You are facilitating a group process. Post-its gather and start overlapping each other. Time to make sense of all that. You just launched the group into some clustering exercise when someone drops the bomb: "Wait! It all relates!".
"But… it all relates!" A reaction so often heard while facilitating (or participating) to group reflexion processes (brainstorming, agile retrospectives, …).
"You ask us to group things … but everything is connected!"
It often comes with a contrived smile ("things are complex, you know!"). Sometimes also with a counterproposal "let us make a single group around the central thing here which is X, since obviously all things relate to X."
A very human reaction, which if you’re unprepared as facilitator, can take you aback. Keeping the following arguments in your mind can help.
That it all relates does not mean that it all ought to conflate. It makes sense to distinguish the different aspects of a situation or a problem, the different knots of its web of complexity. Some seem to think that seeing the big picture implies refusing to distinguish the whole from its parts. Yet if we can see the links, the relationships, it is because we have identified the parts.
Although a holistic view provides a definite advantage when facing a complex situation, it is good to remind ourselves that action cannot be holistic. You cannot act on the system as a whole. You may only act on precise points of the system.
Two simple arguments to help us facilitate these "everything is connected" moments and realize that in a (group) reflexion process, taking things apart is the first step towards deciding meaningful action.
Photo: Ruvande fjällripa