fishbowls on zoom

in the chaos of covid-19, there is a ton of innovation happening (necessity is the mother of invention, right?) in many different directions. also lots of horrible things, obviously, but there are breakthroughs happening, too! many stories are happening.

well, a few weeks ago, one of my closest collaborators, maureen white, and i tested out fishbowls for one of our clients and we think it worked pretty well!

fishbowls are an in-person structure we both love. in physical contexts, it’s a great way to get the best of two worlds: intimate small conversation and large group discussion. there are great places to read more about the structure online (ex: this liberating structures write up of a user experience fishbowl is the best i’ve found, though i rarely use it for user experience discussions), but in short, you have two concentric circles set up and facilitate a discussion among people in the inner circle while everyone in the outer circle watches.

what we did to make this work in the online context was have everyone who wasn’t inside the fishbowl simply turn their cameras off (i realized after the fact that having the “hide non-video participants” enabled is a big upgrade, too, but it is what it is).

i’m writing this up so that we can share it with our friends/colleagues who are doing lots of online facilitation these days. i know we’re definitely not the first ones to figure this out, but it still feels good to write it up and share it.

i did have one new idea since we tried the tactic: in the future i can imagine us including one part that i often actually use in physical space: having people who are not in the center of the bowl make their into the conversation and other folks who have been in for a while step out. maybe it would be cool to use the raise hand feature and then the facilitator could ask someone who has been in the convo for a while to go off video so the discussion group stay the same size. will keep yall posted if i/we try that!


words / writing / post-processing
292w / 18min / 3min