Pourquoi vous devriez (re)commencer à dessiner (1/3)

Partie 1 : renouer avec le dessin

 

“Je ne vais pas y arriver”, “Je voulais faire cela, mais je n’ai pas réussi”, “Je m’excuse, mon bonhomme est moche”… Ces énoncés vous rappellent quelque chose ?         

Depuis 3 ans que j’anime des ateliers sur la pensée visuelle et la facilitation graphique, ces critiques négatives auto-infligées jaillissent régulièrement. Agents de la fonction publique, salariés d’associations, coachs indépendants, coordinateurs de réseau, salariés d’entreprise, consultants, formateurs…. Tous ont tendance à dévaloriser leurs productions avant même que les autres aient pu y poser un regard. Et les blocages s’installent insidieusement.

Alors que l’envie est là ! Et qu’à la fin tous finissent par créer de puissantes et efficaces représentations visuelles, aussi bien à l’issue d’un atelier de 2 heures que d’une formation de 2 jours.

 

Tout le monde peut dessiner, vous compris

 

“Tout le monde peut dessiner !” est le mantra, qui ponctue d’ailleurs les séances. Plus qu’une croyance, c’est une évidence : un crayon, un tour de main, et le dessin est révélé, avec tout son potentiel pour avancer. Quel que soit son niveau, tout le monde peut dessiner et construire une représentation qui fait sens à partir de ce qu’il a créé. Alors pourquoi sommes-nous si durs avec nous-mêmes quand nous nous lançons dans cette pratique ? Et quelle démarche adopter pour bénéficier pleinement de la puissance du visuel ?

 

A l’origine, tous dessinateurs

Il fut un temps où nous étions hauts comme trois pommes et étions alors reines et rois de la gribouille, au détriment souvent des tapis, tables, murs et autres surfaces de notre maison. A ce moment, la prise en main du crayon se faisait naturellement et sans contrariété, dans un plaisir sans cesse renouvelé. Pourquoi alors aujourd’hui sommes-nous si intimidés et durs avec nous-mêmes quand il s’agit de nos dessins ? De ce que j’ai pu observer, voici mes quatre hypothèses.

1. Nous cherchons la perfection, du premier coup

Nous ne sommes plus habitués à nous laisser le droit à l’erreur, tenter une nouveauté sans  impératif de résultats et nous laisser le temps d’éprouver de manière sensitive une activité pour pouvoir ensuite nous l’approprier. Nous visons l’optimisation perpétuelle de nos tâches, même dans l’apprentissage.

 

 

“Dessiner demande de créer, donc de faire des essais”

Or, en pensée visuelle, c’est à partir du moment où le dessin est créé que la réflexion arrive.

Mais, pour pouvoir le créer, il faut bien accepter qu’il ne sera pas parfait, sinon il n’existera jamais ! Car notre cerveau “droit”, siège de notre créativité et de notre pensée visuelle s’accommode mal d’une rationalité exigeante. Il nous faut abandonner l’objectif d’arriver à un résultat et s’autoriser à puiser dans nos émotions, pour dessiner et laisser émerger une production utile.

 

 

 

2. Les compétences manuelles ne sont pas assez valorisées

 

Ce n’est un secret pour personne, à l’école, les compétences ne sont pas franchement considérés comme déterminante. Que nous perdions confiance en nos habiletés créatives n’est donc pas une surprise.

(Evolution : 1998 – 2018)

“Nos habiletés en dessin reviennent avec la pratique”

Nous ne sommes donc plus entraînés, voilà tout. Se remettre à penser avec le visuel, et à faire coïncider notre intention au geste de notre main demande un peu de pratique. C’est comme lorsque l’on souhaite se remettre au sport, on ne vise pas immédiatement le marathon, n’est-ce pas ? C’est en pensant avec le visuel que l’on devient penseur visuel. Le secret ? S’exercer, s’inspirer, pratiquer, encore et encore. Notre sensibilité, plutôt vue comme une faiblesse dans les anciens modes de management, est aujourd’hui un atout.

