Gaining Perspective with the Wheel of Wisdom
The Wheel of Wisdom brings a set of searching perspectives to bear upon a matter of importance, to reach agreement for collective action.
Each of the eight Roles evokes a field of innate human inquiry, to include differences of view that are necessary for shared understanding.
When to use?
The Wheel of Wisdom helps us address questions that matter, from perspectives we may not otherwise have access to with the usual methods.
In this design for the Wheel of Wisdom, formal features of the indigenous Council have become Roles of Embodied Leadership, along with illustrations, for easier working. The Roles bring the Wheel to life, along with enlivening questions, in this facilitation method.
This method can be used by an individual but its most powerful role is as a group process, especially by a group that is seeking intelligent collective action.
For people who need to work collaboratively, the Wheel opens practical awareness and empowers their differences of contribution, in service of the whole. Personal and collective learning journeys both become engaged in this practice.
Using the Wheel, the group can look into questions that matter to them thoroughly and in depth – the kinds of questions that persist, and will not be satisfied by ready answers and solutions.
Individually, for a person who wishes to discover a path to their personal potential, the Wheel helps to engage creatively with their wants, needs, ideas, vision, intelligences, awareness and intentions.
To use the Wheel of Wisdom online, all you need is this Facilitation Guide, which you can share with participants, as you take them with you through a working session.
For in-person use some physical artefacts can be brought into play:
The set up here is for group work, which may be a project team, a management team, a volunteer group or even a family group.
The eight circular Role emblems are laid down in a circle on the floor to form the Wheel, perhaps at the perimeter of a circular table cloth, with the Disruptive Genius aligned to the east, and the question mark emblem in the middle.
Participants sit in a circle on chairs or cushions around this Wheel.
It is helpful to have two flipcharts present. One can be prepared with an agenda, process and Role Questions; the other can be used to record findings from each Role in turn. Findings can be written by participants onto A5 post-its or directly onto the flipchart prepared with a compass diagram:
The Role perspectives are
- EAST – Disruptive Genius
- SOUTH EAST – Peacemaker
- SOUTH – Pioneer
- SOUTH WEST – Pathfinder-Narrator
- WEST – Steward/Chatelaine
- NORTHWEST – Oracle
- NORTH – Strategist
- NORTH EAST – Guardian of Transformation
Printable Wisdom Wheel
- The output of an online process will be the shared record held by participants in the mode that you have jointly chosen for it. For example, a visual electronic record, an acoustic recording, or a text summary, or some combination of these, according to the purpose for which the process has been convened.
- The output of an in-person process will be the flipchart record in sequence of a well examined and reflective position on the question in focus.
- Along with agreement in depth – or agreement in formation – among the participants upon the way forward and next steps for the group, recorded in the same way.
This outlines a first level process for effective engagement in the time span of a typical meeting.
A Facilitator for the Wheel of Wisdom takes the role of Servant Listener for the process: lightly explaining, guiding, holding the space that allows participants to to do their work. The Servant Listener oversees the process, and stands aside from engaging personally in a session’s content.
The Roles of Leadership in the Wheel are designed so that participants can bring them to life and enact them, in response to the central question. Each Role is male and female in equal balance. In this way, fresh perspectives arise from the energy and enquiry which every Role brings forward in its turn.
Work begins with framing and agreeing the question that is the focus for the session.
When the question is clear, it is good to let the participants settle with meditation, or a similar calming experience, before beginning the Wheel process.
Then the whole Wheel is introduced, the Roles are each briefly described. Let the participants know that the meaning of these Roles will emerge in the exercise.
Next, participants are guided to work the agreed question through each of the Roles in sequence. This takes them on a cumulative journey of discovery and understanding. It is important that they complete a summary at its conclusion.
Ideally, the group will reach a clear, shared agreement for subsequent action.
If, in demanding circumstances, this proves too much for a group to achieve in a typical meeting, the matter in hand will benefit from a further iteration of the whole process.
Forming the Question
Before fully engaging with the Wheel of Wisdom you need to facilitate the group to identify and clarify the key question which is to be the focus of the method. Here are some useful guidelines. The question needs to be:
- a matter of judgement rather than a matter of fact (the facts are relevant as context for a wise decision)
- a matter of powerful and heartfelt importance for the group you are facilitating
- arrived at by a group process such as gathering or clustering or distributive voting.
Write the agreed question clearly in way that everyone participating can refer to it and hold it in mind. It sits symbolically in the centre of the wheel.
Facilitate the Process
When you have the question clearly agreed, you then work through each of the eight Roles, rounded off by a reflection on the whole. This process will illuminate the question and suggest wise actions.
The Wheel of Wisdom encourages whole person engagement – thinking, feeling, behaving – all of which enrich the learning experience.
- The question, the Quest, in focus is visualised at the centre of the wheel.
- the eight Roles of inquiry and reflection open and focus fresh viewpoints, insights, revelations and new thinking.
- the sequence begins from the East (E, SE,S, SW, W, NW, N, NE)
These are some of the ways you can involve the group, according to the amount of time in hand.
- the Servant Listener reads out the prompts for that Role
- each person silently reflects on the implications of the Role’s inquiry for the central question
- a round is made of the group and these individual views on a headed flip chart
- the Servant Listener reads out the questions for that Role
- when someone has an insight or viewpoint they state this aloud to the group
- the Servant Listener records these on the flip chart
- when three contributions have been made the facilitator moves onto the next perspective and the process is repeated
In the Steps that follow each Role has a set of questions that originate from its essence, which address the central Quest of the session. Have participants read and reflect on the questions. They are there to prompt reflection, discovery and resonance, to enable participants to formulate their insights in relation to the central question. Make notes to help the final review.
The sequence of Roles accumulates towards the outcome of the quest.
Role 1 - Disruptive Genius
Role 2 - Peacemaker
Role 3 - Pioneer
Role 4 - Pathfinder-Narrator
Role 5 - Steward/Chatelaine
Role 6 - Oracle
Role 7 - Strategist
Role 8 - Guardian of Transformation
Step 10: When the Roles have Spoken - Holistic Reflection
Have the participants reflectively review the points that have been recorded for each of the Roles and summarise
- the positions that they have reached,
- the commitments they are making,
- what they have learned through the process, and
- what they plan to do next.
Agree what follow-up, if any, is to be made.
Summarise with an appreciative conclusion and participant check-out.
Preparing the Question for the Wheel
- what is the main, salient and challenging question that confronts us (me) right now?
- is this a question from the heart?
- is it expressed clearly, simply and with strong intent?
- Is it in an open form such as “How can ….?” or “What is needed for ….?” or “How can we understand …..?”
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license framework.
How to Use this License
This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms.Read about Open Access to H3Uni Methods and Materials