Have you ever asked for input in a meeting and only gotten the sound of crickets as a response? We’ve all been there, and 1-2-4-All can quickly turn this silence into rapid insights.

Engage everyone without putting anyone on the spot

1-2-4-All is one of 34 Liberating Structures developed to add structure and meaning to everyday conversations. It’s a great way to sift and sort ideas to allow the best — and most novel  — concept to bubble up to the surface. It triggers spontaneous conversations at a time when many meeting attendees typically zip their lips and avoid eye contact. 

The activity is great for groups that are “stuck” having endless conversations without making discernible headway or decisions. It’s also really handy to combat the phenomenon of “follow the leader,” where everyone just nods and goes along with what the leader is saying and writing down. 1-2-4-All prevents a vocal minority from dictating how an organization operates. It seeks to solicit input from everyone involved, no matter how contrary or left-field their ideas are because it’s those ideas that contribute to the diversity of thought so many companies lack.

So how does 1-2-4-All work? It’s pretty simple, actually. Ask each participant to quietly reflect on the opportunity or challenge the group is seeking to explore. For example, “What ideas or actions would you recommend to move forward?” Give them one minute to think about the ideas or actions they’d recommend.

Next, pair two individuals together and allocate a couple of minutes to review their individual ideas. Where are they aligned? Are there a few ideas that both people feel strongly about? 

After the groups of two have had enough time to discuss and align on ideas or solutions, typically about two or so minutes, merge the pairs of two into foursomes and task them to spend four minutes noticing the similarities and differences in their respective ideas. Instruct them to identify the best of the best.

Finally, over a five-minute period, invite everyone into the dialog or simply ask each foursome to present the one idea they feel stood out most in their discussions. In roughly 12 minutes, you’ll get a variety of thinking and lots of lively conversations instead of a bunch of blank stares.

Shifting to virtual

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, conducting a 1-2-4-All exercise was as easy as asking participants to push chairs together and talk. In this new era of video conferencing, facilitating 1-2-4-All is a little trickier, but it’s not impossible.

48-node Concentric Consensus template Voltage Control designed and led for Global Partner Solutions group in Australia.

The idea for the Concentric Consensus templates stemmed from a need we identified when we designed and facilitated an annual kick-off for the Global Partner Solutions group in Australia. 

One of the first activities of the day was called “Empowering You,” an event-wide conversation around the principles by which they wanted to all hold each other accountable. The objective was to define a “team code” that was co-created with all 105 attendees, giving everyone a voice regardless of hierarchy. 

The 1-2-4-All model was an excellent method for arriving at consensus, but with such a large (virtual) group we needed to tweak the interaction model. We designed the 48-node Concentric Conversations template to host a 1-2-4-8-All conversation which utilized MURAL’s voting feature to facilitate our “all” step of the process and select the five top principles. It was a huge success, so we decided to release it to the world for all facilitators to use! 

Because the number of participants ranges per meeting, we also developed templates for smaller groups so you can use them no matter the group size:

8-node Concentric Consensus template

12-node Concentric Consensus template

16-node Concentric Consensus template

24-node Concentric Consensus template

48-node Concentric Consensus template

96-node Concentric Consensus template

5 Tips to ensure you see success using these templates in virtual meetings

1. Utilize breakout rooms

Using Zoom or some other service, create smaller workgroups vs. having everyone in the same chat room throughout the entire exercise. Once everybody has had the chance to think independently, create rooms for pairs, then foursomes and finally the group at large. Randomly assign participants to respected groups.  

2. Mute/unmute participants

To provide emphasis — and reduce distracting background noise — we recommend muting everyone but the person sharing his or her ideas.

3. Turn video on/off

Similarly, we suggest you only allow the individuals/teams who are speaking to appear on camera. This will keep the focus where it needs to be.

4. Set up a chat channel

This can be a good way to facilitate conversation and avoid people from talking over each other when others are presenting. 

5. Capture feedback in a shared workspace

We’re partial to MURAL, so much so we created the Concentric Consensus templates exclusively for the platform. 

Concentric Consensus x48


Get Our Concentric Consensus x48

Use this template when a large group needs to create key points for a topic or question and write down those key points to a consensus. This is an adaptation of the Liberating Structures 1-2-4-All for 48 people.

From too quiet to total consensus

You’ll find using these templates will get everyone generating ideas without it devolving into a free-for-all. The shy in your group will also appreciate an opportunity to express their thoughts without having to do so in the spotlight. In short, our Concentric Consensus templates can create unified virtual teams by allowing them to get a sense of what the collective group thinks. Another advantage of the templates is anyone can go back later and trace through the steps to see how the ideas evolved (just zoom in on the Microsoft graphic to see what we’re talking about). 

The next time you need your team to quickly arrive at a shared understanding, try the Concentric Consensus template to make your meetings more effective. But why stop there? If you’re looking for additional ways to boost productivity in your meetings, you can browse our resource library for advice on how to improve remote collaboration and even download additional MURAL templates.

Want to learn how to ask meeting attendees better questions?

Thoughtful questions are the secret to an engaged audience. For a pocket guide to the questions you should always ask, download the free Facilitator’s Guide To Questions from our resource library.