The book “Crashing Through” by New York Times’ bestselling author Robert Kurson includes innumerable reflections about struggle, collaboration, and victory that also apply to the sphere of facilitation. Most importantly, the book emphasizes the scientific understanding that pre-existing knowledge affects perception. In other words, what you know changes what you see. The challenges around consensual decision-making are thus amplified by the plurality of the group.

Sight recovery after a lifetime of being visually impaired is extraordinarily rare. Only around 20 people in the known history of humanity have had their vision restored in adulthood after being visually blind since their early youth. As explained by Kurson, he captures Mike May’s “true story of risk, adventure, and the man who dared to see.” Suffice it to say that vision, and the brain’s role supporting it, is massively complex.

Keep in mind that Mike May, while blind, established world records in downhill skiing, became a co-inventor of the world’s first laser turntable, and was the first blind person hired by the CIA (Central Intelligence Unit). In Mike May’s words, “Life with vision is great. But life without vision, is great too.”

The optic nerve is technically part of the brain. It can also transmit perfect signals from the cornea region of the eye that can be rendered uniquely in each person’s mind based on what they know when they receive the signal. In other words, two people can look at the same scene and see different things. That’s probably not a surprise if you are a trained facilitator, but it becomes increasingly important that you emphasize the diversity of perception, and the simple fact that there is more than one right answer.

The Door from Perception

The story explores the details and science to support its conclusion that perception relies largely on prior life experience and the judgments those experiences have brought to each of us. For example, some of May’s problems related to depth perception. While he saw horizontal lines, most of us would have instantly recognized a stairway, and would not have crashed down or up the stairs, unlike May.

He was largely unable to determine sexual gender by looking only at the face of someone. It’s not important that facilitators discriminate, but it is rather curious and significant that our preconceptions about small details such as eyebrow width or color nuances lead us to conclusions, that may be wrong.

Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Reply with any questions you might have by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiatives, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need to lead more effective groups, teams, and meetings.

Become Part of the SolutionImprove Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership-training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

Do not forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and numerous tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz is CEO of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Weekly Facilitation blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and techniques aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product innovation. His aspiration is to make it easier for others to succeed.

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