Before embarking on the journey of providing others with guidance for a process of transformation, we need to prepare ourselves in order to make sure we are stable enough to stay standing and not be eradicated when the “winds of change” will come.
This simple but crucial idea is one of the key concepts of Art of Hosting and one of my favourite practices to transmit when giving training or capacity-building sessions to teams preparing to host participatory processes at SenseTribe.
This practice is called “The Fourfold practice”. However evident it might seem in its essence, it takes a slow and deep process of introspection to really understand it. In order to really embrace this practice one needs to go beyond traditional paradigms of learning and approach it in a non-linear way that leaves room for intuition. The intuition will lead the way through the fractality of all living beings (and structures) and will enable the magic of the hosting process to happen.
“I love to see the fourfold practices like a kaleidoscope, with four different lenses which are brought together to create a whole, and what we discovered is that even though there are four lenses it’s a fractal so every lens has the other lenses in it. That’s the pattern of it, when we share it with people it can sound linear. It is not linear and when you’re learning you might need to dissect it and play with it so that you can learn it. But the real power comes from the interconnectivity of the lenses”.
If you want to host conversations that really matter, you first need to dive into the depths of your being and connect with your inner truth, and this can sometimes involve a painful and drawn-out process.
Be clear about what you need and what your personal contribution to the circle can be. Take a quiet moment to breathe in order to focus on the present. Make space to dedicate time for listening and speaking. Invite all the participants in the meeting to be present.
2. Participate and practice conversation
Listen with attention and speak with intention
Conversation is an art. It demands that we listen carefully to one another and that we offer our contributions to serve the whole. Join the conversation with curiosity and without judgment. Curiosity and judgement cannot live together in the same space. The art of conversation is the art of slowing down in order to speed up.
3. Host conversations
Be courageous, inviting and willing to initiate conversations that matter, and then make sure you harvest the answers, insights, learnings and wise actions…
Hosting conversations is not quite the same as facilitating. It means creating and holding the container in which a group of people can do their best work together. Prepare a question and know what you will do with the harvest. Hosting conversations takes courage and a bit of certainty and faith in your people.
…be willing to co-create and co-host with others.
The value of conversations arises when we listen to what is in the middle, what is emerging from the centre of our collaboration.
So contribute what you know to the mix so that patterns may become clear and the collaborative field can produce unexpected and surprising results.
The four fold practice was the first pattern that gave rise to the Art of Hosting. It is simply an observation that great conversations happen when people are present, when they participate, when they are well hosted and when they co-create something.
This practice helped me really get to the core of the hosting process and understand that one can be an expert in tools and formats. But this will not necessarily make this person a good host nor open the way to deep, enlightening conversations. The key is the fractal!
A poem by Toke Moller, one of the initiators of Art of Hosting, summarizes its essence in few words:
There are four practices that can become one.
It is about being awake
caring for each moment
It is about hosting by being conscious now.
It is about being a student listening and learning.
It about stepping up with courage
when it is my turn to lead.
It is to co create with others
for the benefit of All.
These can be practiced as one whole
The Flow Game is a powerful tool for companies, teams and leaders who decide to take advantage of these moments of uncertainty to connect with what is most essential, spend time around significant questions, deeply explore blockages and difficulties, generate clarity about decisions to be made. In short, turn difficulties into opportunities.
Although it’s called Flow Game, it is not a game like chess, with winners and losers, it is more like the kind of play we find in Lego, where something new is made.
The Flow Game is based on a set of methods and processes, around the North American Aboriginal Medicine Wheel. Use powerful questions and images through the cards, reflection and interaction between the participants. Serendipity or chance also intervene, through the use of the dice, and the facilitation of the Flow Game Host with their coaching and hosting skills.
This moment of COVID pandemic is a challenge to the whole of society, as well as to leaders of teams and companies. Old ways of responding are not appropriate, what is needed is another way of leading supported by trust in the Emerging Strategy, (a strategy which emerges from a situation rather than being imposed on it).
The Game allows you to target specific issues you have, like:
How can we innovate in products and services, how can we take advantage of the situation, how can we reinvent our best version, etc.
In summary, the Flow Game can be useful to:
Align the team around meaningful questions and set priorities
Deeply explore blockages and difficulties
Generate clarity and set in motion what needs to be promoted, a project, a decision about the future of work.
But in addition, individuals can feel empowered through sharing experiences and ideas and participating in creating new strategies. As a tool of Participatory leadership, based on the premise that each person contains an entire universe. Each member of our teams is more than a piece with a specific role in the organization, he or she can offer much more. The Flow Game can harness collective experience and intelligence.
How does a Flow Game session work and what does it consist of?
You can play as a team or as an individual.
Each game can be adapted to the needs of the team and also to the number of participants (it can vary from 4 to 50). It can be online or face-to-face.
