By the time we had organized a dozen conferences of various sorts, involving hundreds of people for days or weeks, it became clear that we needed new tools to deal with large learning experiences – tools that could help these experiences grow directly from the needs and perceptions of the people involved, rather than of the organizers.  In 1967, Blair Hamilton, Rick Kean, and Phil Werdell designed a two-stage game they called The Facilitator, because it helped.  That title seemed somewhat vague to me; so here I have named the two games involved by their functions, Interview and Sorting.

         Interview is yet another two-person game, but of a quite different species – not only because its medium is verbal, but because its usual purpose is assessment and focus.   It is almost too simple to recognize as a game, except by its structure of rules; the casual observer just sees two people talking seriously.  But we found, in general, a great deal of power in doing simple things clearly.  And though the prescription to be of simple mind may be too simple for the entire reform of education, it is probably the most useful one to give for the design of learning games, for in them the simple is a lens into the complex.

         Interview is a timed, formal-format process of mutual interview, with focus on problem solving.  The players go where it is comfortable to talk.  Each is trying to deal with a problem; their problems need not be the same.  For an hour, or more, they take turns interviewing each other.  Keeping an eye on time, each interviewer leads the other through a small set of questions, which the gamekeeper gives at the beginning.  One basic set is this:  {What do you want to accomplish?  What stands in the way?  What are your resources?}  The interviewer’s role is meticulous and educational:  it is not to approve, respond, judge, or second-guess, but simply to lead forth, to help bring the other out clearly.  The interviewer listens attentively, actively draws the other out, questions what is obscure, sees that no question is scanted.  Eye contact is helpful.  In many situations, it’s useful for each interviewer to make concise notes on what the other says, and to exchange these at the end.

         The two players are left free to decide who will be interviewed first, and how they want to handle the questions.  If they are dealing with the same problem they may talk back and forth, and wander among the questions; but it’s usually better to complete one interview and then trade roles, and to run through the questions in definite sequence.  The gamekeeper tells them this.  Her only role in the game is to make clear to the players what they are to do before they start, and then she may go off – indeed, she should, because Interview has a private purpose, and she will be more likely to trouble than to aid its process by disjointed eavesdropping and advice.

         Interview may be played by any number of people.  An odd number may be solved by having one group of three, though it will be cramped for time.  Though pairs are more intense, Interview can be played in threes completely, and gains strength of detail this way by cross examination.  In groups of four or more, it becomes another game, Open Interview, discussed below.

         As for when it may be played, and what it is good for, the answer is almost   “whatever you want.”  It can be brought to bear on anything people are trying to do, separately or together, immediately or later.  The format consists in being helped to focus one’s awareness by a peer; the formality focuses mutual awareness on the dignity of this process.  Within this, the set of questions is a mechanism that can be changed to suit Interview’s purposes.  In its original context of organizing conferences on educational reform, the Facilitator’s set was{What are you doing? What would you like to do? What problems are you having? What would you be able and willing to share? What would you like to learn?} Any problem-solving paradigm gives a useful set – for example, {What has been tried?  How did it fail?  What seems promising now?}, or {What do you want?  What do you have to give?} with its variant {What do you want to learn? What do you have to teach?} More elaborate paradigms take more time, and many questions can be answered endlessly. It is always useful to set a time limit, and sometimes to make it cruelly short.

         A wide-spread therapy game called Co-counseling, both powerful and problematical, makes use of Interview’s format, with this difference:  its purpose is emotional release.  The interviewer keeps rigorous eye-contact and looks for incipient signs of laughter, yawning, crying, rage, etc.; what focusing of the other’s talk he does is to encourage the overt expression of emotions. Though I have described the use of Interview mainly as a cognitive tool, clearly it can go as far in this direction as one wants -- and as far in both directions, for {What do you think about it?  How do you feel about it?} is often a useful set of questions.  Circles of psychic education make use of a mutual interview process in workshops, when students take turns at helping each other center and then clairvoyantly “read” the interviewer’s seven chakras in sequence.  Indeed, there are many kinds of assessment and focus that people can help each other with.

         Some of the effect of Interview upon its players is independent of their particular subject; it lies in the simple mystery of having someone else totally attentive to you, as an equal.  It is a way of encountering each other, which helps one to feel centered as well as clarified.  In drawing each other out with sincere interest, the pair become safe presences for each other. When strangers play Interview and move on together, they begin to feel recognized and connected, which makes it a good beginning for many group processes.  When familiars play it, they feel this too, which makes it a useful tool for ongoing cooperations.  In general, this kind of interpersonal process raises an immediate energy which people can put either to group or to private uses.

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