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.


This article is also published on Medium in Percolab Droplets

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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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Être exposant dans une conférence et vivre une expérience d’intelligence collective, c’est possible!


Tenir un kiosque lors d’une conférence est une expérience souvent frustrante. Le concept conférence-exposant peine à se renouveler, malgré les milliers de conférences qui ont lieu chaque année. Comment faire en sorte que les exposants soient inclus dans l’action et les conversations de l’aire principale? Voici une piste de solution.

percolab a relevé ce défi au Rendez-vous de l’innovation sociale, un événement public d’une journée rassemblant 200 entrepreneurs, chercheurs et innovateurs sociaux. 13339660_1083694351674568_8552338805864078816_n

Pour ce faire, nous avons  transformé l’aire d’exposition en aire d’hybridation en nous appuyant sur l’improvisation appliquée et en nous  inspirant des chimères, les créatures mythiques mélangeant plusieurs animaux.

Au début de la journée, chaque kiosque a reçu une visite de l’équipe percolab et a été invité à exprimer un souhait pour la journée.

Ensuite nous avons installé une animation mobile, en allant voir des visiteurs et des kiosques pour proposer des défis d’hybridation, autour de la question :

Qu’est-ce que nous pourrions imaginer ensemble, aujourd’hui, qui pourrait être réalisé dans le prochain mois?

À travers cette simple question ludique, une intention se greffait à l’interaction : faire naître de nouveaux possibles parmi les forces en présence. Une fois le défi nommé, il revenait aux participants de décider de jouer le jeu et de documenter les idées créées dans le fil de la conversation.

13419118_1083694818341188_4747932269939892590_nAu bout d’un certain temps, la magie prenait : l’activité se créait d’elle-même, en mode autogéré, et une table de récolte des idées de projets hybrides se remplissait peu à peu. Les exposants et les visiteurs étaient énergisés par leurs rencontres et leurs conversations. La question, invitante, inclusive, ludique, bouscule la routine d’un kiosque, facilite le contact avec les gens qu’on vient rencontrer, crée une intentionnalité et une présence différente.

Les visiteurs comme les personnes présentes aux kiosques ont mentionné comment cette simple activité vécue sur le mode de la rencontre et d’un bref moment de créativité partagée leur avait permis de vivre la journée autrement. Le recours à un concept simple, invitant au jeu et à l’imaginaire a fait en sorte que les participants ont pu le saisir rapidement et se l’approprier, jouer ensemble pour créer des possibilités inattendues. Par ailleurs, l’aspect ouvert et intime à la fois a fait en sorte que les personnes qui se rencontraient ont pu parler de ce qui les passionne réellement : leurs désirs, leurs besoins, à partir de leurs expériences. 13342987_1083694858341184_319607807221865154_nC’est un élément important car cela crée un espace de liberté supplémentaire dans l’événement, qui fait en sorte que la rencontre devient immédiatement générative.

Enfin, le fait d’aller à la rencontre directe des participants, et non de tenir un espace délimité pour des activités formelles, a été clé : cela a contribué à occuper le temps et l’espace de manière légère, mais permanente et efficace. À tout moment, nous étions facilement identifiables et disponibles, et en mesure d’aborder les personnes présentes. Cela a contribué à  l’inclusion continue des participants à mesure qu’ils entraient dans l’espace et à créer une atmosphère de créativité bienveillante.




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Are you a change maker?

A simple enough question, one I’ve asked myself many times, the difficult as always is in the answer!

From a personal perspective to be changemaker you need to be able to visualise, plan for and demonstrate that change is or will occur and that really it has a positive social impact. And there are many ways in which that can be done. From simple tools which look at impact measurement to very complex matrices which look at the investment, outputs, outcomes and impact and give me a headache.

I recently attended a session with the Social Enterprise London on measuring social impact and found to my surprise there is a simple mechanism which can be used at any stage of a project.

The Map IT process takes you through the journey of the project from activities and outputs through to short term outcomes and longer term impact. The hardest being the end goal, but taking a step by step approach I found this became easier. This is something which you may wish to review – do I start with what I’m doing and see what change/impact will occur or do I start with where I want to impact and work towards what activities need to be done?

What resources do you have (or will acquire) to complete the activities e.g. trainers

What are the products, projects or processes that allow you to fulfil your objectives? e.g. a training programme

What is produced as a direct result of these actions? Generally depict completion of activity e.g. 15 participants complete training programme

Short Term Outcomes
What benefit or change is accomplished, in the short term, as a direct result of the output

Long term Outcomes/Impact
What your organisation is able to achieve and is attributed to your organisation over the long-term as a result of combined outcomes

This simple mapping process is of course a start, but it allows you to have a quick insight into what impact your projects or activities could have and importantly for me why. I applied this process recently to a DesignJam challenge – at first the others on my group thought I was mad, but then they could see that our project was going to have an larger impact and it strengthened our resolve, our drive and refined our brief.

So, if you’re a changemakers you need to have walked through a simple model of seeing the end impact, knowing roughly where the impact will occur.

The other challenge is ‘well would this change happen anyway’ – can I prove the activities are really having the impact we expect?  I always remember when writing a business case is that option is always  ‘do nothing’ and then think through what would happen not if we go down plan a or plan b but what happens if we didn’t do anything at all

Take ECTO for example – what if percolab had decided to continue working from home and cafes would ECTO have formed anyway, if not where would all the members be now, what projects and collaboration wouldn’t have formed – this is easy in hindsight, but hindsight and foresight when measuring impact and seeing the change is what we need to do

And sometimes doing nothing seems the easiest option of all, but the real trick is knowing and applying the actions at the right time, to the right people in the right place and all that comes with a mix of intuition, trial and error (risk) and walking through it using something similar to the method above.

Introduction to Social Outcomes and Impact Assessment

A half-day workshop to see how social enterprises impact on social outcomes. Working with public sector organistions especially in today’s economical downturn, we understand that demonstrating success and impact links closes to the outcome of any projects as well as our own projects – equipage, ecto and many more in the future!

Gone are the days when organisations would take the risk ‘build it and they will come’, there is shift, for the better, to understanding the social impact of projects, products and the organisation itself.

Delivered by Social Enterprise London. The course was entitled: ‘introduction to social outcomes and impact assessment‘.


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