 

3. Le visuel cristallise les critiques

 

L’histoire du graphiste qui devint fou

Peut-être connaissez-vous le destin tragique du graphiste qui doit réaliser une commande mais qui face aux critiques de ses multiples interlocuteurs, recommence inlassablement son ouvrage…

Une explication à cette situation : nous sommes très exigeants avec le visuel. Tout peut s’y trouver : le sens, les goûts des uns et des autres, la portée symbolique, voire politique… Il est donc important de retrouver des priorités.

Astuce, voici des questions à se poser, selon le design thinking :

  • Qu’est-ce qui est important dans le travail que je fais aujourd’hui ?
  • Qu’est-ce que je cherche à créer : quelque chose de “joli”, quelque chose que l’on comprenne, quelque chose qui sort du cadre ? Attention, une seule réponse possible !

Ensuite, lorsque je souhaite recueillir des retours, quelles questions vais-je poser et quels types de réponses vais-je garder ?

Si je me concentre sur ce qui compte pour moi, la pression retombe. De plus, travailler en direct et au marqueur / feutre signifie que la première fois est forcément la bonne ! Bienvenue dans le monde du lâcher-prise invité.

 

4. Nous oublions que dessiner et s’amuser font partie de l’humain

Lors des formations, l’aspect enfantin du dessin est rarement un blocage, mais interroge : “Moi ça va, mais je ne sais pas si mes collègues vont bien vouloir se prêter au jeu”, “Je ne me vois pas faire dessiner mes supérieurs !”. Associé au monde de l’enfance, au “non sérieux”, au jeu, le dessin est discrédité d’un point de vue professionnel. De plus, lorsque nous dessinons, nous nous mettons à nu et laissons pointer nos émotions.

“Dessiner c’est créer, c’est se montrer soi, en 2D”

 

Nous ne pouvons plus nous cacher derrière les mots et l’imperfection des traits peut dissoner avec notre attitude, notre apparence et notre langage. Mais il y a le plaisir ! Ce plaisir joyeux où l’on ne voit pas le temps passer ! Et si vous prenez plaisir à dessiner, ce sera partagé. Oui, le dessin peut faire peur, mais surtout le dessin peut faire du bien. Lançons-nous, et nous verrons ce qu’il en sort. Si vous vous sentez limités par vos capacités en dessin, dites-vous que c’est tant mieux, car cela vous amènera à dessiner uniquement ce qui est essentiel pour vous.

Ainsi, partons du principe : “Je peux le faire !”. Ce que vous faites a de la valeur, vous pouvez construire dessus, car vous en êtes l’auteur.

 

 

 

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Continuous learning

If you don’t know about Connectle yet, you should! It is an ecosystem for change-agents to explore and implement new ways of working.

They host international live streamed conversations on the future of work and share the videos thereafter.  Percolab was recently invited to join a conversation on the hot topic of Continuous Learning.

Social Entrepreneur Phoebe Tickell  hosted the conversation with Samantha Slade (Percolab)  Harold Jarche (JarcheConsulting)  Susan Basterfield (Enspiral) and  Sabrina Bouraoui (Shades of Gray).

TRAILER

[1.41min]

FULL EPISODE

[0:59.18min] 

Thanks to Mara Tolja for making it all happen and the great videos.

Join in the upcoming live streamed conversations and check out the entire video collection: Connectle

 

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There is more than one way to price a workshop: experiments in shared economy

For those of us who work in participatory design, what does it look like to extend engagement to questions of money as well?

So you’ve got a small budget set aside for professional development. You find a training that looks good on paper, costs say $100 to attend and you register by paying the fee and submitting your name. At the end of a long day of powerpoints, you leave with a few notes in hand and your receipt/attendance confirmation for the human resources department, never having given much thought to the cost or value of the workshop.

At Percolab events that doesn’t happen.   

For many years now, we has been experimenting with different ways to engage with with cost and value of trainings. Percolab has taken inspiration from practices in the Art of Hosting community, from The Commons, and in particular, a practice that our colleague Ria in Brussels introduced us to: the shared economy.


With each of the open workshops that I was a part of hosting in 2017, we experimented with different ways to present this useful practice. Most of us are not comfortable talking about money. We have very little practice being open and transparent about how much we would like to earn, how much we can afford to pay, and the value we receive from a training. With inspiration from my colleagues around the world, this is what I have learned so far about how to present the shared economy in a way that is inviting, clear, reassuring and effective.

Experiment #1

At the self-management workshop we hosted back in May, we gave participants two options.

