This is the first of three articles that stem from last weekend’s Next Edge Festival in Montréal. I’m grateful to the wonderful organizing team and all the participants who made the event a success and a great learning opportunity for me.
I have long been a fan of mindmaps as a tool for recording what transpires at a meeting, displayed up at the front of the room so that everyone can see the ‘official’ record (and correct it when needed). The mindmap can then serve as an instant set of ‘minutes’ by emailing it to all participants (and non-attendees) at the end of the meeting.
Last weekend Arthur Brock and his amazing team at Emerging Leader Labs showed us the work they’ve done with Gameshifting, a tool that promises to do for meeting process what mindmaps do for content — making it explicit. It uses a combination of wallboards, hand signals, and tablets or similar remote machines for participants to report on what they see happening (or would like to see happening), process-wise, during the meeting/event.
At this stage the tool is largely manual, and fun both for revealing what would otherwise not be known about meetings in general, and about our own personal group behaviours in particular.
As I participated in the “making-explicit” “game”, I began to dream about what might be possible, with today’s technology, that would:
- Combine the display of process, protocols, and progress from Gameshifting with the display of content from mindmaps (or other graphic recording tools), and
- Incorporate the patterns of exemplary group process from Group Works into the display.
The graphic above (you can download a higher-resolution PDF here) illustrates how it might work. Here’s a walkthrough:
- Before the meeting/event begins, the facilitator and sponsor would (a) key the major agenda items into the Meeting Trajectory blocks (upper left on the chart) and turn the first block green; (b) identify the major and secondary objectives for the meeting (upper right) and turn them dark and light green respectively; an X would appear in red beside each, showing them as not yet accomplished; (c) key in the major nodes (bubbles) on the mindmap (lower right) to correspond with the meeting/event objectives; (d) key in the initials of the people in various Roles (lower left); each box with someone assigned would turn green; (e) initialize the Process Mode for the first agenda item (centre left) to correspond to the mode that will be used to achieve its objective, turning that box green; (f) initialize the Process Style to the primary means to be used for this agenda item (Arthur’s model suggests a variety of different Styles for each Mode, or you could even enter a method like Open Space or World Café), turning that box green; (g) initializing the Interaction Protocol (centre right) to the one most appropriate for the mode and style selected, turning that box green, and (h) turning off all the Alert (lower left) ‘lights’ to grey.
- Ideally, all participants would have an app that would allow them to feed back their thoughts on the process electronically as the meeting event proceeded: (a) they could comment on the agenda and, as it proceeded, click on the boxes ahead of or behind the current green box in the Meeting Trajectory to request that the group move on, or go back (one person doing this would turn that box yellow; a majority doing this would turn it red, hopefully signalling the facilitator to “trust the wisdom of the group”); (b) they could click a ‘done’ flag on an Objective box when they thought that objective had been accomplished (when most, or all, depending on the will of the group, did this the red X would turn to a green check mark); (c) they could flash a red “!” or a yellow “?” beside any node of the mindmap to indicate they disagreed or had questions about what had been recorded; (d) they could click on any of the other figures to suggest a change in Mode or Style or Interaction Protocol or a change to the person in any of the Roles (again one person doing this would turn the suggested box yellow; a majority would turn the box red); and (e) they could click on any of the Alert buttons to express the appropriate request to the facilitator.
- Any participants familiar with the Pattern Language for Group Process (or wanting to practice learning it) would be able click on any of the 91 pattern cards to indicate either (a) a wish to recognize and thank someone for invoking that pattern very effectively (highlighting that card and turning it green), or (b) a suggestion that the facilitator and/or participants consider invoking that pattern (if the group is stuck or needs process help), highlighting that card and turning it red. For example, in the illustration, someone has turned the Story card green (indicating that someone just proffered an excellent story to the group), and the Honour Each Person card red (indicating that in their view someone is likely being ignored or disrespected by others).
I think you get the gist. All of this is done wordlessly, without interrupting the “audio track” flow of the meeting. It’s only a dream, but if used correctly this could absolutely transform the way we conduct, and collaborate in, group activities. The technology wouldn’t be that hard to implement. Much harder would be getting all the participants up to a base line of competency in what is actually going on in group processes, and what constitutes good versus bad group process. Which is something everyone who has to suffer through horrific meetings should learn, and value.
I’m looking forward to seeing what Arthur and his team do next with Gameshifting, and seeing how both mindmaps and Group Works can be incorporated into their vision. This could be awesome.