I always say when I describe my knowledge cafe process that anything that gets in the way of the free flow of the conversation is a bad thing.
I took part in a world cafe recently and it reminded me what I don't like about the world cafe process (as it is often run) and why I do things differently in my knowledge cafe.
First: No hosts. I do not have any table leaders in my knowledge cafes unlike the world cafe that has table hosts.
One of the principles of my knowledge cafes is that everyone is equal.
At the table I was sitting, like all other tables, we were asked to appoint a host.
Immediately, one of the men in my group decided he was going to drive the selection process; he stated why he would not make a good host and why others at the table were not appropriate and told one specific member that he would make the best host as he was an academic.
The person in question accepted the nomination. I don't know if he was happy or unhappy but he was put in a position where he had little say in the matter and now as host he would effectively not be part of the conversation as he needed to take notes (mental or otherwise) to pass on the gist of the conversation in the next round. Sure enough he took little part in the conversation.
Second: No flip charts. Flip charts seriously get in the way of the conversation.
In this case, another member of my group stood up, took a felt-tipped-pen and asked for ideas to list on the flip chart.
We started to call them out and he started to list them until I expressed a difference of opinion about one the points he was about to write down and a conversation started.
The process was in danger of falling into a list making session and not an open conversation.
And then third, in this world cafe, we moved as groups between tables, we did not mix - something else I do not like but is not a usual element of a world cafe.
When our group got to the third table, the table host took us though what the last group had discussed and had captured on a flip chart.
We were immediately drawn in to comment and build on the previous group's work and were struggling as there seemed to be so little value in it until a member of my group suddenly pointed out that the previous group had totally misunderstood the question.
There was some value in this but we had fallen into the trap of being too greatly influenced by the previous group's work and were not approaching the question afresh and thinking for ourselves.
I came away reminded of why I designed my knowledge cafe differently to the world cafe.
That's not to say that the one process is better or worse than the other. Which format to chose should rest on the purpose of the cafe. And both cafe formats should always be adapted and blended to suit their purpose.
I need to give this a little more thought but my knowledge cafe tends to be divergent with less focus on capture where the world cafe tends to be more convergent with a greater emphasis on capture.