An Hour in Question (otherwise known as the NY Minute)
For the past few years, the NYC Art of Hosting/Participatory Leadership Community of Practice has been co-developing this structure for co-learning.
Our intention was to co-create a structure that would allow us to draw on the wisdom that is in our trans-local network of colleagues and friends when we have burning and time-sensitive design or other work related questions or needs.
The prototyping came out of a community practice gathering in NYC when Martin Siesta hosted the U-Theory 13 questions exercise. During the visioning/being your future part of the exercise, I imagined myself connected with thinking partners with ease, fluidity and depth. Following the visioning, I committed to prototyping a structure that would manifest this vision while working with what is.
At first I called the prototype 'The New York Minute' because it was addressing a need to convene colleagues in short notice for a pressing learning edge or time-driven design challenge. Lately, we have been calling the practice 'An Hour in Question' because is better describes the process.
Tenneson Woolf has adapted the bones of the prototype into a 2+ hour in-person circle. You can find a description of this structure on his blog, Community of Practice Monthly Meetings -- A Simple Design for Meeti...
The Hour In Question design...
[Note: We prototyped the structure with series of questions from my work and, as the caller, I noticed an interesting pattern. I rarely used the actual advice offered by my thinking partners in response to the question! Even so, I was somehow changed energetically. I walked into hosting with a wider sense of possibility in the situation, more courage and stronger knowing that the work is about something bigger than the presenting problem. It feels like moving at the pace of guidance.]
There are roles:
Caller: the caller invites her mates and prepares a question that invites wisdom and co-learning. She can send materials in advance, but this is not necessary. What is necessary is framing the question for co-learning and preparing the lightest amount of context to bring it alive (people, place, situation).
Host: the host holds the container and guides the group through the flow.
Harvester: the harvester captures key points and sends them to all participants immediately following the call.
Thinking Partners: all of us join the caller as co-learners and thinking partners.
There is an invitation:
The caller creates a meeting wizard invitation with the presenting question and sends it to colleagues who they would like to have in the question/learning (I usually invite 8-12).
As soon as 3-5 colleagues (this range works for a 1-hr call) are available at the same time, the caller confirms that time and asks for a volunteer host and harvester (works best if these are 2 different people).
If the caller is a first time participant in the pattern, it helps if an experienced person offers to host and helps them form their co-learning question prior to the call.
Depending on the work or question, the caller might send an email to the confirmed colleagues with the presenting question and brief related materials or links, but the design does not require this. In fact, the intention is for Thinking Partners to be able to participate with only a 1-hour commitment.
There is a flow:
Check-in Round: the host offers a short check-in question that helps everyone sink into being a circle of thinking partners. Starting with a poem, quote or short story can also help set the tone.
The Question 1.0: the caller puts the co-learning question in the center and gives just enough of the story to ground the question in the world (less is more here).
Inquiry Round: the thinking partners ask clarifying questions, gathering the additional information that is needed to deeply explore the leading question. The caller responds.
The Question 2.0: following the inquiry round, the Caller may or may not reframe the original question, depending on the influence of the inquiry questions.
Wisdom Round: the thinking partners offer their reflections, wisdom and offerings to the question.
Check-out Round: the host offers a check-out question that helps everyone integrate the experience and return, wiser, to our life/work.
Harvest: the scribe emails the harvest to the full group.
We offer this practice to our trans-local colleague for use and on-going co-learning. We look forward to your questions, stories and adaptations.