Bookshelf Highlight: The Zen of Groups

ZenOfGroupsThe Zen of Groups is one book I recommend for anyone in an organizing role in forming groups or for new facilitators in community or work settings. Anyone interested in group dynamics can appreciate it but it’s especially good as an introductory view of what to expect from group behavior, common tensions and pitfalls and what to do about the various challenges. It has clear descriptions of what affects decision-making in a group setting, provides a nice overview of options that an intentional community can choose from along a continuum of group processes & styles. Half the book is structured as a list of activities to draw from for creativity or problem-solving, depending on the goal of a group at a particular time. There are good reminders of what you might propose if you are in a facilitative situation, but a group must be willing to agree to a process which is sometimes not so easy, even if it’s a simple exercise. There can be many subtleties to checking for agreement within a group; and if you’re a group member and you want to alter the culture of the group to truly be flexible, there may be challenges, but there are practices you can learn, reinforce, and ritualize.

Many groups forget to discuss their own agreements about what decision-making process they will use, so the role of a facilitator can then be murky and mixed with resentment toward leadership. If however, you are in a group where a facilitator has been designated for any amount of time, no matter what decision making process or style is prevalent, and the group is open to try new ways of structuring meetings, then they can gain new ways of seeing themselves by using this book. It provides explicit and simple exercises to draw from allowing any number of people in a group to build skills and create what becomes a facilitator’s tool kit.

NICA has several copies of this book which are for sale at any of our events (or available by mail order, with postage).

Syd Fredrickson