3 Dimensions of Understanding

Protocol: Microlabs

Adapted from:

The purpose of the Microlab protocol is to address a specific sequence of questions in a structured format with small groups, using active listening skills. The Microlab is useful for team-building and democratizing participation because it asks that participants equalize communication and withhold judgment. It affirms people’s ideas and build community while addressing specific content issues.


In a webinar:
Create breakout rooms so that there can be 3 people in every room.
Copy a slide with the questions that are chosen for this microlab to each of the breakout rooms.
Before moving to breakout rooms explain the process to everyone.
1. Each person has equal time to talk.
2. The listener(s) should not interrupt, interpret, paraphrase, analyze, give advice or break in with a personal story while the speaker is talking.
3. Confidentiality should be maintained, unless the group decides to debrief the content of the questions.
4. The speaker should not criticize or complain about the listener(s) or mutual colleagues during his or her turn.

The facilitator says, . "Each person will have 1 minute (or, sometimes, 2 minutes, depending on the group and the question) to talk about a question when it’s their turn. While
the person is speaking, the other 2 in the group simply listen. When the timer goes off, the next person speaks, and so on." Emphasize that talk has to stop when the timer goes off, and
conversely, that if the person is done speaking before time is up, the triad should sit in silence, using the time to reflect.

When each question has been addressed, everyone returns to the main room for reflection.

• What did you hear that was significant? What key ideas or insights were shared?
• How did this go for you? What worked well, and what was difficult? Why?
• How might your conversations have been different had we not used this protocol?
• What are the advantages/disadvantages of using this activity? When would you use this protocol?
• What would you want to keep in mind as someone facilitating this activity?