Why do groups need a facilitator?
If the job of a facilitator is to get out of the way, why have one in the first place?
Because boundaries matter.
Boundaries provide safety, and structure, and edges. When the boundaries are clear, it’s easier to play with ideas, to try stuff, to be creative, to be more comfortable with uncertainty.
Improvisers know about boundaries. Improv shows have clear boundaries: a physical boundary, the stage; a time boundary; and a format boundary. Players also know the ‘rules’ – the principles by which the show will be performed. What they don’t know is the content or the reactions of the audience or of themselves.
Compare that to your typical meeting or event. The content is often known in advance, which raises the question of why have a meeting in the first place? The answer often lies in something beyond the content itself: a decision, an approach, greater understanding, a change that’s needed.
A facilitator can help identify the boundaries to an event. It’s way to easy to stretch the boundaries, to include more, to dilute the purpose with ‘can we just…’ And a facilitator can find ways to help people engage with the content and work with each other – and then get out of the way and let them get on with it.
It’s easy for people who are not facilitators to see the work of a facilitator as that which happens in front of a group. The real work – the hard work – happens behind the scenes.