1) Register and pay the listed price on Eventbrite ahead of time

OR

2) Engage with the shared economy by paying a small registration fee (so that we know you’re actually coming) and then paying the remaining amount, of your choice, at the end of the event.

It sounds like a pay-what-you-can model, or a sliding scale, but that’s not the idea behind it. While we do want our workshops to be accessible to anyone regardless of their financial situation, what we were aiming for was a shared economy practice. It’s an opportunity to take into account the budget of the event, and then choose what to pay based on the information available, including the number of participants. i.e. “sharing” the cost.

What’s unique about this model, is that it’s an engagement. You are agreeing to share the responsibility, and cover the minimum cost for the event to run successfully.

At the end of the workshop, we share our budget with you (including how much we would like to receive as hosts/facilitators/trainers). We then divide the total cost by the number of participants and everyone makes a choice based on that proposed average cost.

The result?

For that particular event, about half the participants paid the listed event price ahead of time, and half engaged with the shared economy. Our budget included the cost of the room, catered lunch, printed materials, and the time and expertise of the facilitators.

In the end, it turned out that this two-option, shared economy acted like a sliding scale. If you had a company paying your training bill, you paid the full listed price. If you were an independent, or coming from a non-profit organization, you participated in shared economy. Some paid a bit more than average, some paid a bit less. Everyone has a fairly good idea of where they fit on a scale of income, so they know for themselves if they can contribute a bit more than the average, or not. We covered all of our costs, and paid ourselves. And we learned something about the demonstrated need for accommodating different budgets.

But there was more to be experimented with.

There is also the question of perceived value. Are you engaging with the budget and making a choice that is not just a matter of what you can afford, but the value that you have received? Are you consciously participating in the financial reality of your learning experience?

For those of us whose profession it is to increase participation and engagement in events and organizations, this is an important question. For the trainings that are based on, and designed for engagement, it seems pertinent that we extend that engagement to the question of money as well.

Our good friend Frederic Laloux asked similar questions of his readers when he published the online version of his book (which was a foundational building block of our self-management workshop) Reinventing Organizations.

The idea is, “I cannot know what the book is worth to you, so I’m not sure a fixed price makes much sense.” It’s an experiment in abundance where I trust that when I give, I will also receive.”

When our colleague Nil was in town, co-hosting The Money Game with Cedric, they took inspiration from the gifting economy and asked participants: “What would be a contribution you could offer that would give you joy?”

This consciousness around our relationship to money is important to us. We are shifting our budgeting and allocations for project work internally away from a time-based model (how many hours did it take you to do this?) to one that factors in complexity, expertise, and value. Some very human qualities of the work.

Experiment #2

At our most recent evening workshop, on the topic of generative decision making, we decided to combine a few of these ideas, and encourage an engagement with the value of the event.

As we closed the session, we asked participants to write down on one side of a paper what they learned, or are taking away from the workshop.

On the other side, thinking about the value this event has had for you, write 3 numbers:

1) A contribution that would feel unjust or too low,

2) An amount that would feel like too much for this evening of learning,

3) A number that you would feel good about contributing to this event, based on what you have learned and what you can afford.

The first step was about reflecting on value and money on your own.

The second step was to share the budget of the event.

We listed the cost of the room, the snacks we provided (essential for an event at the end of the workday) and what we hoped to receive as hosts of the event. For the line item relating to the honorarium for the facilitators (our pay), we set a range for what we would each be willing to receive, on the low and the high end, for this evening of work. We had a similar range for the percentage that we would put back into the Percolab pot for overhead as we do with every project.

We counted the number of people in the room and did the math together for the average amount each person would need to contribute to cover the cost. We were left with a range depending on whether the facilitators were to receive their low-mid or high honorarium amount.

With that, we told participants which methods of payment were available, and left the rest up to them.

The result?

The added step of having each participant reflect on their own about their relationship to the value of the event was important. It changed the nature of the conversation and the participants were more engaged with the budget we presented.

For ourselves, it felt more honest to list a range for the pay we would each receive (and to be clear whether it would be split 50/50 between us and why). As organizers of an event, it is not easy to declare how much you would like to make. Mostly because we don’t practice it very often. And then to discuss with a co-host whether we are splitting the profits evenly or not, for whatever reason. It’s a step that I push until the last minute every time. But being able to include it in the presentation of the budget makes it that much more transparent and that much more clear.

