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Liberating Structures: how we used them in our brainstorming

23 Jan, 2020 Methodologies
Liberating Structures: how we used them in our brainstorming

At 20tab we opened the year with a mega-brainstorming involving the entire team: to discuss the current situation and future projects, we used the Liberating Structures.

Let us tell you how it went and what we learned.

What are Liberating Structures?

They consist in 33 exercises, alternative structures, stemmed from Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless studies, aimed at facilitating meetings and conversations.

Companies traditionally use presentations, reports and generic brainstorming, but all these conventional structures have their cons: they are either too restrictive, and not leaving room for new points of view, or too "open", thus confusing the people involved.

This state of affairs is very well represented in "The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures".

liberating structures

The authors start from an assumption:

Unwittingly, the conventional structures used to organize how people routinely work together stifle inclusion and engagement.

This is exactly what liberating structures use as leverage: they are designed to obtain "distributed" control, to include a larger number of people in the discussion of problems and solutions.

Liberating Structures introduce tiny shifts in the way we meet, plan, decide and relate to one another. They put the innovative power once reserved for experts only in hands of everyone.

Thanks to these exercises, you have the opportunity to work on:

In short, everything you need to grow and consolidate a team.

It is not necessary to be a facilitator to put these techniques into practice: they are very simple and anyone can lead them and experiment them within their group. Just as we did.

Our brainstorming based on Liberating Structures

A pub. Sofas, electric guitars, records, food and coffee. The 20tab team found themselves in setting which might have sounded unusual for a traditional meeting, but was perfect for this brainstorming.


Thirteen people in a non-working, comfortable and relaxed context, working with a free and open mind. A facilitator, our Raffaele Colace, who led the games and accompanied all the members of the group through this creative journey, using a new and stimulating methodology.

Our brainstorming started from the current situation and was aimed at finding solutions for potential critical issues, as well as marking the route for 2020.

liberating structures

We used the following 3 Liberating Structures.

1. User Experience Fishbowl

We started from here. This is an exercise involving an aquarium-shaped design, with a subset of people placed at the centre and all the other ones around them: this exercise aims at mixing experience, informality, comparison debate and direct communication.

2. 1-2-4-All

Once the main doubts and most felt issues have emerged from the first exercise, you can start formulating more structured reflections and ideas.


And here creativity starts coming out, in a simple, fast and very useful structure.

3. What, So What, Now What? (W³)

After identifying everyone's views on the problem and pointing out the best ones, the final step is aimed at finding solutions.

For this exercise, you will have to proceed with the Ladder of Inference, step by step.

ladder of inference

At the end of the exercise, you will find yourselves with achievable, almost necessary ideas to solve a matter or improve some of its aspects.

How did our brainstorming end?

You must be curious about how our meeting ended.

Well, everybody expressed their point of view and explained their intuitions to the other participants, who listened with interest and formed their opinion on the topic.

We found solutions, we made important decisions and you are going to discover all of this in the course of 2020. In the meantime, we can tell you that at the end of the day we enjoyed an excellent aperitif with other external collaborators and partners.

aperitivo post brainstorming

Just the right ending for an inclusive, creative and concrete brainstorming.

Liberating Structures start with something so simple and essential as not to seem worth doing and end with something so powerful and profound that it hardly seems possible.

Anna Lisa Di Vincenzo

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Ambitious projects need innovative methodologies and processes. And we are able to apply them.

Shall we try?


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