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The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures: Simple Rules to Unleash A Culture of Innovation

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Smart leaders know that they would greatly increase productivity and innovation if only they could get everyone fully engaged. So do professors, facilitators and all changemakers. The challenge is how. Liberating Structures are novel, practical and no-nonsense methods to help you accomplish this goal with groups of any size.

Prepare to be surprised by how simple and easy they are for anyone to use. This book shows you how with detailed descriptions for putting them into practice plus tips on how to get started and traps to avoid. It takes the design and facilitation methods experts use and puts them within reach of anyone in any organization or initiative, from the frontline to the C-suite.

Part One: The Hidden Structure of Engagement will ground you with the conceptual framework and vocabulary of Liberating Structures. It contrasts Liberating Structures with conventional methods and shows the benefits of using them to transform the way people collaborate, learn, and discover solutions together.

Part Two: Getting Started and Beyond offers guidelines for experimenting in a wide range of applications from small group interactions to system-wide initiatives: meetings, projects, problem solving, change initiatives, product launches, strategy development, etc.

Part Three: Stories from the Field illustrates the endless possibilities Liberating Structures offer with stories from users around the world, in all types of organizations –– from healthcare to academic to military to global business enterprises, from judicial and legislative environments to R&D.

Part Four: The Field Guide for Including, Engaging, and Unleashing Everyone describes how to use each of the 33 Liberating Structures with step-by-step explanations of what to do and what to expect.

Discover today what Liberating Structures can do for you, without expensive investments, complicated training, or difficult restructuring. Liberate everyone’s contributions –– all it takes is the determination to experiment.

366 pages, Paperback

First published February 19, 2014

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Henri Lipmanowicz

1 book4 followers

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5 stars
105 (37%)
4 stars
110 (39%)
3 stars
50 (17%)
2 stars
11 (3%)
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2 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 35 reviews
39 reviews
May 16, 2014
If you are still working, this is a book you must have. If you are retired and working on volunteer committees, you simply must read it. If you have a family, you can't live without it. It is a book to be bought, kept, and frequently referred to. It is filled with ideas, each one better than the last, on how to increase creativity, productivity, smart problem solving, cooperation and collaboration. It is, in a word, fantastic!
3 reviews
November 28, 2018
Amazing structures but too much fluff

The ideas in the book are great and part 4 is amazing, however I believe it could have been condensed to make a better read
Profile Image for Jules.
682 reviews11 followers
March 3, 2018
The short, straightforward facilitation tools provided in Liberating Structures are great ways of generating ideas, building connections, and learning from groups, empowering them through involvement. After reading the full set, I began to see that they'd been showing up in some of my company's team development activities all along -- to great impact.

I wish they had more tips for facilitating the decision-making process once some of the ideas are raised (they have a few structures for this but for small groups I don't believe they'd work as well). However, I was eager to try a bunch of these and used one right away for a group I was facilitating for. They do make you just want to jump in and give them a try!
Profile Image for Sicofonia.
267 reviews
November 25, 2019
Took me forever to finish.

If you want to learn about Liberating Structures I strongly suggest you go to their website which content is to be found in the book for the most part, as its authors gracefully gave the content Creative Common licence.

Some of the formats will result in more engaging meetings, at least that's what I've seen in my experience. It is also true that more complex or elaborated structures can take up to 2-3 hours and the result to be less than what it is promised. All in all, hit and miss.

I do believe that Liberating Structures are an interesting tool to learn if you want to try to create more engaging and creative spaces for teams to express themselves.
Profile Image for Anders.
50 reviews
November 4, 2022
I highly recommend this book for those of you that struggle with engaging other people in your activities. As the authors point out, Liberating Structures should be added to the drinking water so that everybody would learn better ways of interacting with people.

What i disliked is the format of the book as the pages are very wide. The result is a book that is hard to hold, difficult to shelf and take up more space than normal books. Also the mention of colours in a black and white printed book is a bit strange. Still the content far outweighs the inconveniences.
Profile Image for Estera.
42 reviews6 followers
January 12, 2020
Teaches you how to improve your team-work starting right after you've put it down.
Profile Image for Sam Spain.
11 reviews2 followers
May 30, 2022
It's hard to figure out if I am reviewing the ideas or the writing so I guess I'll write a bit about each.

The ideas are very interesting. I've already had a go at one of the structures in a meeting with some success. The feedback was promising and I'm looking forward to building this up more. I was looking for ways to become a more effective facilitator and this will definitely be part of my toolbox. I don't really get to read much stuff that addresses problems/opportunities with any organisation, so I had to keep this in mind that not every structure is suitable for me or where I work.

On the other hand I think they should have put a lot more effort into the application of these structures and less about why they might be important. The sections detailing why these structures for meetings are so amazing does start to get exhausting. Perhaps this is my fault for reading page to page, but I wanted to establish as much context as possible rather than jumping into what these are.

It is just so surprising to me then that the sections of how you could introduce this are so small in comparison. Sure, I get that sometimes you just need to try it where you can and avoid planning too far ahead, but if some people don't actually know where to start well then the book is useless for them. I am going to assume the writers are smarter than me on the subject, and these things are this way for a reason. I can imagine a lot of people coming away from this just as sceptical as when they started with it though.
Profile Image for Sergej.
8 reviews3 followers
December 16, 2021
5 stars not because it is a well-written book, but because of how useful this book is to start facilitating Liberating structures.

Their website has all the formats described in exactly the same way. The book for me needed to understand the "Why?" and the deeper context behind it before actually trying it to facilitate.

I love the idea, like that structured approach to present 33 microstructures.

And I believe the book can be more reader-friendly, and the book could explore strings more - the combinations of microstructures. I'm lacking more information about it. The only way to get knowledge about strings is to do different microstructures combinations. It will take a much longer time - I'm not facilitating workshops for living.

In any case - an amazing expansion for my facilitator toolbox!
Profile Image for Łukasz Lichota.
80 reviews5 followers
May 23, 2018
Really good and inspiring concept and that changed my expectations as to what should be normal or not in groupwork.
Part of the book is manual so it's not cover to cover read for everyone. The manual part of each structure is available on their website so main benefit of reading the book is better buy-in into the idea.
Profile Image for zoagli.
219 reviews6 followers
December 30, 2018
I can immediately put most of the Liberating Structures into practice in my line of work. They are exhaustively described in part four of the book.

The other three parts, however, make up the first half of the book and can be skipped. Seriously. Flip through them if you must, but then focus on the second half of the book.
Profile Image for José Tavares.
4 reviews
May 10, 2019
The first chapter of the book are a bit repetitive and in the tone of "this is a silver bullet that will fix all your problems", but if you can go through it and jump to the description of the Liberating Structures, they really provide helpful insight and you will finish with some experimentation in mind.
Profile Image for Nina Simon.
Author 9 books62 followers
July 15, 2019
A powerful, useful, inspiring pattern library with very strong foundation underneath. Not a five because:
- it’s a little salesy
- the examples are weak: limited in scope, overly rah rah, and almost all from white professionals
- the organization of the tools themselves is terrible - it’s unreasonably hard to go from the menu to the particular tools you want to explore
Profile Image for Alexander Teibrich.
138 reviews2 followers
January 17, 2020
I really love the content! These microstructures are perfect to transform any workplace and the material is very well fitted to get started in facilitating better meetings and conversations.

What I did not like, is the narrative style: some passages seemed repetitive to me and I wasn’t really pulled into and excited by the presentation of the content.
18 reviews1 follower
September 15, 2018
The book is fine - nothing exceptional. However, the methods themselves are fantastic, and I've had huge success with them at my organization. They are clearly written, thoughtfully designed, and easily adaptable when the situation demands it.
Profile Image for Andreea Visanoiu.
30 reviews41 followers
October 16, 2019
Liberating Structures are great

By the book was really hard to read, quite technical and not engaging.