The structure of the game for a team is as follows:
Preparation phase: The Flow Game Host explores the need for the equipment and works until it finds the driving question.
Game phase: Between 2.5 to 4 hours long. The facilitator creates the proper framework and context to flow with the principles of deep listening, respect, non-judgment, and confidentiality.
First round with a deck of team cards, everyone who participates contributes to the common question. This round can end with a small “harvest.”
Second round with a deck of personal cards in which each person in relation to the common purpose asks what their best contribution can be.
Final phase or check-out: What do you take with you? And what has happened to you since the beginning of the game?
Harvest Phase: Throughout the process, a graphic facilitator will record the main questions, findings, discoveries and conclusions that emerge during the game visually. All the information will be collected in a document that will be shared with the team after the session to reinforce the learning.
SenseTribe regularly organizes Flow Game sessions with facilitators with extensive experience in the area. If you are interested in organizing a session or have more information, do not hesitate to contact us.
History of the Flow Game:
More than 20 years ago, a group of professionals, people committed to the environment, participation and peace, began to wonder about the need to create useful tools to train leaders in a type of leadership according to the future that they would like to achieve. This is a true story, these people were meeting in Denmark for almost a year, exchanging ideas, tools, reflecting on new paradigms, and when they believed that they were approaching the design of the best training for Leadership, they discovered that what was emerging was something else: It was a game! A game that had to be taken very seriously, as it concentrated powerful ingredients to bring clarity and be able to make important decisions, activating individual and collective wisdom and awareness. Flow Game had just been born!
In 1998 they had the first Flow Game prototype ready and it was played for the first time in San Francisco in 1999. From the beginning the game was designed to be facilitated by a “Flow Game Host”, it could be played individually or for a group. Since then it has been played in many different contexts and on all continents of the planet, for individuals, small groups, large groups, for leaders of large companies, with employees, in personal development sessions.
SenseTribe regularly organizes Flow Game sessions with facilitators with extensive experience in the area. If you are interested in organizing a session or have more information, do not hesitate to contact us.
More info and inscriptions:
Next session dates: The next sessions will take place::
If you want to organize a group on a specific date, contact us:
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Who is this workshop for?
Flow Game sessions are intended for both individuals and teams.
Mariana Ruiz Lobera:Sociologist and facilitator of participatory processes.
Extensive experience in training and facilitation in large companies (Iberdrola, Atresmedia), NGOs (Greenpeace, Doctors of the World, Action against Hunger). He teaches at the Autonomous University of Madrid on Participatory Leadership, Collective Intelligence and Conflict Resolution.
Marina Roa: Visual thinking and facilitator of creative processes
Marina has extensive experience designing processes that bring us closer to collaborative, innovative and sustainable solutions. Graduated in Psychology and Superior Technician in Design, certified in creative thinking and passionate about non-violent communication.
The impacts of COVID19 on the economy show that the way we do business today is economically unsustainable. Business owners and decision makers are in crucial need of alternatives to business-as-usual in order to create resilience for crises to come and to become part of the solution rather than the problem.
WEAll, Sistema B, World Fair Trade Organisation and SenseTribe therefore invite business owners, decision makers and other stakeholders to commit to seeking out ways to contribute to an economy that is not only economically viable but also socially and environmentally resilient:
Business resilience: We commit to give as much importance to resilience as to efficiency in our business model and value proposition. We commit to building resilient business structures, allowing us to respond to a changing environment and to build capacity to deal with crises effectively.
Human wellbeing: We commit to building balanced stakeholder relationships, so there is trust and commitment to one another. An important basis for building capacity for effective collaboration in moments of crisis.
Environmental wellbeing: We commit to re-evaluating how our business can make a positive contribution to our current environmental crisis, making our business part of the environmental solution, not the problem.
How can Art of Hosting help us navigate uncertainty and evolve in times of isolation and global crisis?
Our world is in flux. COVID19 has surfaced the drawbacks of our current way of life, leading us into uncharted waters. The pandemic has created global unrest by illuminating economic and social inequalities even more. It is clearer than ever before, that the world is changing rapidly and all of us, inevitably, are part of this process. What if this is the opportunity that we have been longing for, the beginning of a new era? What if this is the right time to change the current status quo and imagine a future of living within our Planet’s limits, for the good of all?
Based on the assumption that our world needs fundamental change, the Art of Hosting and Harvesting Meaningful Conversations practice has been supporting organisations, communities and groups to “be the change” for the past 25 years. It is a practice that prioritises diversity and collaboration where people can discover and cultivate new collective intelligence together. By learning and applying participatory methods, models and theories, we become more skillful in navigating chaos and complexity individually and collectively. Being a global community of practitioners expands the potential and impact of learning, increasing our ability to respond in times of crisis.
