Critical Facilitation: Developing Complex Thinking Through De Visch’s ‘Re-Thinking Game’

My colleague and friend Jan De Visch has recently made enormous strides toward a ‘dialogically savvy app’, — an app that triggers deep and critical thinking in order to foster dynamic collaboration. The app is accompanied by the Re-Thinking Game, an implementation of DTF, the Dialectical Thought Form Framework. DTF is an ideal framework for preparing yourself to become a Critical Facilitator because it enables a learner to acquire the skill of ‘building complexity’ with clients, a process by which clients become aware of the ‘terrible simplification’ they perform on the real world by way of logical thinking.

Jan is an graduate of the Interdevelopmental Institute (IDM) where he learned to think in terms of the moments of dialectic and their thought forms (see the many blogs on this computer to learn more). Below, have a look at what Jan has to say about the difference between conventional and critical facilitation (facilitation based on critical thinking).

In Jan’s and my definition, the difference between a conventional facilitator and a ‘critical facilitator’ is the following:

A facilitator functions from a ‘participant perspective.’ He looks at an organizational system as an outsider and intervenes in it to achieve certain objectives. S(he) is seldom aware of the limitations of his/her own frames of reference, instead relying on expertise, skill, and experience.

A ‘critical facilitator’ makes him- or herself an integral part of an organizational system by evaluating its culture, and with a high degree of reflection and empathy follows the interactions within a specific group of participants. From listening to the quality of their dialogue, s(he) acquires a first impression of the quality of their collaboration. Paying primary attention to how participants develop role identity, s(he) is able to assess the impact of participants’  level of (social-emotional and cognitive) maturity on the dynamics of their interaction, and the influence of this dynamics on team culture. This leads him or her to insight as to whether the scope of participant’s responsibility (size of role) matches or surpasses the level of maturity they bring to the task (size of person), enabling further insight into the quality of team dynamics that emerges in interactions. As his conventional colleagues, the critical facilitator works with the clashes and tensions that arise in a team. His/her developmental schooling sharpens his/her sense of how participants realize their professional agenda, and of how they, in so doing, limit each other and ultimately themselves. In this way, s(he) creates a carefully structured dialogue around what is  legitimate in a specific situation and what are the progressive options it gives rise to. Having absorbed developmental theory and practice, a critical facilitator is highly self-aware, that is, aware of the frame of reference that underlies his/her activity. For him or her, working with teams in this way is a pathway to their own development as an adult.


Critical facilitator:

Thinking game: