Spiral Journal and the uncomfortable power of self-reflection

In Liberating Structures by chuzzete4 Comments

The first LS Immersion workshop I went, started with participants drawing a spiral in the middle of a card, and then after dividing it into four quadrants where we will complete to 4 different prompts proposed by the facilitators.

That powerful and intimate moment, surprising and inspiring at the same time, got me willing to see it in action and learn more about it.

What happened?

We were about 40 participants that Saturday, all excited to start 2 days fully immersed on the LS world. Some were trying to get to know other participants. Some others, were alone getting up to speed and you could tell that it was an enthusiastic group of people.

The room was loud and noisy until Vienna invited us to take a sit and start drawing a spiral in the middle of an index card.

Start drawing a spiral

The room changed completely its vibe almost immediately. It took like 10 to 15 seconds to get us all seating in silence, drawing our spiral and focusing on just doing that. I can tell that for 2 minutes, I felt we belonged together. That fact got all my attention and I’ll tell you my reasons by the end of the article.

And then what?

We were asked to divide our index card into 4 equal quadrants like you would see in the picture below. And wait for the first of 4 prompts to be shown.

4 Quadrants

Once the first prompt was presented to us we were asked to complete it, starting at the “Top-Left quadrant of our index card. After each prompt, we took time to write down our answer in the specified quadrant; and that was it.

What else ?

Then we shared for our card with someone else for about 4 minutes and that was enough for me and most of us, to start the day with a mind opened, ready to jump in and learn what was about to come.

What happened when I tried it at the workplace?

We were about 80 people from an IT Operations department, starting a Quarterly planning retrospective session. When I asked them to draw a spiral you could hear how just doing that without knowing what was about to happen next, was making them feel uncomfortable. Some were laughing out loud making jokes, some were talking to each other like if they were avoiding to be in silence and join the self-reflection party, others I think that was their first time doing that type of activity in silence at the workplace.

And once again, after 45 seconds, people gained focus and the room went into a magic, bonded, focused and open minded network of interconnected souls, ready to move on.

What prompts have I used so far?

For starting a meeting/workshop this is my preferred one:

  • “What brought me here today is …”
  • “What I hope will happen is …”
  • “A work challenge I am currently avoiding is …”
  • “Draw a picture of your path forward”

For helping people digest some content, like during a full day of conferences, or when closing a meeting:

  • “Something I noticed was ….”
  • “Something I felt was ….”
  • “A question that is emerging is ….”
  • “A bold thing I should so is ….”


  • “What I heard during the conversation that stood out was …”
  • “So, what that makes me think, feel, conclude or realize is …”
  • “Now, that makes me curious about …”
  • “Now, an idea I have for myself is …”

General observations, tips and tricks

  • It has worked at every single opportunity I have used so far.
  • It is a great way to start any meeting or session.
  • When using it and animating it, be careful to set yourself in a mood that fits with the energy of the exercise. Remember, that it is an activity to regain focus, help people self-reflect and connect with themselves, so please set your voice tone, the way you speak and your mood into that vibe.
  • Give it a try, it would work !

Is Spiral Journal a Liberating Structure ?

The answer is no but it’s close to be. I have learned we call this type of Liberating Structures-Like activities ” Punctuations, that are designed to either prepare participants for deeper interaction or to reflect on a past interaction. Most punctuations satisfy only a number of elements of the LS DNA. “

Call to action

  • Did you find what I wrote appealing and want to see more?
  • Would you like to experience the surprising power of the #LiberatingStructures?

Here some options that I have prepared for you to keep us growing together:

All the best,



  1. I really like this! Will be on the lookout for places where I might use it.

  2. I, too, can imagine using this and will share it with colleague friends. The distracting/focusing power of the spiral is very interesting, and I love your choices of prompts. I’m offering a workshop next week, and I might incorporate this. Thank you!

    1. Author

      I am really happy to read your comment Marc. I wish you have a lot of fun using it during your next week workshops. Cheers

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