Nevertheless, worth reading and the LS are a great facilitation tool, so if you’re facilitating teams (managers, leaders, coaches), you must know these methods.
Profile Image for Brian Lawrence.
40 reviews1 follower
February 16, 2021
Magnificent! I can’t wait to try these activities out in the next workshop I run. We’ve even done some of these in a virtual space in MURAL. They work just as well. Incredible valuable book and website!!
Profile Image for Sjoerd de Waal.
Author 2 books1 follower
January 2, 2023
I’ve read the Dutch translation and wasn’t too impressed. Indeed too much fluff and I think it could have been compressed to 25% of its size. I do believe there are some interesting structures that I can use in my work.
Profile Image for Richard Kalmeijer.
9 reviews12 followers
October 19, 2018
Introduction is a bit long. The exercises are very powerful. I put quite some into practice and it really does what it says it does!
Profile Image for Sarah.
777 reviews12 followers
February 9, 2019
It's an amazing resource for facilitators, providing many activities to get groups, both large and small, engaged in useful, inclusive conversations.
Profile Image for Rebecca Stevenson.
121 reviews2 followers
July 25, 2019
If your life involves facilitating groups trying to solve problems, to work together, to communicate -- read this book. Use this book.

This is AMAZING.
Profile Image for Rob.
Author 1 book10 followers
August 16, 2019
The structures are helpful to guide conversations, but the format of the book is a little awkward. The actually useful stuff is more than halfway in.
2 reviews
February 1, 2020
Useful, but I prefer the Liberating Structures app or website to the physical book.
Profile Image for Piotr Wegert.
14 reviews5 followers
May 11, 2021
Not much added value besides the catalogue of structures at the end of the book (which afaik is also available online).
Profile Image for Frank Calberg.
154 reviews37 followers
May 4, 2020
Takeaways from reading the book:

Prepare meeting:
- Page 14: To what extent does the invitation help people feel included?
- Page 14: To what extent does the way the meeting space is arranged help people feel part of the event?
- Page 14: How much time is every participant given to contribute?
- Pages 14 and 34: To what extent are participants involved in creating a common purpose for the meeting? Answer between 1 and 10.
- Page 34: What percentage of the meeting time will people spend listening to presentations? Between 0 and 100%

Start meeting:
- Page 2: Icebreaker question: What was the best moment of your day?

Meeting facilitation methods:
- Page 20 and 106: 1-2-4-all method: First 1 minute individual reflection. Then 2 minute sharing / comparing / improving in groups of 2 people. Then 2 minute sharing / comparing / improving in groups of 4 people. Then 1 person from each groups shares 1 important answer with all. No repetitions.
- Page 100: Impromptu networking method: 4 minute talks in groups of two people. Do 3 rounds.
- Page 173: Nine whys. Keep asking why until participants cannot go any deeper. First groups of 2 person. Then groups of four people. Then all.
- Page 189: 15% solutions. What is the 15% of your life that you can do without asking anyone? First individual reflection. Then in groups of two people.
- Page 197: What, So What, Now what method. After someone shares an experience, you ask in phase 1: "What happened? What facts or observations stood out?" In phase 2, you ask: "So what? Why is that important?" In phase 3, you ask: "Now what? What actions make sense now?" At each phase, you start with 1 minute individual reflection followed up my 2 minutes in small groups.

Questions to ask:
- Page 100: What big challenge do you have?
- Page 100: What do you hope to give and get from this event?
- Page 100 and 103: Thinking about your purpose, what will you do now? What will you stop doing?
- Pages 104 and 176: What do you do? Why? Why is your work important?
- Page 167: What opportunities do you see for making progress on this challenge?
- Page 167: How would you handle this situation?
- Page 167: What actions do you recommend?
- Page 175: If your dream came true, what would be different?
- Page 175: Why should people spend their money with you?
- Page 185: To make progress on your purpose, what should you stop doing?
- Page 211: What courageous conversation are you not having?

Questions to evaluate the meeting:
- Page 14: To what extent is the meeting broken up into smaller groups?
- Page 34: How is the level of engagement in the meeting? Answer between 1 and 10.
- Page 34: How many different interaction methods are used in the meeting?
- Page 34: How many different group configurations are there during the meeting? Example: Working in the whole group. Working in pairs. Working individually.
- Page 34: How many times does the facilitator role shift between participants during the meeting?
- Page 140: Do people, who speak, get a talking stick when they speak?

Profile Image for Kip Weybright.
15 reviews
April 26, 2020
Helping for understanding different and better ways to solve problems and communicate
Displaying 1 - 30 of 35 reviews

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