We would like to invite you on a quest. We invite teachers, parents, managers, community organisers, politicians, all who are seeking a way to meet this new future which is emerging to join us. We are creating a digital space, where we would like to share and explore together with you the essence of our practice. Together, we invite you into a learning space where we can exchange knowledge, experience participatory methods, explore mental models and theories of complexity, change and systems thinking. We will explore new forms of leadership, based on Living Systems – where interconnection, collaboration and self-organising around purpose lead to results for the good of all.
We invite you to bring your questions, ideas, hopes and dreams and dive into a collective inquiry together. Let’s navigate into these unknown times with an open heart and mind to discover new possibilities.
Who is this for?
Anyone who wants to develop collaboration and participation skills – public service professionals, entrepreneurs, social innovators, NGOs, leaders in business, educators, and anyone who see themselves stepping into new ways of leading.
We will learn, explore and practice
Participatory methods of engaging small and large groups in conversation.
Forms and strategies to build conditions for co-operation and collaboration.
Worldviews and models that will help you to work with complexity.
New perspectives, tools and practical ways of engaging a diverse group of people to discover new ideas and solutions by working generatively with complexity, conflict and emergence.
Process Design, designing and planning the process before implementation, as a structure for new potential and possibilities to emerge.
Be prepared to:
Generate new and collective knowledge that you can apply to your context
Listen to stories from different people, places and perspectives
Contribute to other people’s learning by sharing your insights, questions, projects
Deepen, develop and design your ideas, projects, goals, initiative, questions in a collective learning space
Join an international network and community of practice and connect with a diverse group of people of all ages and backgrounds
Maria Scordialos with Dimitris Stratakos, Maya Rimer, Mira Bangel and Julia Hoffmann (Visual Recording) decided to collaborate and cocreate this online learning journey, as a response to the current global health and economic crisis.
As stewards and/or seasoned practitioners of the Art of Hosting and Harvesting Meaningful Conversations global community of practice, they offer trainings and immersive learning on participatory leadership, living systems, and design practices for living and working in complexity, particularly in contexts of chaos, crisis and collapse.
The Human Workplace – a Blueprint for Remote Companies
A remote organization is built on trust. Trust is the single most important driver for collaboration and high-performance. Once you trust yourself and your peers, a whole new range of leadership possibilities open up.
We also know that remote organizations are mostly more effective. Today on a venture capital network exchange one tech founder shared: “Since we’ve been working remotely, we’ve delivered in a week what we normally did in a month”. This is not a surprise for me anymore. I have the feeling that I know why it is like this.
For the last 15 years I’ve been thinking about “how to organize collaboration”. I grounded my thinking in a lot of publications by well known companies such as Google, Zappos, Buffer, McKinsey and many more. Even more than reading and researching, I’ve experimented a lot and gained lots of experience and insights. At Zalando, I facilitated the agile transformation and scaling Tech from 120 people to 2.500 in 3 years. We had a hundred of teams to work with and with every one I made a unique experience. Overall the experience has been stressful and overwhelming – which shows that I was in my growth zone: meeting the unknown, experiencing something new and trying to be comfortable in uncertainty. I enjoyed this very much.Over the last two years I’ve conducted my own research and studied pattern of high performing teams, also at Zalando.
What I want share in this article is the insight of those 15 years of work.
It’s a blueprint for how to build high-performing remote organizations based on trust and the patterns and principles of some of the most successful companies around the world.
The blueprint is designed to cultivate…
Trust between members of the organization
Self-responsible organization members
Empathy for “new hires” and the questions they have when they join the organization
Clearly distinguished organizational aspects
Hyper-growth readiness and the ability to work well together at scale
…and saves you a lot of management overhead (/headache).
It helps you as founder to think, organize your thoughts and build up a mental model that enables you to develop your organization with focus and clarity
It helps you to maintain, explain, align and develop your culture despite or esp. during hyper growth — it helps you to build “a learning organization” that is resilient and responsive
It helps you to co-create a human centered workplace where people’s happiness and health lead to high performance and outstanding business results. It doesn’t do this for performance reasons alone, rather for love & care for humans.
How do we cultivate trustful relationships
We build the organization based on a positive human mental model and principles such as trust, honesty, appreciation and self-responsibility. These human principles are the source of the organizational principles.
Example: The human principle of self-responsibility leads to the organizational principle: Everyone can take ownership and therefore can & should make decisions independently but aligned. As a result, we structure the organization in a way that allows people to pick their topic/teams (see “How we structure”) and decentralize decision-making (see “How we make decisions”).
We do this because we believe workplace happiness and health leads to high performance / valuable contribution.
