Does Async Dialogue need Facilitation?

While async discussion plays out differently to sync dialogue – I believe that both benefit equally from skilful facilitation. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that when async dialogue fails it’s often due to a lack of effective async facilitation.

If we see discussion on a spectrum based on the degree of participation required, on the one side we have –> One way information transmission (such as sharing company updates) and on the other end we have —> Active and generative participatory dialogue (such as an ideation session). The further we move to the right (generative dialogue) – the greater the need for facilitation – especially in async contexts.

3 Practical Ways to Facilitate Asynchronously

Create and Maintain Boundaries

Boardgames without rules aren’t fun. It’s a facilitator’s job to figure out the right level of constraints to enable generative dialogue. Time-boxes are a simple way of doing this.

  • What guidelines will support a healthy async conversation?
  • What phases of thinking does the group need to move through and how will you support them in moving through these phases together? (Hint: time-boxes can really help!)

Encourage Participation

Let’s face it, we all know what it’s like to have things on our to-do list that we never get to. It’s easy to forget about an async discussion.

  • How can you keep the discussion front of mind?
  • How can you actively invite participation?

Question and Synthesise

We can invite groups to think more deeply by asking powerful questions. Similarly, we can support the group in thinking together by periodically summarising and relaying back what we are seeing.

  • How can you ask questions to invite reflection?
  • How can you provide simple snapshots and synthesise information as the dialogue progresses?

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