Things to experiment with next time:
How could we include the collective aspect of shared economy? Until now participants have been making the decision on their own, with or without time to reflect on value first. What if we had a discussion about it and shared the responsibility openly as a group?
This is something that was factored in when the Shared Economy was first piloted at a learning village that our colleague Ria was a part of. To read more about the origins of this idea: https://slovenialearningvillage.wordpress.com/how-much/

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Generative decision making process

Generative-Decision-MakingCollective decision making made efficient (yes, it’s possible!)

Making decisions together does not have to be long and painful. The realm of “consent based decision making” is not well known even though it can help organisations make decisions collectively efficiently and wisely. We use this at Percolab, a consultancy company supporting social innovation and collaboration, based in Canada and France.

We developed Generative Decision Making Process, a consent based decision making process built on the Integrated decision making method of Holacracy with the culture and practice of Art of Hosting. We use it every week at Percolab. Our record is 19 strategic decisions in one hour!

The process requires a host, ideally, the host rotates from person to person. At Percolab everyone can run this type of decision making and we rotate organically depending on the day.

When first developing the practice it can be helpful for an organisation to invite in an external host for an initiation or supportive coaching to develop the internal skills.

1. Ripeness

Is the time ripe for the decision? Is the context clear? Is there information or data that needs to be gathered? Could an open conversation help develop the ripeness?

Hosting tips: You might need to offer the group one or two open conversation time slots to get to this point (ex. I am going to put the timer on for 10 minutes while you explore the topic in question). Offer supplementary time slots as necessary. You might need to conclude that the decision is not ripe, and this is ok. Listen in deeply and when you sense that there is a possible proposal in the air, the time is ripe. Invite the group to head into the next step.

2. Proposal Version I

Invite the group — would someone like to make an initial proposal? This will help the group move forward into action and there will be lots of opportunities to fine tune the proposal together.

Hosting tips: Help the proposer name a proposal in ideally one single sentence. Avoid the proposal spreading into multiple proposals. Ensure that the proposal is written for all to see (separate from the proposer) and repeat it out loud.

3. Clarifications

The group has the opportunity to voice questions to the proposer. The proposer has two options to answer — i) Provides the answer or ii) Says « Not specified » if the answer is unknown.

Hosting tips: If someone is speaking without a question (ie. reaction) remind him that is question period. Ensure that all questions are directed at the proposer and no one else intervenes. Avoid letting the proposer speak about anything further than the direct answer(keep it tight). Sense into when the clarification period is about to finish (ie. people are ready to react).

4. Reactions

It is mandatory that each person (minus the proposer) expresses to the group their reaction to the proposal; the different voices and perspectives of all need to be heard. The proposer listens deeply and take notes. Afterwards the proposer will craft a new version of the proposal.

Hosting tips: Begin with the person who has the most reactive emotion and then go around, until everyone has shared their reaction. Make sure that the reaction is not about the proposer, but about the proposal itself — correct if necessary.

 

5. Proposal version II

The proposer formulates a new version of the proposal in light of all that has been spoken. The host ensures that it is written and visible to all and reads it out loud.

Hosting tips: If you feel that the proposer might want to stay with the same proposal, remind her that she can. If you sense that the proposer needs support in formulating the second version, remind her that it is possible to ask for help — however do not rush into saying this.

6. Objections

An objection needs to express a risk or a backward movement for the organisation/initiative. All objections are expressed to the host who then decides if the objection is valid or not. If it is valid, then the proposer needs to integrate it into a new version of the proposal. (Then the objection round is repeated).

Hosting tips:Sometimes people might express personal concerns that are not in fact organisational risks. This needs to be differentiated. If it is fuzzy you may ask for help to the group. This is the hardest part of the process for the host.

7. Visual confirmation

Everyone visually confirms I can live with this decision by raising their thumb. This is a way of allowing all to see that everyone is fully onboard with this decision. If there is something that has not been spoken that needs to be it will show up because a person will be unable to raise his thumb. This can happen when (i) someone is struggling to find words to put on an idea that is important to them or (ii) someone is disengaging in the process (holding on to the possibility to question the decision in the hallway thereafter). Either way it will need to be addressed and the group needs to return to the part of the process that was not fully addressed.

