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What is Clean… and Clean Is Like What?


I ran a session with Nancy Doyle at this year’s Clean Conference, where we asked: What is Clean? Where did Clean come from? Clean is like… because… and Clean is not like… because…

Participants worked alone and then in small groups to answer these questions - and here are all the responses:

What is Clean?

  • It’s pure - it lets someone explore and see things which are hard for them to see on their own
  • A philosophy… trusting the wisdom of the system… asking not telling
  • An ethos and a tool for listening to the space between the words and allowing expansion in a friendly way
  • Looking for what’s not seen… listening to space between words… making space for new information
  • Curiosity without judgment
  • Trusting the wisdom of a system
  • Facilitator / separation / client
  • Clean minimises the impact of the facilitator… questions are asked in a way which does not impose content… client centred - an individual explores their own journey
  • A way of working with people that keeps the facilitator’s assumptions to a minimum so that the other person can find out more about their inner world
  • A tool to facilitate personal choice whilst respecting the right of an individual to think and feel as they choose
  • A practical set of techniques to apply post-modern, systemic, and constructionist thinking
  • Systemic process for using language to elicit information and to facilitate change without imposing your map
  • Exploration of one’s inner world

Where Did Clean Come From?

  • Using energy inherent in the system - not forcing
  • Maori tradition / Salvation Army principles
  • Curiosity
  • Standing on the shoulders of giants
  • Bateson - learning to learn
  • NLP modelling
  • Studying human behaviour
  • Need for freedom of expression
  • T-1 space shuttle launch
  • RD Laing
  • Morae
  • Poetry
  • Out of the void
  • Networks
  • David Grove and his interest in metaphors and how to access the information contained in them
  • From David Grove and others who developed it as a way of working therapeutically
  • Clean has always been there - David has identified it for the rest of us to see it
  • Emerged from David but captured because others found it useful
  • The transmitters
  • From our mentors observing what works best at that moment for that individual
  • Cei Davies
  • Creativity of developers (notably Mr Grove!) in developing technique. Fundamental principles are emergent from past 100 years of science and culture.

Clean is Like… Because…

  • Clean is like the World Café… because the facilitator has no predefined outcome, just a question and the information emerges from the conversation
  • Clean is like … because it’s without preconditions, without ambiguity, without anything, it just is
  • Clean is like a universal recipe… because it provides space for individuality
  • Clean is like the sun… because it radiates warmth
  • Clean is like a special drill… because it gets to the core
  • Clean is like a corkscrew… because you can enjoy the wine afterwards
  • Clean is like homeopathy… because if you let the system recognise the patterns it can self correct
  • Clean is like art therapy… because it comes with the person
  • Clean is like a discipline… because the facilitator must adhere to the client’s words
  • Clean is like holistic health practices such as homeopathy, reflexology and herbalism
  • Clean is like advocacy… because the facilitator is working on behalf of parts of the information that haven’t been getting attention
  • Clean is like a stream… because it’s moving on
  • Clean is like navigating with precious and adventurous passengers with all your human resources with no electronic devices to predict what’s going to happen
  • Clean is like exploring for gold with only one clue about where to begin
  • Clean is like a voyage of self discovery with a unique navigator
  • Clean is like giving someone their own personal railcard for them to take whatever journey they choose
  • Clean is like Mr Benn (TV show)... adventure in a magical landscape then shopkeeper appears and Mr Benn returns to normal life with something to remember it by

Clean is Not Like… Because…

  • Clean is not like mentoring, where a person is advised
  • Clean is not like giving advice or sharing your ideas… because it gives space
  • Clean is not like giving advice that tells another rather than asking and listening
  • Clean is not like a technique or structure - it emerges and is created in the moment
  • Clean is not like knowing what’s best for others
  • Clean is not like doing the right thing
  • Clean is not like rules - there is no right question
  • Clean is not like closing
  • Clean is not like darkness, which inhibits thought patterns
  • Clean is not like life as we know it… because life constricts and binds
  • Clean is not like bullying… because it creates space and doesn’t make people do things
  • Clean is not like a dictatorship… because it allows freedom
  • Clean is not like science… because there’s no predictable outcome
  • Clean is not like Myers Briggs, Medical Consultation, Psychodynamic Counselling, Motor Psychotherapy… because… no interpretations, no predefined categories, no therapist as expert
  • Clean is not like counselling… because it doesn’t put people back into their trauma Clean is not like psychometric testing which pre-defines categories for people; Clean allows individuals to define themselves
  • Clean is not like graphic facilitation, because… in graphic facilitation, the facilitator draws the client’s metaphors and in Clean Language, the client draws their own Clean is not like other approaches, because it’s forward thinking, not asking people to dwell on the past

Thank you to everyone who came to our session and contributed these ideas.

Photo by Lukasz Szmigiel on Unsplash

About Marian Way

Marian Way's avatar

A highly skilled facilitator and trainer, Marian, who founded Clean Learning in 2001, has developed and delivered training across the world. She is the author of Clean Approaches for Coaches, co-author, with James Lawley, of Insights in Space and co-author, with Caitlin Walker, of So you want to be… #DramaFree.

Marian is an expert Clean facilitator, an adept modeller, a programme writer and an inspirational trainer. She has a natural ability to model existing structures, find the connections between them and design new ways for people to learn. Marian was a leading innovator within the Weight Watchers organisation, which included developing the “points” strategy, a local idea that went on to become a global innovation. She is a director of both Clean Learning and Training Attention CIC, world leaders in clean applications for corporate, educational and community development. She designs our programmes and workbooks, leads workshops and teaches on all our courses. She’s trained people in Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Japan and the USA. Marian is also a recognised Clean Assessor.

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