One company using this blueprint is BRYTER. In the following remote session it’s co-founder and CPO Michael Hübl shares their insights and practices of how they “cultivate trustful relationships”:
“In 2018, we decided to go fully remote. Our entire company operates remotely. We have a remote-first structure in our DNA which means we know how to build, run and scale a business remotely. We know how product development, customer success and marketing teams work in a fully virtual environment. We know how it feels to provide an enterprise-ready solution – anywhere. So we want to share our learnings and experiences with you all. In this online session, we will run through how we organize the collaboration of 70+ people in different countries and timezones. We will talk about the importance of communication and knowledge sharing in order for all of us to make rapid progress with our work and product.”
BRYTER is the leading no-code platform to automate expert knowledge. Its intuitive toolbox enables professionals to build, manage and sell interactive applications without programming skills. BRYTER is especially geared towards experts in law, finance, tax and compliance working with complex, conditional and scenario-based content who want to automate recurring and standardizable decision-making processes. BRYTER operates offices in Berlin, Frankfurt, and London and supports professionals in over 50 international law and consulting firms, corporates and public bodies with the automation of professional decision-making.
In this webinar Mic mentioned the “Caring Circle” as an advanced practice – which brings together a lot of the practices Mic shared in this remote session in a simple and powerful format.
With the “Caring Circle” you can learn how can we care for each other in challenging times, deepen human relationships and build a sense of togetherness remotely?
We see our customers as human beings. With empathy, we think about what they need in their workplace to get their job done. How they feel when they are using our product. What success means for them and their company.
That’s why we have a customer success team and call our customers “champions “— it is part of our job to help them to become champions.
We believe that customer empathy enables us to build a product that adds value for our customer.
How we structure
We work in cross-functional groups where we have every competence at hand to act, deliver and make decisions independently. Sometimes this is an ideal state, but we know the closer we come to this, the better we can collaborate.
We learn together in communities of practice. This is our home base of like-minded people where we give and find support, mentorship and care.
We believe that a responsive and scalable structure enables healthy hyper-growth and collaboration at scale.
How we make decisions
We make decisions “together alone”. Following the principles of trust and self-responsibility everyone can make a decision when:
we follow the companies north star(s) / objectives
it is based on a real personal topic, need or tension
we make sure it is safe enough to try and we do the risk assessment for this
we are willing to follow up on the consequences
When a topic is more complex or more people are involved, or we do not know how many can be affected, we activate our collective intelligence. We follow processes and procedures – lean and small in the beginning, and more formal and powerful ones when needed – to collectively assess a decision and mitigate risks.
We believe that distributed decision-making enables us to take the right decisions fast so that we will stay effective and react fast at scale.
How we do leadership
Leadership means to care about culture, structures and context —it means to take care of co-workers without violating their self-responsibility and the trust we have in each other.
When we take leadership we want to strengthen ownership, self-responsibility and trust in ourselves and others. It is a coaching mindset that enables others to use the given processes and procedures of the organization. It is about co-creating local and structural / organizational improvement and optimizations. It is about taking ownership of conflicts.
It is like gardening.
We believe we need and profit from ownership and an entrepreneurial spirit on all levels, in order to be successful as a company.
How we improve personal & professional
We learn from each other and with each other. We learn from like-minded people and people with more experience. We learn from the experience of others. We reflect our experience (the good and the ugly) honestly with others and learn.
We do not have a failure culture – we have a learning culture. We organize as communities of practice and go through events and sessions self-responsibly: following our human centered principles. We grow as a human, not as a function. And we grow together.
We believe that when we learn, the organization is learning. And we need this learning to be competitive on the market.
How we plan and align work
We plan work based on direct customer feedback. We work in short iterations to handle complexity and respond to change fast.
We use clear objectives and key results to align our work. We own our objectives and have a clear understanding on how business impact / success looks like.
We have clarity of who is doing what and regularly reflect about how we can improve our collaboration, keep the flow and stay in the high-performance zone.
We believe that to navigate well in complexity, react to change fast, build the best customer value possible, we need the freedom and skill to adjust on a daily basis in alignment with the common north star so that we can work effectively & efficiently.
What we see is – and what we want – is: the more you implement the blueprint as your organizational model, the more business impact you create.
In summary, what you get is
A way to organize and grow your remote company – without stopping operations
A human workplace blueprint that boosts your business model
A way to keep your trustful culture during fast growth
It attracts talents and seniors that want to take ownership and responsibility
Readiness for healthy hyper-growth and working at scale
In the last days a lot of people I trust encouraged me to publish the blueprint now. Thank you Mic, Benjamin, Juke, Mira, Raffa and Andrei. I also have the feeling that it is the right time. So now I am curious what reactions and questions arise in you after reading this article. Send me a direct message with your feedback or use the comment function to share your reaction and insights.