Note: It is good to have visual confirmation as a cultural cue with which the process may be fast tracked. Someone makes a proposal and you can just do a quick check in to see right away if everyone could live with it.

Hosting tips: This is not a decision council and it is not an opportunity to lower thumbs and restart a process. It is simply a visual confirmation. If the process has run smoothly all thumbs should be raised.   If someone is struggling to find voice for an objection kindly support the person and let them know that all information is important.

This sums up the process. A final word just like playing the piano, don’t expect to get it perfect first go. It does take some practice.

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This article is also published on Medium in Percolab Droplets

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Voyage au pays des images avec la Pensée visuelle

Du 28 juin au 19 juillet 2017, Fanny a eu la joie de participer aux ateliers en ligne du Visual Thinking Lab, avec Paul Messer, Mary-Alice Arthur et Amy Lenzo. – Rapport de cette immersion dans le monde du visuel.

Session 1 : Cartographier

À 19 heures, heure française, j’étais devant mon écran, en même temps que vingt autres individus à travers le globe. Les vérifications techniques d’usage terminées, la session était lancée.

Nous avons commencé par un premier exercice où, d’un geste libre, nous avons donné naissance à de jolis oiseaux. Outre l’effet d’inclusion en partageant nos productions très personnelles, la force d’un tel exercice basé sur le principe « Tu as une main, un crayon, c’est bien assez ! » est apparue dans toute sa clarté !

Puis, le principe de modélisation a été abordé avec des questions venant chatouiller les évidences, telles que : « Que voulons-nous représenter, en fait ? », « Jusqu’à quel niveau de détails avons-nous besoin d’aller ? » « Quelles sont les images que les personnes ont déjà dans la tête ? »
Ces questions font remonter à la surface les choix pratiques d’utilisation des outils visuels, quel que soit le niveau de chacun.
Elles se posent à la fois sur la technique et sur la posture. Dessiner, c’est représenter les choses qu’il y a autour de soi. Et c’est aussi se représenter, soi, parmi ces choses. Philosophie ? Bien sûr, comme pour toute discipline. Ce n’est pas parce que nous travaillons sur les images que nous devons être superficiels !

Paul nous a proposé d’aller plus loin que les outils lors de ces ateliers en ligne. Il a cherché à nous transmettre la pensée du designer, ou design thinking, fonctionnant pour beaucoup sur la pensée visuelle. Les designers se soucient d’apporter des solutions originales aux problèmes actuels. Ils sont amenés à sortir des sentiers battus, donc à utiliser de nouveaux outils, incluant l’image.

Une mise en pratique de ces réflexions s’est faite avec l’activité « Dessinez votre projet », à présenter en sous-groupe ensuite. Paul a expliqué que sa méthode de transmission combinait son expérience de facilitateur graphique avec les pratiques de l’Art of Hosting, ou l’art d’accueillir les conversations qui comptent. Il n’était pas question de directives sur comment dessiner, mais de questions à se poser pour avancer. « Qu’est-ce que je vois ? » et « Qu’est-ce qui manque ? » Outre l’approche bienveillante, ces interrogations font appel au sens… du visuel !

Nous attendions des retours sur des éléments techniques des dessins (« On verrait mieux le titre si tu le faisais comme ci »), mais, en fait, dessiner son projet, c’est faire des choix, et cela révèle beaucoup sur la façon de penser son projet (« Pourquoi tu as mis ces mots en gros alors que tu nous a dit que le titre c’était ça ? »). Utiliser l’outil visuel permet de faire émerger l’invisible, ce qui n’aurait pas pu ressortir par une autre voie(x). Les retours par les différents participants étaient variés, mais tous enthousiastes.

Session 2 : Raconter en images

Il s’agit de la phase de mise en images sous une forme narrative de nos projets, ou storyboard. Paul a insisté sur cette étape qui correspond à la phase de prototypage dans le design thinking. Cela n’a pas vocation à être parfait, mais de donner à voir. Comme nos dessins.

Nous avons d’abord travaillé sur la notion de persona. Pourquoi lister les caractéristiques des personnes que nous souhaitons aider à travers nos projets alors qu’il est si simple de les dessiner ! Leurs portraits sont apparus sous nos yeux, rendant palpables ces inconnus. Pouvoir les imaginer permet de mieux travailler avec eux.

