My deep thought for the day: What is the trade-off between a constructed and guided group process and a less-structured and improvisational group process? Why, you are wondering, do I ask? Because we held our 7th Vizthink Austin session last night and I came out of it seriously disoriented. Honoria Starbuck and I specifically designed a facilitated process beforehand, but the outcome seemed wild and untamed (somewhat reasonable with a group of 40+ people). Without going into specifics – you would probably start to snore – it forced me to address the question of what kind of group processes have the most impact. I certainly see the value of meandering and sort of happening upon learning (you could call it ‘discovery’), but I also see the value of structured guidance to a specific outcome. Further complicating this question is the notion of individual learning styles. Some people LOVE playing in the sand. Going with the flow and saying, “Whee! I just found a seashell.” Others (including myself) are discomfited by what appears to be random acts of education. I feel a certain obligation as a facilitator to ensure a little of both but quite frankly, groups are so unpredictable and unique it makes it challenging to meet their needs. So, while the City of Austin – the VizThink community’s client – seemed delighted by the outcome, I and others found ourselves asking, “What just happened?” And the question wasn’t directed toward the outcome – which actually worked – rather, it was directed toward the experience: how did that work? What did the participants actually experience and is it possible to create a more uniform sense of productivity and satisfaction? (I bet you UX and IxD folks could talk my ear off on this one.) Anyway, it got my philosophical juices flowing. You can see the Flickr stream of the activity if you are so inclined.