The future of work should be like this

These are the Percolab’s principles of ways of working that we apply at Percolab right here, right now. We think everyone should work like this.

Principle #1 — OPEN

Keeping secrets slows things down, being open speeds things up. 
Opaque and secretive ways invite in scheming, homogeneity and insular thinking. Openness invites inclusion, co-learning and integrity.

Principle #2 — ENLIVENING

Forget systems that are mechanistic, everything we do is alive. 
Directive, plan and control work can drag on and produce flat results. When work integrates our autonomy, spirit and creativity it can be full of ease with kick ass results.

Principle #3 — CO-CREATIVE

Individual genius is overrated, the future is created together.
When leaders try to figure out for others it breeds apprehension and singular thinking.
Co-creation builds attuned pathways with legitimacy and collective energy and wisdom.

Principle #4 — HUMAN

Work doesn’t just solve problems, it develops human beings. 
Treating human beings in extractive ways generates disengagement and suffering. When we trust and work consciously we grow and develop into more reflexive and capable humans.

Principle #5 INSIGHTFUL

Knowledge doesn’t come from one source, it comes from all around.

Siloed and linear approaches are unable to deal with complexity. Tapping into the myriad and multi-dimensional ways of listening leads to insightful breakthroughs.

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Methodologies and tools: collective-sense-making

Renewal of the competency framework for the HR chartered association of Quebec

Context

The Human Resource (HR) profession needs to step into its future. The entire HR system in Quebec is build around the competency framework; university programs, admission into the chartered association, inspection, as well as professional development.  By improving and updating the competency framework the whole profession will be carried forward. The chartered association chose, for the first time, to do this via co-creation. They invited in HR professionals and people interested in the future of HR to go beyond thinking through what they wanted and also to contribute to its production.

Percolab’s role

Percolab designed the co-creation process in collaboration with an HR professional. The process integrated multiple voices in the field in a creative and constructive way, mixing wisdom and experience of HR professionals with inspirational examples, creative thinking, conceptual frameworks of the future, and collective sense making.   

A radically creative process that had three phases:

  1. Capture what is useful in what already exists and reveal the possibilities and dreams, for both the format and content of the framework.
  2. Iteratively develop the new structure of the guide via a series of workshops with the HR community.
  3. Validate specific sections of the guide with targeted stakeholders

To support the entire process, particularly with the context of participants coming in and out of the process, a visual strategy was put in place. Over 200 people contributed to the different steps of the process and were aided by an evolutive mural.

The workshops and the facilitation and the visual tools were all Percolab’s responsibility. The strategy, writing, and presentation of results were a shared responsibility with the client.  

Impacts

 

  • The creation of a simple, practical competency guide
  • A guide that has the support and pride of the HR community and will be well used from inspectors, to university program design, and HR professional development & certification.  
  • An example of a competency framework for HR professionals in Canada and the world  
  • Integration of two new domains of HR competence – innovation process and technology

 

 

Evolutive mural by Paul Messer, Percolab

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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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The city of the future is the one people narrate together

Guest Author: Mary Alice Arthur, Get Soaring

If you’ve ever been to Montreal, you will have experienced the vibrant hum of the city. It is a city that has distinctive neighbourhoods and an international flavour, and it is also a city committed to exploring and vitalising diversity. 2017 marks 375 years for Montreal and the city is helping to mark the celebration by making a public process of community storytelling.

Imagine, if you will wooden circular structures popping up in the midst of St Catherines walking street or in your local neighbourhood. They look very much like an open basket, because that was their inspiration.

Their intention is to create a network of points in space that transform people’s narrative about where they are and how they inhabit the space. Although they appear like little separate pods, they are all connected to the element of surprise and forming community, enabling people who sit in them to imagine space in a different way and create possibilities that were not there before.

They are called Nacelles, a French word meaning the basket of a hot air balloon, but conceptually pointing to network or multiplicity. In a tangible, physical way, they create a commons, a place to gather and share. By their very shape, they create an interesting bounded object in a public space in the shape of a circle. You’re exposed like you would be in public space, but you have a container of intimacy, and intentional collaborative moments in conversation. The nacelles create intimacy while you’re outside.

Each Nacelle is a set of pre-fabricated pieces which are easy to build together in about 20 minutes. In fact, the very act of building them starts creating community. They are about 12 feet in diameter, and seat around 12 – 15 people on two tiers of benches with a small table in the middle. But they are also permeable. People can stand outside the structure and lean in, making it possible to take part in something, even if you’ve just arrived.

Using these structures for public dialog and storytelling is the brainchild of French-based group Comm1possible. It fits seamlessly into Montreal-based practice Percolab‘s approach to dialogue and storytelling. Cédric Jamet explains: “We need more ways to connect people than social networks. The “smart city” as we think about it, is not enough. We need structures that allow us to do this in a real and physical way. That’s how Nacelles emerged.

“There was a consciousness around the circle as a way to connect people that informed the structure of the Nacelle. The idea of the city of the future is a city created by the people who live in it. Nacelles become a physical representation of that.

This project around inclusion is also around sharing individual stories, and what comes up is a common story of inclusion.

“When we think about it, this project around inclusion is also around sharing individual stories, and what comes up is a common story of inclusion. Nacelles help create a commons. The original idea was how can we experiment to create urban commons and cities as commons. That’s where it came from and where it’s headed. Really at the heart of the project is the idea of what becomes possible when we build the spaces we live in together.”

