Rapid idea generation
1-2-4-All is one of the key building blocks of Liberating Structures. It is a simpel and elegant way to immediately include everyone regardless of how large the group is. You can generate better ideas and more of them faster than ever before. You can tap the know-how and imagination that is distributed widely in places not known in advance. Open, generative conversation unfolds. Ideas and solutions are sifted in rapid fashion. Most importantly, participants own the ideas, so follow-up and implementation is simplified.
Because of the structure, it neutralises the influence by a “leader”, making it a very useful exercise for unlocking a discussion that has become dysfunctional or stuck or for a group that tends to be excessively influenced by its leader.
The individual part of the exercise (the initial self reflection) makes it also very usefull to unlock ideas in introverts. They will have time to generate their own opinion.
Five Structural Elements for 1-2-4-All
1-2-4-All is a typical structure that makes you rely on the power of the structure. There is not much extra role for the facilitator apart from sticking to the precise timing, making sure the reflection alone is in silence and cutting short the “all” part of the exercise.
Five structural elements
How to read the instructions
Ask a question in response to the presentation of an issue, or about a problem to resolve or a proposal put forward (e.g., What opportunities do YOU see for making progress on this challenge? How would you handle this situation? What ideas or actions do you recommend?)
How Space Is Arranged and Materials Needed
- Unlimited number of groups
- Space for participants to work face-to-face in pairs and foursomes (chairs and tables are optional)
- Paper for participants to record observations and insights
Sequence of Steps and Time Allocation
- Silent self-reflection by individuals on a shared challenge, framed as a question (e.g., What opportunities do YOU see for making progress on this challenge? How would you handle this situation? What ideas or actions do you recommend?) for 1 minute.
- Generate ideas in pairs, building on ideas from self-reflection for 2 minutes.
- Share and develop ideas from your pair in foursomes (notice similarities and differences) for 4 minutes.
- As a facilitator ask “What is one idea that stood out in your conversation?” with each group sharing one important idea with all participants for 5 minutes.
Repeat cycle when needed.
How Groups Are Configured
- Start alone, then in pairs, then foursomes, and finally as a whole group
How Participation Is Distributed
- Everyone in the group is included (often not the facilitator)
- Everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute
Additional tips and pointers
- Firmly facilitate quiet self-reflection before paired conversations
- Ask everyone to jot down their ideas during the silent reflection
- Use bells for announcing transitions
- Stick to precise timing, do another round if needed
- In a large group during “All,” limit the number of shared ideas to three or four
- In a large group, use a facilitator or harvester to record output not shared
- Invite each group to share one insight but not to repeat insights already shared
- Separate and protect generation of ideas from the whole group discussion
- Defer judgment; make ideas visual; go wild!
- When you hit a plateau, jump to another form of expression (e.g., Improv, sketching, stories)
- Maintain the rule of one conversation at a time in the whole group
- Do a second round if you did not go deep enough!
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