"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Monday, November 2, 2009


Last night, in fact well past midnight & just before visiting my slumberland, I read the book, 'Facilitating Transformation: 12 Steps for Creating Extraordinary Breakthroughs with Groups', by Douglas O'Loughlin, in earnest & all in one sitting.

The author is a globe-trotting organisational development/change management consultant, currently based in Singapore & Bangkok, where he is pursuing his PhD, in addition to transforming personal lives & shaping organisational destinies along the way. He is considered a veteran in the world of facilitation, at least in this part of the globe.

To be frank, I have not read any book on facilitation in recent years.

I recall the last time I had done it in similar fashion was reading & reviewing - 'Principles of Facilitation: The Purpose & Potential of Leading Group Processes', by the graphic facilitation guru David Sibbet of Grove Consultants, at least five or more years ago.

Doug's debut book is apparently targeted primarily at facilitators, teachers, lecturers, trainers, coaches, consultants, & those who work with groups.

However, the book is not about techniques or methodologies on facilitation, which one can easily find in many other books.

Doug's book is essentially all about the philosophy of taking responsibility of being alive, being sagacious, being mindful, so to speak, while leading personal transformations in an organisational or group setting - in a nut shell, drawing out the best in people.

While most people, including yours truly, may hold the notional image of the "caterpillar to butterfly" metamorphosis, I reckon the essence of 'facilitating transformation' is best captured by what the author has written beautifully in the preamble:

"... individual or groups leave the sessions fundamentally different than they arrived, with expanded way of thinking & doing... we can consciously do a number of things that increase the chances for breakthroughs, both in the session & beyond... ";

as well as what Dr Sandra Janoff, co-director of the Future Search Network, has written in her Foreword to the book:

"...while we are often called upon to be at the centre of the action, we remain astute observers & hold the bigger picture. While we invest ourselves emotionally in our clients, we remain objective & respectful of the work they have to do for themselves. While we plan carefully, we learn to trust our intuition as to when to deviate from our plan... we want to enable people to make discoveries, learn new ways of working & move closer to the futures to which they aspire... "

With these philosophical underpinnings & pragmatic approaches, Doug's book really stands out, as he also draws upon his three decades of varied experiences as a global facilitator & life coach to offer his "tapestry of possibilities" in a "buffet spread" of 12 strategy steps, as follows:

1) be intentional;
2) be present with presence;
3) go for 100%;
4) tune-in & engage;
5) design for transformation;
6) design the environment;
7) mind your language;
8) breakthrough with teams;
9) be a transformer;
10) be global & local;
11) seek & celebrate feedback;
12) bring your whole self to work;
(the golden thread that holds all the other 11 strategy steps);

Although Doug has put in writing that "this book does not necessarily have to be read from cover to cover", personally I feel that the first four strategy steps must be kept in mind at all times - sequentially - at the onset.

While each strategy step is covered by a specific chapter, what I also like most from the book are the well-crafted reflective questions, leading to the actions-to-take from insights at the end of each chapter.

By the way, I also like to single out 'Chapter 7: Mind Your Language', which talks about the use of C.L.E.A.R. language, as one of my personal favourites. [Interestingly, C.L.E.A.R. stands for Clarity, Leverage Wisdom, Expand Possibilities, Avoid Generalisations, Reality.]

In the same vein, I feel that, with no disrespect to the author, a little bit more concerted effort from the publisher, like tighter editing, would have made all the illustrative stories in the book smoother to read.

As a visual thinker, naturally I would have loved to see graphic illustrations in the book.

After all, today we are living in a world of images. More importantly, as much as 90% of what we learn in a lifetime comes to us in the form of visual cues.

If only the author had gone "the extra mile" to put in a "graphic recording" of the salient aspects of each chapter, the book would have been a great piece of work.

As he has rightly pointed out: "... graphic recording, is a relatively new concept in facilitation, one that provides transformational impact... "

However, I am not going to allow the foregoing "shortcomings" to diminish the value of the book &/or Doug's principal message to all the facilitators out there.

On the whole, & in the end analysis, I must emphasise that Doug has written the book with candour, succinctness & warmth. For me, it has been an entertaining & enriching read.

Highly recommended, for all those who facilitate workshops, teach classes, or coach & lead people.

[Disclosure: Book came personally from the author, whom I have known since the early nineties. Payment: FREE]

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