We ask participants to talk about abstract things. "What does your future look like?" "What is your leadership style?" "What's happening in your industry?" Giving participants a concrete anchor, however nonsensical, is a great way to access abstract concepts and start people talking. In his body of knowledge around kinesthetic modeling, John Ward calls this "useless sense-making."
My favorite method for providing concrete anchors to abstract concepts is the Center for Creative Leadership's Visual Explorer which I've written about before. Unfortunately, the full size version is as big and heavy as a phone book, so using it has to be planned ahead of time. Plus, at $380, it ain't cheap.
Pass out the Story Cubes. Have them select an image. Depending on how far you feel like you can push the participants' creativity, you can either have them choose an icon from the cube or roll and have to make sense of whatever lands. Then, ask a question relevant to the topic of the facilitation. You might ask, "How does the image represent...
- ...what you'd like to get out of our time together?"
- ...your personal leadership style?"
- ...your organization?"
- ...what's happening in your organization?"
- ...the opportunities you or your organization is facing?"
- ...the challenges you or your organization is facing?"
- ...the culture of your organization?"
- ...what an ideal organization looks like?"
- ...where we are as a team?"
- ...how we want to be perceived?"
- ...your own personal vision?"
- ...the vision of your organization?"
- ...what success looks like?"
Depending on the size of the group, individuals can report out to the whole group or just to the people sitting around them. If there aren't enough cubes to go around, form small groups to share a cube and report outs. Even if not everyone reports out, you'll definitely want to ask for volunteers to share highlights out to the whole group to get a sample of answers to the question.