Ensuite, pour préparer le terrain du storyboard, nous avons pratiqué l’outil du crazy eight. Je le nommerais bien « les 8 magiques », tellement j’adore cet exercice ! Pour faire court, il s’agit de dessiner dans un certain nombre de cases (ici huit), un dessin par case en un temps donné (ici une minute par case donc par dessin). Là encore, il est tellement évident que le dessin permet de trouver de nouvelles idées, non pas pour mieux représenter son projet, mais pour mieux le penser, le remettre sur le métier et le faire progresser.

Cette expérience de narration visuelle, très forte, fait ressortir le cœur de nos projets, en visualise les manques, en révèle les intentions, et permet aussi de clarifier nos démarches et de visualiser concrètement le processus que nous proposons.

Session 3 : Le pouvoir de l’image

Paul nous a donné des exemples avec les affiches de cinéma qui indiquent immédiatement le style du film, mais aussi la question du cadrage qui donne un sens à une photo ou, encore, la puissance des symboles. C’est une réflexion que j’aborde aussi en formation, la responsabilité que nous avons, en tant que facilitateur graphique, des images que nous produisons et utilisons. Nous avons aussi des choix à faire : des images simples pour se faire comprendre ou des stéréotypes que l’on reproduit ? Comment par exemple représentez-vous le temps? Quelle est l’image qui vous vient ? Horloge ? Chronomètre ? Que faites-vous alors de la dimension vivante, dynamique du temps ? Pourquoi ne pas dessiner une spirale plutôt, pour sortir de la segmentation, de l’enfermement véhiculés par le chronomètre ou l’horloge ? Nous pouvons sortir des idées préconçues pour aller au plus proche du sens que nous souhaitons exprimer !
D’où l’importance de prendre le temps de produire ses propres images et de se constituer une bibliothèque visuelle. Nous pouvons exploiter tous les éléments graphiques à notre disposition pour rendre visibles les nuances, faire émerger les points de vue et les perceptions, relever les points communs et les différences.

Session 4 : Nouvelles technologies

Transposer une image faite à la main sur un ordinateur peut être chronophage. Aujourd’hui, il est possible de dessiner directement sur tablette avec des logiciels dédiés, que l’on peut allier aux réseaux sociaux. Ainsi, à la capture en images, peut s’ajouter l’instantanéité de la diffusion, ouvrant alors de nouveaux horizons de possibles.

Pour résumer, le Visual thinking lab est une formidable rencontre entre passionnés du visuel, que l’on sache dessiner ou pas. Ce ne sont pas des ateliers qui se confinent dans des techniques. Ils invitent à une transformation de ses propres pratiques. La proposition est de toucher du doigt la beauté de la pensée visuelle pour pleinement investir les outils qui l’emploie, afin de penser, construire, créer ensemble.

Comme disait un barbu plutôt lucide, nous ne pouvons résoudre les problèmes avec le même mode de pensée que celui qui les a engendrés. Alors, empruntons la voie du visuel !

Venez nous rejoindre, à Toulouse, Montpellier, Marseille ou Lausanne, en novembre prochain pour révéler, mettre en lumière votre pensée visuelle.

Comme le dit Paul :« nous sommes tous des apprenants visuels »

 

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What are you doing on Tuesday? Or why Percolab has open team meetings.

“Well, why don’t you just come to one of our team meetings?” I say to the barista, “They are every Tuesday from 10 am to noon at the ECTO Coworking.”

He nods seriously and notes the time and place on a napkin behind the counter. I pick up my latte and wander off to one of the tables in the corner to work out a team budget proposal for one of our upcoming projects.

Inviting not-so-random folks to Percolab’s team meetings has become one of my everyday practices. I must extend at least 5 or 10 of these invitations a week. Sometimes these invitations are received as a gift and a possibility, like in the case of this barista who has just finished a graduate degree in urban planning and is interested in citizen co-design and consultation – one of Percolab’s areas of expertise. He had recognized me from a strategic planning session I had facilitated for one of the units at the university he attended.

Other times, the invitations are received by eyes wide with disbelief as though I had invited this human I have just met to my Sunday family brunch: please bring the mimosas and then you can go jump on the trampoline with the kids and Matante Guylaine.

