How you can use 1-2-4-All to engage the collective intelligence of groups

1-2-4-All is one of the most applied facilitation techniques for creating ideas in the Liberating Structure collection.

You can immediately include everyone regardless of how large the group is. 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.

Four Structural Elements

1. Structuring Invitation

  • 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?)

2. 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 optional
  • Paper for participants to record observations and insights

3. How Participation Is Distributed

  • Everyone in the group is included (often not the facilitator)
  • Everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute
  • Start alone, then in pairs, then foursomes, and finally as a whole group

4. 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?) 1 min.
  • Generate ideas in pairs, building on ideas from self-reflection. 2 min.
  • Share and develop ideas from your pair in foursomes (notice similarities and differences). 4 min.
  • Ask, “What is one idea that stood out in your conversation?” Each group shares one important idea with all (repeat cycle as needed). 5 min.
See also  Initial Report
Purposes and Objectives
  • Engage every individual in searching for answers
  • Avoid overhelping and the overcontrol-dependency vicious cycle
  • Create safe spaces for expression, diminish power differentials
  • Express “silent” conversations and expand diversity of inputs
  • Enrich quality of observations and insights before expression
  • Build naturally toward consensus or shared understanding
  • Facilitate the silent self-reflection firmly, before the paired conversations
  • Invite everyone to write down their ideas during the quiet self-reflection
  • Stick to precise timing, do another round if needed
  • In large groups, during “All”, limit the number of shared ideas to 3 or 4
  • Invite each group to share unique insights
  • Maintain the rule of one conversation at a time in the whole group
  • In a large group, use a facilitator or harvester to record output not shared
  • Separate and protect generation of ideas from the whole group discussion
  • Do a second round if you did not go deep enough
  • Use 1-2-4-All after a speech or presentation, when it is important to get rich feedback (questions, comments, and ideas), instead of asking the audience, “Any questions?”
  • For a group that has been convened to address a problem or an innovation opportunity
  • For a group that tends to be excessively influenced by its leader

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