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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0092| March 18, 2003
6,700 Subscribers

picture of Steve Davis, editor of the Master Facilitator Journal.

From the Publisher: 

Hello MFJ Readers. This week we explore the nature of "Facts" in the article, "Just the Facts!" Inspired by my love for acronyms, I came up with this one: FACTS = Fearless Assumptions & Creative Thinking Stops. Here we explore how facts can serve as models of reality and how as facilitators, we can help others use them, instead of being used by them.

At the end of the article, we invite you to join another free tele-discussion on the concept of Appreciative Inquiry co-hosted by Patricia Clason and Bert Stitt. Both of whom are serious practitioners of this method. Please review the announcement and join us if you can.

Also, please note that I've scheduled the next "Random Acts of Facilitation" Teleclass with a discount to MFJ readers. Click on the logo in the right sidebar for details.

If you or your colleagues are interested in submitting an article for consideration, please email your ideas. I'd love to hear from you.

Steve Davis


Just the Facts!

  FACTS = Fearless Assumptions &Creative Thinking Stops.

The Point

We've all been taught from the very beginning about the sacred importance of facts. "Know your facts. Get your facts straight. Let's just stick with the facts here! Just the facts ma'am" Many of us pride ourselves on operating on facts versus other half-baked ideas, sentiments, or opinions. But have you ever inquired into the nature of facts? Just what the heck is a fact anyway? Since I have a penchant for irreverence, I decided to explore this fact thing. Here's what I found.

Fact (fakt) n. 1. Information presented as objectively real. 2. A real occurrence; an event. 3. Something having real, demonstrable existence. 4. A thing that has been done.

The first definition above, taken from the American Heritage Dictionary, indicates that a fact is information presented as objectively real. I find the "presented" piece particularly important. Because as we move through life, I think many of us forget about this aspect of facts. When something is presented as a fact, we usually buy it as such.

I personally received a sobering lesson on this issue in a recent Random Acts of Facilitation TeleClass from my friend Steven Pyser who was attending as a student. In a role-play, he presented information that we all accepted as factual. We accepted it as fact because he presented it as fact, and by virtue of the strength of his conviction, his articulation of the information, and his energy and presence. It took us a few minutes to realize that he had just made this stuff up. Had we not been doing an exercise to reveal assumptions, we would have probably bought these "facts."

Here, let me share some "real" facts with you. Some of these are a little dated so please bear with me. Dated? What do you mean dated? Facts are always facts. Right? Well, let's just see about that.

The earth is flat. Stay away from the edge lest you perish into oblivion.
The earth is 25,000 miles in circumference.
The sky is blue.
The Republican party is conservative.
Earth is the home of intelligent life.
Human beings can't travel faster than 15 mph and survive.
The Democratic party is liberal.
Human beings are imperfect.

Let's take the obvious fact that the earth is 25,000 miles around. This assumes a perfectly smooth surface. As we look closer at the planet's surface, we notice many peaks and valleys. If measured the true distance around the planet by traversing the actual surface over mountains and valleys and sea floors, we would find a circumference far greater than 25,000 miles. If we were to look even closer, and we measured actual surfaces at the molecular level, this number would grow still larger. In fact (no pun intended), if we were to measure the span of our planet at the level of subatomic particles we would find the circumference of the earth to be almost infinite. Strange, but true.

If we were to examine each of the "facts" above to this level of detail, I'm afraid they would each come apart like week-old cornbread.

My conclusion then is this. Facts are our inquiry boundaries. Fancy words for the point where we stop checking our assumptions. And we ALWAYS make assumptions about everything. And that's a fact! Even our sciences are based on mountains of assumptions. I was struck as a young engineering student when I learned that we'd be practically paralyzed to design anything if we didn't make assumptions and approximations in every equation and theory we used.

Models of reality are useful. But only if we understand that they are only models. Facts, I believe are models too. Just as even the words we use are symbols pointing to meaning. As meaning-makers, let us not mistake the map for the territory.


As always, we must now ask the question, How can we use this information as facilitators?

- Be conscious of the fact that facts are simply well-proven or widely agreed upon assumptions.
- Help groups examine or unravel the "facts" underlying any problem or opportunity they're pursuing in order to expose underlying assumptions.
- Know that we use facts to help us feel secure. They often serve as life rafts for the fearful. Deflate them slowly and with compassion.
- Know that facts, end discovery and inquiry. If you've developed elegant solutions and plans, great, you're assumptions are probably effective ones. If you're path is unclear, try unraveling some facts for awhile.
- If facts get in the way of your fantasy, make up new facts to support your dream and ask what it would take to bring these facts into existence.
- Beware of "human facts machines" Encourage them to go on standby, just for awhile, and to humor your exploration into a world where facts no longer exist--just to see where it leads you.


