thanks to the Art of Hosting community for creating the Collective Story Harvest process.

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