“Why would you invite me to a team meeting?” said human demands, “Don’t you deal with, like, internal stuff at your meetings?”

“Yes,” I confirm, “we deal with internal stuff. Some of it is strategic, some of it is operational, some of is has to do with our personal dynamics, the first Tuesday of the month is about Percolab International. Some meetings deal with money and how we self-attribute our earnings, sometimes we even process conflicts in our team meetings. Like I said, Tuesday at 10 am – you should just come participate.”

“Um, OK, I can come observe,”says the human, “I am really curious. I won’t be distracting. I promise.”

“Yeah…well… no, that won’t work,” I reply with a suppressed smile, “I’m not inviting you to come observe us. We are people not hamsters. I’m inviting you to come be with us, to participate. Help us think through our challenges and issues, bring in all of your experience, and intelligence, and wisdom, contribute to our decision-making.”

“Really?” the human inquires, “But you only just met me! How can I understand all of your context and policies and regulations? How can I possibly contribute to decision-making? What will your boss say?”

“Well, to start off with there are no bosses at Percolab, we are a truly flat organization and we make decisions through a consent-based approach. And of course you can’t possibly understand everything we are about. But attending a team meeting is sure a more effective way of getting to know us than reading our “About” page online. If we are discussing an issue that needs to be decided upon and you, from your understandably limited perspective, are able to see a potential risk to the organization, we are gonna listen and take that into account as we move forward.”

“OK,” says the human – I can see that they are getting really curious, “but will I be the only stranger there?”

“I have no idea,” I say, “we’ll know when you show up! Some weeks we have no guests (we don’t call them strangers), often we have one or two, and a few times when several members have been out working with clients, we have had three times as many guests as Percolab members! Those weeks are usually great for brainstorming about issues we’ve been trying to work through, like rethinking our website.”

“Doesn’t it get exhausting having new people at your meetings every week?” inquires the human.

“It can be,” I admit, “Some weeks I’ve been downright grumpy about having to host new people into a team meeting, especially when there is a topic that is really important to me. Yet, again and again, I find our guests help me think through some tough questions about both our work with clients and how we work together as a team. Especially, if the person doesn’t “get” what we do easily, it challenges us to be clearer in how we speak about ourselves and cleaner in how we work together. So I might arrive grumpy but I almost always leave energized… coffee helps.”

“What type of people come to your meetings?” they ask.

“Some of the guests at meetings are interested in collaborating with us, some want to study us for academic purposes, some attend our meetings so they can learn about self-management and maybe even bring new practices to their own organizations, some are international experts passing through Montreal who want to jam with us, some are clients we already work with or are thinking of working with us – attending our meetings gives them a really good practical sense of our applied knowledge. One of my favourite things to do is invite all the participants in my workshops to come to a team meeting. You should see their faces!”

“OK, I’m in!” exclaims my new human friend, “I’ve been wanting to learn about self-management for a long time but I haven’t been too sure if my team is ready for it. Seeing it in action would really be helpful. It makes me feel a lot better to think that I won’t just be some voyeur and I can contribute with any knowledge or experience I already have. I find this idea of open meetings really inspiring and unusual. You guys sure are brave to do this!”

“Well…” I respond cautiously. I want to be able to accept this compliment but at the same time I am slightly irked that this practice that I find so normal is deemed as brave. “Well, we have a choice: we can talk about collaboration or actually experiment and experience what it is like to work with “strangers”. We can talk about transparency or open ourselves up to others so we can truly be seen, for better or worse, and understand ourselves and our blind spots better. We can talk about collective intelligence or actively engage in thinking with other people who come from really different backgrounds. To me and to probably everyone else at Percolab too, opening up our team meetings is a practical benefit to the organization, the generosity people show us by sharing their insights into our work is amazing. But opening our team meetings is also a meaningful and symbolic act: we are a fractal of how we would like organizations to function in the world. Imagine, if governments and institutions and corporations and foundations and community organizations had as their base model meetings that were open, transparent, collaborative, and drew on collective intelligence? Just that. Imagine that. ”

“Whoa!” says the human, “I’m gonna need to wrap my mind around that one. Maybe we can talk about that after the meeting on Tuesday.”

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