What is an 'invitation' in LS terms?

What is an 'invitation' in LS terms?

by Asif Devji -
Number of replies: 7

Hi All -- in response to my proposed LS activity, my consultants highlighted my confusion as to: What is an 'invitation' in LS terms?

Is it a marketing blurb? Is it a learning outcome? Is it a question prompt? What exactly is it?

Wondering what others think and if there were questions around this for any of you as you put together your LS activity.


In reply to Asif Devji

Re: What is an 'invitation' in LS terms?

by Meg Walker -

Hi Asif, 

I also found the myself uncertain about the "invitation" part of the activity. I chose to think about what the outcomes of my particular activity would be, and then I thought about how the invitation and activity also needed to include things I haven't considered (elements generated by the students). 

It was a helpful step for getting it clear in my mind, because I ended up putting some of the outcomes into a "Purpose of exercise" category to share with my triad, and then the invitation itself became longer/more detailed than I'd expected. 

My invitation has quite a conversational tone and is aimed at students who may or may not yet be used to considering themselves as "good" students. So this is what I came up with (pasted below). It may be more detailed than what many other invitations would need to be as I'm aiming for confidence-building too. 

I don't see it as a marketing blurb if the invitation is within a class that already has students registered. However I do wonder if it would need to use marketing language if it's for a workshop that isn't connected to a larger project/course.

Thinking of it as a question prompt feels too vague for me, at this point. But that may be because this is new territory for me.

I feel I would like a lot more practice to get the hang of writing the invitation component, and I wasn't surprised that it took me a few drafts to decide on what to post.


"We’ll take the next 50 minutes to explore together some of our feelings, attitudes and experiences around public speaking. 

Please think about a time where you spoke in front of a group, and let's say a group = four or more people. It could be simple or formal - a story around a campfire, a toast at a wedding, instructions for beading or sewing, or even a tour if you've worked in the tourism industry. 

Each of us will choose a memory about speaking to a group and making a drawing about that experience. Please find some blank paper and writing materials (pen, pencil, markers). We will each create a drawing, using five simple symbols that anyone can doodle. There is no need to be an artist or to make things that look realistic or perfect -- it’s a playful exercise!

I’ll draw the symbols right here on the whiteboard with my mouse, so you can see how easy it is. Next we’ll all try them out, and then we'll jump into drawing our individual stories."

In reply to Meg Walker

Re: What is an 'invitation' in LS terms?

by Keira McPhee -

I took kind of a similar tack to Meg in my scenario (training Population and public health staff on LS). The LS I'm inviting them to is "Purpose to Practice".

One of the basic principles of LS is "never start without a clear purpose" and another is "include and unleash everyone". And so this LS promises to do just that- to invite us all to discover and create together our purpose and all the essentials we need to achieve that.  Let's begin!

 Leva crisped up this invite:

I'd probably want add a word or two to sharpen the invitation "...invite us all to discover and create together our purpose as a work team/group/facilitators and to outline all the essential elements we need to achieve this purpose"

I really like Leva's invitation- it's brief and clearly states the purpose for doing this LS. That's the core of the invite,  and I like the challenge of expressing that in one sentence.
In reply to Keira McPhee

Re: What is an 'invitation' in LS terms?

by Leva Lee -

I'm glad you found this helpful Keira. I think the word "invitation" reveals the intention behind what we are doing in that we are asking participants to explore something, discover something together.  For the purpose of our triad activity, Beth and I were focussing on invitations/requests you each would make of your participants in engaging in the purposed LS activity. (Our thinking was craft one invitation for one LS, but some of you had bigger ambitions!)

I'm still working hard on figuring out how to craft LS invitations. I found reading the article we shared in the Tips section insightful. It's a balance between being sharp with your words, but also open and vague enough to allow for interpretation and provocative to pique interest. 

I hope this group will reach out to each other for help, especially in crafting invitations. It sometimes takes many iterations to get it right. The examples given in the book/app are helpful too. 

In reply to Asif Devji

Re: What is an 'invitation' in LS terms?

by Beth Cougler Blom -

The Design Elements page might be an interesting read to look specifically at the invitation section. Make an invitation is the first design element.

It says the structuring invitation is "A question asking for ideas or proposals about an issue (e.g., What opportunities do YOU see for making progress on this challenge? How would you handle this situation? What ideas or actions do you recommend?)"

So the invitation for Impromptu Networking, for example, could be (as written on the LS website):

  • Ask, “What big challenge do you bring to this gathering? What do you hope to get from and give this group or community?”
In some LS structures the invitation is pretty clear cut, and you can use what they have there. The IN one above is like this, it can be used in many circumstances.

In other LS structures the invitation needs to be more clearly sharpened or honed according to your purpose. For example, in TRIZ, the LS website gives us a three step process for the invitation but the first step's invitation is very general:

  • “Make a list of all you can do to make sure that you achieve the worst result imaginable with respect to your top strategy or objective.”
In that case you'd have to sharpen the invitation...what situation are we talking about here? Often the invitation we use in our immersion workshops for TRIZ is:

  • "How can we ensure that bodies are present and minds are absent in our meetings and/or classes?"
Crafting an invitation is one of the great mysteries/complexities of working with Liberating Structures! One of the things I've found helpful working with my colleague Tracy Roberts is that Tracy often says, about a draft invitation, "OK let's play that through a little. If we used that as the invitation, what might participants say/talk about..." And then we begin to see if the invitation is too broad, too narrow etc. And we can sharpen it further.

I'm sure others have thoughts here...what say you?
In reply to Asif Devji

Re: What is an 'invitation' in LS terms?

by Asif Devji -

Hi All -- thanks for your responses to my question. Good to hear that I wasn't alone in my uncertainty and that invitation-crafting is a skill to be developed in its own right.

One thing I take away from reading through your feedback is that invitations need to balance between being specific about facilitator intention with the activity yet vague enough to allow for participant interpretations -- which for me gets to the heart of facilitating LS activities -- the (necessarily) controlling intent of the facilitator and/versus the uncontrollable whatever will emerge from participants -- a fine line for sure but one which I'd like to say the facilitators of this course did a brilliant job of balancing. Thanks all -- much appreciated.


In reply to Asif Devji

Re: What is an 'invitation' in LS terms?

by Leva Lee -

All I can say is "wow". That is such great insight. Thank you for sharing so openly Asif!

Have a great weekend everyone!

In reply to Asif Devji

Re: What is an 'invitation' in LS terms?

by Beth Cougler Blom -

Hi Asif and all,

You might be interested to know that I teach a workplace innovation course at Royal Roads in which we draw from both human-centred design methods and Liberating Structures, and I've found a lot of parallels between framing a design question in human-centred design and crafting an LS invitation.

It might be useful for you to look at the HCD method called Frame a Design Challenge to think about this more. See point 3:

"Another common pitfall when scoping a design challenge is going either too narrow or too broad. A narrowly scoped challenge won’t offer enough room to explore creative solutions. And a broadly scoped challenge won’t give you any idea where to start."

Same thing with an invitation in LS, I think! I, too, am looking to see how to continue choosing the right questions...a lifelong journey in facilitation in general! ;-)