“The physical structure invites curiosity. And when you go over the threshold of curiosity it invites in relationship,” says Elizabeth Hunt. “One of our upcoming projects is around diversity and multi-culturalism with a borough of Montreal. Around their multi-cultural citizen day, we will be working with storytellers in the nacelles and then we will invite citizens with their own stories of how to shift the dominant discourse from integration to one of inclusion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It’s about building this together, shared responsibility. People show up with strollers, walking their dog. When a whole bunch of different kinds of people are there, you have the permission to go see. It’s a strange attractor. You enter the structure as strangers and emerge as allies. We are continuing to ask ourselves how we can use Nacelles as a collective sensemaking structure.”

Cedric chimes in again: “It shapes a bunch of things, experimenting with the Nacelle as a natural way to inclusion. We all have a relationship to this theme, whether we are born here or not, came here or not. I was hosting during the storytelling process – the storyteller was indigenous and his theme was around what it is to welcome and host people in. I was thinking ‘I’m an immigrant here. I’m French originally. I have a colonial background in me.’ Everyone who participated and shared stories verbalized their connection to this place in ways that were not anticipated. There’s something that happens when story gets shared and space gets held. Holding space is the condition for emergence. Something special happens.”

Elizabeth agrees, even though her story is completely different: “I’m born and bred in Montreal – same hospital as my dad – 11 – 15 generations each side. Those streets I’ve walked as a child, my parents, my grandparents also walked. I graduated from University on those steps over there. I had supper with someone there a few blocks over. My relationships to this space – what else is possible in my relationship to this city – is forever transformed by being there with the nacelles. We can transform an area into a storytelling platform, what else can we do in terms of moulding this city?”

Percolab has been partnering with French company Comm1Possible, which developed the concept and has used the nacelles in France and Morocco. Percolab is their only North American partner, but it seems obvious that the nacelles are far more than a way of creating community conversation and storytelling.  Even the way the two organisations are working together is seeking to create a commons out of the application of nacelles.

“Nacelles help create a commons,” Cedric tells me. “Then there’s the whole aspect of how we work together — if our purpose is to create commons, then Nacelles itself has to be a commons. That’s what we’re building on with Comm1Possible – how do we develop the system supporting Nacelles that is thought of and lived as a commons? Yes, there’s the object, but there’s a whole philosophy and business model that goes around it.”

Elizabeth continues: “We haven’t explored the questions, but the physicality of it invites the questions – how do we share this? Who does it belong to? How do we share the decisions? What is our vision for greater social change? We’re trying to work a commons based agreement – our working relationship is a commons relationship.”

In the end, it comes back to the magic of creating a space for people to narrate their common future.

As Cedric says: “The more people there are in the Nacelle, the more the Nacelle becomes invisible and it becomes a circle that’s about people. When we were using them on St Catherine and I walked away for a few minutes, I could see a conglomerate of people, but you couldn’t see the Nacelles. It was like a bunch of grapes but you can’t see the stem. It is an architecture that is holding people together but that you can’t see when its working well – it becomes invisible. That’s a metaphor for excellent hosting work.”

 

Find the original post by Mary Alice Arthur

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Collective sense-making as practice

Semi-structured co-learning across projects, domains, territories

Collective sense making is not evaluation nor debate. Very simply it requires some common themes which serve as common language or filters through which to think together about work that is very different. The common filters honor what is specific of what is happening in each place or domain and invite in a common language and thinking angle.

Recently I joined the European university of public sector territorial innovation for a 3 day adventure with over 200 people structured around 16 real projects from multiple countries. I was invited as an external witness, a healthy innovation practice, and was invited to intervene at the closing session. My task was to bridge between the event itself and the future via my external observations and insights. It was an invitation to work in emergence, with no possibility to plan ahead; this is the zone in which I thrive.

 At the end of the three days, I spoke to the group on the importance of prototyping as a rapid learning process, imperfect doing in order to gain information and insights. I reminded us all that co-creation requires being explicit with ourselves and the group on our commitment and contribution level. It is ok to be involved intensely and then step out, as long as it is made known. And then I finished on the topic of collective sense-making as a key process to help see more systemically. It is this point I wish to share in more detail.

I invited participants to identify some themes that could be interesting for us all. I do love how I can trust human beings and their intelligence and natural care. The themes that emerged were:

#citizeninvolvement

#coherence

#interdisciplinarity

There was no need to modify or improve upon these themes. They came straight from those who had lived the three days together. They would serve us for our collective sense making. We needed only to trust that that they were helpful themes for us.

I invited everyone to spend 5 minutes in silence to write whatever came up for them around these themes and our last three days of exploration around public sector innovation via the projects. Just a raw 5 minute writing time to prepare us for our collective sense-making.

Then it was time to step into conversations in pairs. Again, I reminded everyone to help each other not fall into debate or evaluation culture and to find someone who they had not met and who had worked on a different project than them. We had 15 minutes together in co-learning around our agreed themes.

There was some hesitation and then the entire room delved into deep conversation. Afterwards we had a share back and people spoke to how this had brought forward insights, anchored learning and made connections. People spoke of the delight to be in this type of flowing conversation with depth. The process was received as a gift. Some even used the term “soothing”. It does feel good to step back from our daily work, and converse with someone we don’t even know. Having a light “container” of shared themes and a little bit of solo time helps us access the deeper learnings that are ready to surface. It is about the sweet spot between chaos and order that allows generative emergence.

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