Presentation: Liberating Structures @CapitalOne

Track: Human Systems: Hacking the Org

Location: Empire Complex, 7th fl.

Duration: 4:10pm - 5:00pm

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What You’ll Learn

  1. Learn about Liberating Structures, a set of tools for unleashing people.
  2. Experience how Liberating Structures can be used to have better meetings where people are more engaged.
  3. Reflect on your own experience of increased engagement and interaction as a result of using Liberating Structures.


Unleash everyone’s voice, viewpoint and expertise with Liberating Structures - a set of facilitation frameworks that enable shared ownership and inclusion.  At Capital One we have found Liberating Structures to be a great fit with Agile approaches - bringing energy and life into planning and retro sessions as well as workshops, offsites and in leadership coaching.  This session shares practical applications of Liberating Structures that you can use in your workplace based on what we have learned.

In this session you will learn how to:

  • Increase meeting engagement by using innovative, effective tools that include and unleash everyone
  • Transform meetings into dynamic, creative experiences
  • Unlock the knowledge, wisdom and perspectives of your teams to reliably address opportunities and problems

What is the focus of your work today?


I'm working at the team and the organizational level to help people understand what it takes to deliver successfully. That involves things like building psychological safety, role clarity, and purpose, as well as understanding how to manage the interfaces between various systems - for example, design, product, risk, etc., not to mention reliable process (think CI/CD). It also involves helping people figure out how to stay engaged and to solve problems in a way that results in greater effectiveness and greater ability to deal with change and uncertainty.


What’s the motivation for this talk?


I really love Liberating Structures.  I’ve found that they are among the best tools for unleashing teams. They are a great way to ensure everybody's voice is heard, to encourage deep and honest dialogue, and for discovering solutions that are not just business as usual.


Could you give us a high-level overview of what liberating structures are?


Liberating structures are a set of tools designed around the idea of unleashing people, particularly during meetings. These are a set of tools or approaches that you could use when you want to get people talking, you want to include everyone, or you want to leverage the expertise and passion of everybody. They involve thinking differently about how power and participation is distributed, and involves new ways of using space, time and sequence.

For example, one of the liberating structures is called Impromptu Networking.  The facilitator asks a question that people find juicy and interesting, and then you have a minute to think about how you want to respond. Then you get together in pairs with somebody and you each have a minute to give you a response,  and then you find a new pair and repeat the conversation, and then do it again. This liberating structure does several things. First of all, by giving you a minute to prepare, you allow introverts to enter the conversation at a similar level to an extrovert. Also by having you repeat your answer three times you actually find yourself improving or going deeper, more deeply understanding your answer. And finally, it engages people, primes them to participate, prepares them to become part of the process.

You also connect to people in new ways. Unlike for example introductions which tend to be very static and everybody just does a lot of listening you're actually actively meeting somebody and engaging with them and learning something about them. People find themselves feeling understood and feeling that their story is now in the room. People are primed for what's coming ahead because of the nature of the question you've asked. They feel connected to people that they've talked to and they have already had their opinions heard and taken seriously. And all of this creates a kind of psychological safety, it creates a kind of welcoming environment, a kind of positive emotional attractor environment where people are beginning to be excited about what's going on.

That's probably one of the simpler liberating structures. There's 33 of them and all of them have that similar kind of impact in terms of really being focused on letting people participate, having their voices heard and bringing ideas into the room that otherwise would remain unspoken.


How would you describe the persona and level of the target audience?


It's a talk for folks who are curious about how to make meetings better. Traditionally, meetings are the worst. With Liberating Structures, you get all the voices in the room, develop trust and increase engagement. For folks who are curious about how you nurture social-emotional intelligence, how you develop psychological safety, these are great tools. I think that people who are thinking about those kinds of things would be interested in learning some tools that would help their teams and their organization have much better meetings.

One of the outcomes of liberating structures is much more productive and much more engaged workers. For example, we just had an off-site at our company and the main complaint that people had is that they were worn out. They had been so involved, so engaged, that instead of being bored or wishing that they could go do something else, they needed some time to recharge.


What do you want this persona to walk away from your talk with?


I'd like them to have an updated mental model around what's possible for teams and organizations to do, and what all-in really looks like.

The other thing I'd like them to take away are concrete tools to encourage engagement, diversity of thought, and problem-solving, in an approach that includes and unleashes everybody.


What do you feel is the most important trend in software right now?


I can only tell you the one that seems to be coming up for me in my environment. I feel like that we have a decision to make between whether we're going to listen and trust the people who do the work or whether we're going to return to a sort of command and control sort execution process.

One of the things that I see across my organization and with my colleagues that I deal with is that there's a lot of talk now about essentially fake agile or going through the motions when it comes to developing software. That it seems more expedient to return to the smartest person in the room makes a decision that everybody else goes along with. Or a homogeneous inner circle implicitly calls the shots. As opposed to having leaders and teams and environments where people can feel not just accepted but welcome to bring their ideas and their thoughts.

Speaker: Greg Myers

Agile Coach, Engineering @CapitalOne

Greg's background includes software development, product and engineering management, workshop / training design & facilitation, and leadership and team coaching.  He loves connecting what we know about how to deliver software with what we are learning about how teams work. Greg has spoken about Liberating Structures at national, regional, local and in-house workshops and conferences.  Currently wrestling with Blender & 3D printing, Greg is also an avid potter, taiji enthusiast and a student of Improv and mindfulness.

Find Greg Myers at

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