This week, question the facts that make up your world. What would happen if they weren't as concrete as you think they are? Would you be inspired to do or be something different? I'd love to hear you're perspectives on this. Please email them to me.

Skill Related Resource 
Understanding Truth,
by Scott Soames

In this book, Scott Soames illuminates the notion of truth and the role it plays in our ordinary thought, as well as in our logical, philosophical, and scientific theories. Part I addresses crucial background issues, including the identification of the bearers of truth, the basis for distinguishing truth from other notions (like certainty, with which it is often confused), and the formulation of positive responses to well-known forms of philosophical skepticism about truth. Part II explicates the formal theories of Alfred Tarski and Saul Kripke, including their treatments of the Liar paradox, and evaluates the philosophical significance of their work. Part III extends important lessons drawn from Tarski and Kripke into new domains: vague predicates, the Sorites paradox, and the development of a larger, deflationary perspective on truth.

picture of Steve Davis, editor of the Master Facilitator Journal.
About the Author
Steve Davis is a Facilitator's Coach helping leaders enhance their effectiveness through the application and perspective of facilitation. Please email or call me at 805-489-4130 to schedule a Free exploratory session, or to share your suggestions and ideas for the journal. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading!

If you know someone who might benefit and enjoy this newsletter, please send this link to a friend.

In the Spotlight

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Appreciative Inquiry
Another tool for asset-based personal, organizational, and ad hoc development...

Join us for a Free 1-hour Tele-Discussion with AI experts, Patricia Clason and Bert Stitt on March 28th


When we work with groups as facilitators, consultants, coaches, or therapists, we tend to start with the question, "So what's the problem here? What's wrong? What needs to change?" etc. The problem with this is that we place the spotlight on problems that may have not been worrisome before we showed up to highlight them. AI is an alternative way to support people and groups by asking questions such as "what's going well around here? What ideas can you tell me about that I can share with others? How are you documenting your excellence?" Your role takes on the form of one who facilitates the discovery of conditions that made excellence possible in the past, and ways to project more of this into the future.

Through AI, we help groups articulate the themes and dreams of "what could be" and "what will be." What will be is the future envisioned through an analysis of the past. The entire system maintains the best of the past by discovering what it is and stretching it into the future possibilities. This differs from other visioning work because the envisioned future is grounded in the reality of the actual past.

Call in for a one-hour conversation at 10 AM EST on Friday, March 28th with Patricia Clason and Bert Stitt to learn more about this exciting new participatory technology. We will discuss the basics of the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) approach. You will learn how these techniques can help you to use appreciation for positive experiences in life as the foundation for building a practical vision and the strategic steps that will work to achieve that vision. Please click here and press "Send" to register. You'll receive an automatic response, secure your spot for this call register, and receive call-in information. But hurry, the bridge can handle only a limited number of callers.

Leader Bios

Bert Stitt operates a home-based consultancy from Madison, Wisconsin. He provides facilitation services, public engagement consultation, and organizational development for community-building projects, coaching for non-governmental organizations, mediation and facilitation for governmental agencies, and strategic planning processes for associations, foundations, and small businesses. Appreciative Inquiry is a relatively recent tool that Bert is finding very useful as he reaches into the toolbox while helping to build the organizations he works with.

Patricia Clason has traveled across the continent doing speeches, workshops and media appearances as a professional speaker, trainer, consultant and writer, giving over 3,000 presentations for corporations, associations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Now the Director of the Center for Creative Learning which offers programs for personal and professional development and has written many articles, training programs and personal growth seminars and is a sought-after guest for radio and television. Patricia likes to focus on alternative methods of teaching and learning, addressing the psychological perspectives and principles behind the practical tools that she teaches. As a result, audiences are often entranced with her and excited about using these new ideas.

This telediscussion will be held at 10 AM EST on Friday, March 28th. Please click here and press "Send." You'll receive an automatic response, secure your spot for this call register, and receive call-in information. But hurry, the bridge can handle only a limited number of callers.

Steve Davis
Publisher, MFJ

Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal. Look for your next issue on March 25, 2002.

Copyright 2003. All Rights Reserved