Gaining Perspective with the Wheel of Wisdom
PurposeThe 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.
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 the 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.
Work begins with framing and agreeing the question that is the focus for the session.
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.
Step 1: 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 facilitator 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 facilitator reads out the questions for that Role
- when someone has an insight or viewpoint they state this aloud to the group
- the facilitator 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.
Step 2: Role 1 - Disruptive Genius
Intent: Free, unfettered creation
What calls out for free expression?
What debunks convention?
What forms the vision, what illuminates it?
Potential trap: Avoid superior mind
Step 3: Role 2 - Peacemaker
Intent: See the actual state of things
What is the present condition of things right now?
What is limiting our vision?
Where is the abundance?
Potential trap: Avoid lack mind
Step 4: Role 3 - Pioneer
Intent: Engage with the challenge
What is the opportunity in this quest?
What has to be overcome to pursue it?
What are the biggest risks?
Potential trap: Avoid ‘emotional circus’ mind
Step 5: Role 4 - Pathfinder-Narrator
Intent: Find/forge a purposeful pathway
What destiny is energising this endeavour?
What could confuse its purpose?
What is the guiding/resonant narrative?
Potential trap: Avoid the dwarm of possibilities
Step 6: Role 5 - Steward/Chatelaine
Intent: Wise resourcing of the purpose
What willpower and new understanding is called for?
What has to be let go, forgone, healed?
What motivates the necessary persistence?
Potential trap: Avoid slave mind
Step 7: Role 6 - Oracle
Intent: Find advantageous timing in context
What cycles of opportunity are open for this?
What timing flows against it?
What timing flows for it?
Potential trap: Avoid workhorse mind
Step 8: Role 7 - Strategist
Intent: Convene wholehearted commitment
What courageous course of action is worth committing to?
What reliably resources and sustains this endeavour?
What impediments have to be overcome for it to succeed?
Potential trap: Avoid ramrod mind
Step 9: Role 8 - Guardian of Transformation
Intent: Energise vitality, prove integrity
What is the vitality and life-force of this enterprise?
Have all the voices in the Wheel been properly heard?
What if anything could endanger/fragment the integrity of commitment?
Potential trap: Avoid judgement mind
Step 10: When the Roles have Spoken - Holistic Reflection
Have the participants reflectively review the points on each of the eight flip charts 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 …..?”
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