Saturday, March 13, 2021

Two Little Ideas for Facilitation of Online Ensembles

Today was a proud moment for me: I got to watch Irja Straus deliver a remote Ensemble Testing experience at Test Craft Camp 2021. We had paired on testing the application together, worked on facilitation ideas and while at all of that, developed what I want to think of as a solid friendship. 

The setup of Irja's Ensemble today was 12 participants, fitting into a 45 minute session. Only a subset of participant got to try their personal action as the main navigator and the driver, but there were a lot of voices making suggestions for the main navigator. The group did a great job under Irja's guidance, definitely delivering on the idea that a group of people working on the same task in the same (virtual) space, at the same time, on the same computer is a great way of testing well. 

Watching the session unfold, I learned two things I would add to my palette of facilitation ways.

1. Renaming the roles

Before the session, I had proposed to Irja to try the kid-focused terminology for ensembling. Instead of saying driver (the person on the keyboard), we would say 'hands'. Instead of saying navigator (the person making decisions), we would say 'brains'. 

Irja had adapted this further, emphasizing we had a 'major brain' and 'little brains', incorporating the whole ensemble into the work of navigation still explaining that the call in multiple choices on where the group went is on one person at a time. 

Watching the dynamic, I would now use three roles:

  • hands
  • brain
  • voice
You hear voices, but you don't do what voices say unless it is aligned in the brain. 

2. Popcorn role assignment

Before the session, I had proposed to Irja a very traditional rotation model where the brain becomes the hands and then rotates off to the voices in the ensemble.

Irja added an element of volunteering from the group into the roles. When the first people were volunteers, the session started with a nice energy and modeled volunteering for the rest of them. Time limitation ensured that same people did not repeat volunteering into same roles. One person first volunteering as hands and later volunteering as brains dropped the preplanned rotation off a bit, but also generated a new way of facilitating it.

Have people volunteer, with idea that we want to go through everyone as both brains and hands, but the order in which you play each part is up to the ensemble. Since physically moving people to the keyboard was not required, a popcorn assignment works well.