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Structured conversations using ORID

Today we’re going to explore a quick and simple way to have a structured conversation about something, or anything really! This is a very useful tool if you work in change and innovation, so if you aren’t sure what an ORID is, or if you do and want to know more, then this is for you!

Firstly a bit of background on what on earth we are talking about when we say ORID. An ORID is a facilitation technique and was outlined by Brian Stanfield in his book “The Art of Focused Conversation”. 

An ORID provides a framework for conversations to solve a problem, make a decision, evaluate an event, generate commitment, explore options or to build on a vision. Denise says that this is one of the few books that has stood the test of time and is still on her bookshelf today! So it’s an excellent book for you to have as well! And in the book there are many examples of using the technique in different situations.

So what is an ORID?

Well, let’s start with O…. 

O is for the objective questions which analyse the facts; and perhaps to recall what happened. Some example questions (courtesy of Jeanette Long) are:

  • What are the topics we have talked about today?
  • What are the key facts?
  • What were the most important facts in this session or report?

stands for the reflective questions. These questions are about how we feel about the situation or the facts. Some example questions are: 

  • What surprised you in the presentation?
  • What challenged your thinking?
  • Where have you been frustrated by the process?

are the interpretive questions. These are designed to help us think about the meaning, the values and the significance of the issue or topic. Some examples are: 

  • What does this mean [for the organisation/community/person]?
  • What challenges need to be resolved?
  • What are the key messages in the [workshop/session]?

D is for the decision questions which are about resolving the conversation. This is to prompt action, or to help plan the next step. Some example questions are:

  • What will you do differently as a result of this workshop?
  • What is the next step?
  • When will you start working on it?

So when would you use an ORID?

Denise says she’s used the ORID as a way of closing a workshop to help people reflect on what they’ve taken part in, and as a means of prompting action once they leave. She’s also used it to do a quick evaluation and get some feedback on how things were going with a project team. She heard from a colleague that used it regularly as a means of having good conversations with her children around the dinner table to talk about their day! 

Basically an ORID is a great tool that you can use in one-on-one conversations or in groups. An ORID can help close a workshop with purpose or provide some quick reflections or evaluate an activity. If you want more, we recommend getting hold of Brian Stanfield’s book The Art of Focused Conversation, and having a look at the resources below this post. 

So you’ve read our thoughts, now we’d like to read yours! Add a comment below this post and tell us your thoughts about using an ORID, including any tips and further ideas about it. We don’t want this to be just a one-way conversation – join in by sharing your thoughts and ideas with us! 

Thanks for reading this Enablers of change blog post!


Brian Stanfield’s book “The Art of Focused Conversation”. See it over on GoodReads

Jeanette Long has a brilliant blog post on ORID. Read it over here.

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David Jago
4 years ago

This is a great overview of ORID. It is also called the Technology of Participation (ToP) Discussion Method or the Focussed Conversation Method. A few extra thoughts: ** Be careful about asking for ‘key’ or ‘most important’ stuff at the O level. It can prompt Interpretive/analytical responses. ** The Reflective level is more about your body or visceral response. So, surprise and frustration are there. Challenge can be part of it, just not so much to your thinking. (Again more an Interpretive question.) ** The examples of Interpretive questions are all good! They ask for responses about meaning, significance, priority.… Read more »

David Jago
4 years ago
Reply to  John James

A real meeting of minds and action, I reckon!

David Jago
4 years ago

Some other stuff about the ToP Discussion Method – ORID.

Used as a meta framework, it’s scaleable. It copes handily with a two minute conversation, and also with a two year program. At longer timeframes, you’d be nesting smaller loops inside.

Used as as thinking framework, the facilitator ‘directs’ the group’s thinking to different ‘levels’ in turn. This helps ensure a well rounded and robust outcome.

We would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment!x