Free (brainstorming online) facilitation tool – 1-2-4-ALL

by | Jun 16, 2020

We’re writing our new ‘Zoom in on Creativity’ webinar this week to work with a group at PRFEST this Friday.

We’re going over all our favourite facilitation tools and discovering some new ones! We were reminded of the simple and effective tool from Liberating Structures that we think would work just as brilliantly for brainstorming online to generate ideas and involve everyone on the call.

‘1-2-4-All’ is a fab and deceptively simple facilitation method to engage everyone simultaneously in generating questions, ideas, and suggestions. It works brilliantly for brainstorming online, too.

Why does 1-2-4 All work?

  • It immediately includes everyone regardless of how large the group is.
  • It helps to generate better ideas and more of them faster than ever before.
  • Tap the know-how and imagination that is distributed widely in places not known in advance.
  • It leads to open, generative conversation. Ideas and solutions are sifted in rapid fashion.

How to do it:

You all the group to start working alone, then in pairs, then in fours, and finally as a whole group. Simples!

  1. Silent self-reflection by individuals on a shared challenge, framed as a question (e.g. In what ways might we….What ideas do you have that might solve this challenge?) 1 min.
  2. Generate ideas in pairs, building on ideas from self-reflection. 2 min (1 min each way).
  3. Share and develop ideas from your pair in foursomes (notice similarities and differences). You might need to allow a bit more time to bring people back together online to go to 4’s. Around 5-8 min.
  4. Ask, “What is one idea that stood out in your conversation?” Each group shares one important idea with all (repeat cycle as needed). 5 min.

You might like to play around with the timings if you are running this online. Using a tool like Zoom, you can break people out into side rooms for these discussions.

Group size:

4-40 (the bigger the group the more debrief airtime you need).

Facilitator expertise:






Facilitator Tips: Things to think about for your session (and adapt for brainstorming online):

  • Firmly facilitate quiet self-reflection before paired conversations (rein the extraverts in!).
  • Ask everyone to jot down their ideas during the silent reflection.
  • Stick to precise timing, do another round if needed.
  • In a large group during “All,” limit the number of shared ideas to three or four (one each).
  • Invite each group to share one insight but not to repeat insights already shared.
  • Separate and protect generation of ideas from the whole group discussion.
  • Defer judgment; make ideas visual; go wild! (Use the IDEO rules).
  • If you hit a plateau, think about jumping to another form of expression (e.g sketching, stories) and doing it again.
  • Maintain the rule of one conversation at a time in the whole group (even more important online).
  • Do a second round if you did not go deep enough!

This is just one of the tools we’ll be sharing in this new webinar. If you’re looking for more facilitation tips for brainstorming, check out our courses on creativity.

Attribution: Liberating Structure developed by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless

See loads more helpful frameworks at Liberating Structures

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