Flow.

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Prologue. 

I sat in the cinema on Saturday, having promised myself for 8 weeks that I would get to see The Hateful Eight in 70mm splendour.  In the midst of all sorts of calls upon my time, I’ve reluctantly put a few things to the side lately (including my blog).  So being there, now, was special.

 

I’d seen the news reports back in January of Quentin Tarantino attending my local cinema, with Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson in tow, to thank the independent cinema proprietors in Sydney and Melbourne.  With a lot of love (and a little bit of faith), these proprietors had looked in boxes at the back of sheds, in attics and warehouses for parts to re-build that most rarely employed of machines:  the 70mm projector.  It was clear that the love these aficionados showed mattered more to Tarantino than winning Academy Awards.

 

Even so, it was a surprise when the projectionist appeared to say a few words before the showing of the film on Saturday.  A cheerful guy in his mid-thirties, he told a bit of the story of the cinema readying itself, the surprise Tarantino visit (it was the projectionist’s day off), of 70mm film.  Oh, and there would be an intermission of exactly 13 minutes.  He duly disappeared, the lights went down and the movie started.

 

A couple of hours later, the lights came back up.  Half the 20 or so in the cinema dashed out to make good use of the break.  Seconds later the rest of us were intercepted by the projectionist.  “Hey guys, given it’s a quiet session, does anyone want to come out back and check out the projector?”

 

Five of us couldn’t say no to that, and we crammed in to the tiny, hot room.  The next 12.5 minutes went fast as the projectionist shared candid stories of the independent Melbourne cinema scene, the tricks in using the equipment and the nature of his job.  Half-way through it, a wide-eyed young man asked what his real day-job was.  He paused a while, smiled warmly and replied “This has been my job for 15 years.  I am a projectionist.”

 

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On love and flow.

It can be argued that few people – like this projectionist was – get to work in the job of their dreams.  People are needed to wash toilets, flip burgers, answer phone calls and look after the elderly.  People need money to survive, and will often take any job they can.  The economy rolls on.

 

It can also be argued that the few people who do truly love their work can become too enmeshed in it all.  It can become so much a part of their identity, that when it inevitably is all taken away from them, they become lost.

 

But one thing simply can’t be doubted.  When you encounter someone who loves their job, you can tell.  Their passion for what they do is joyously infectious.  The alignment of their personal values with how they approach their work is re-assuring.  The mastery that they display, from years of discretionary practice, is spellbinding.  The openness of how they teach others is inspiring.  If you are fortunate to experience them whilst they are in flow, you encounter pure expression.

 

For seasoned facilitators, flow can sometimes come easily to them.  You are with the group, you’ve built rapport, you’ve got momentum and you can see the objective.  The energy from the group is feeding you, stimulating you, and your feet don’t touch the ground.  Flow.  Trust me, it happens, and it is good.

 

It is harder to find an opportunity to see flow in other facilitators, to unpick it, to understand the componentry and the physics of it.  Facilitation as a game is one where collegiality needs to be conspicuously sought out.  Facilitation is, quite frequently, lonely.  Facilitation is inherently so wonderfully simple – guiding a group of people to an outcome – but so wickedly complex too.  Learning how to achieve facilitation flow, and how to more often, is a lifelong commitment many make.  It is what drives people in the field to come together; it is the inherently selfish benefit to everyone.

 

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On coming together.

I’ve been on a committee for the last 6 months, and we set ourselves the objective of hosting a global conference on facilitation skills.  We are half a dozen people, individually quite starkly different, rallying around this common goal of sharing the power of facilitation.  Personally, I’ve only been to a handful of conferences (mostly awful!) and have never been on the organising side of things.  So in helping to organise this one, I’ve had a big sense of what I didn’t want, i.e. to be talked at, bored out of my skull!  My committee colleagues have pushed their own boundaries – of time, of assumptions, of comfort – to build something wonderful where facilitation rises above the mundane.  In fact, I’m now in awe of what we’ve been able to collectively bring together for you all.  It is all there because our ‘why’ has never wavered.

 

We are representing the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), the global peak body for process facilitation.  Our little Chapter is in a geographically remote corner of the world, but we feel regionally and internationally connected in the facilitation community.  Our conference is one of four a year the IAF holds, so it follows a tradition of facilitators sharing what they love with other people.  We’ve struck out on a different path too, choosing a theme of “pushing boundaries” from early on.  This has meant:

 

  • Partnering with some of the often unseen worlds where facilitation is thriving. Not-for-profits like the Reach Foundation, whose unique brand of facilitation impacts positively on the lives of tens of thousands of young people a year (Reach will be running a session at the conference, and will have their facilitators attending on scholarship).  Also corporate environments like National Australia Bank (NAB), where hundreds of people use facilitation skills every day to solve process issues and enhance workplace cultures, with the end aim to provide a great customer experience (NAB are providing some amazing spaces for the conference).

 

 

 

So check us out at iaf-oceania.org, spread the word to those who you think will love it and buy a ticket yourself too.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter as the conversation builds towards 25-27 May 2016.

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