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Revolutionizing the way we work together

April 26, 2013

Facilitators take note. Want to ensure that your next presentation or working session has optimal energy for idea generation? Kate Sutherland has the answer.

Kate opened our Inspiring Action for Social Impact event, which was held in partnership with the MaRS Global Leadership Series on April 15, with the following instructions:

“Think about what the energy in the room feels like right now.”

If she had asked me to share my impressions out loud, I would have said:

“Curious but awkward, friendly but cool.”

Kate then asked everyone to think about a time in our lives when we were at our best, and invited us to turn to the person next to us to tell him or her about it. After five minutes of animated chatter she asked us again to feel the energy in the room. Quite honestly, the room was totally transformed.

I have a suspicion that Kate takes this kind of positive, productive and active energy with her everywhere she goes. Kate’s work as a coach and facilitator has inspired two books on how to work more effectively, both individually and collaboratively.

Kate’s presentation at MaRS focused on revolutionizing how we work together and examined some effective frameworks that can take your team projects to the next level.

Not all of these frameworks are new to our innovation landscape; they include Conscious Co-Creation, the Adaptive Cycle and Theory U. Due to time limitations, however, Kate decided to focus on three of the 10 frameworks, walking us through when each one could be most useful.

Appreciative Inquiry

The first framework we learned about was Appreciative Inquiry, which was perfectly encapsulated in the exercise that opened the session.

“At the core of Appreciative Inquiry’s transformational power is one of the most fundamental inner shifts we can make: from seeing problems to seeing possibilities,”

writes Kate in her book Make Light Work in Groups. This is particularly pertinent in the innovation world where we try to flip the idea that the world is awash in crises to see how we can design new programs, processes and services adaptable to our changing conditions.

Make Light Work in Groups by Social Innovation Generation

Chaordic Design: “Get clear about your purpose! It will fill you with energy!”

Kate’s second focus was Chaordic Design. This framework aims to find the sweet spot between chaos and order, which is where magic happens. The first step in this process is to get clear about why you want to work together toward a common goal.

Kate differentiates between purpose and vision at the early stages of group work.

“Purpose is like a guiding question and vision is more like an answer,” she says.

This need to find a common purpose is reminiscent of the co-initiating work of Change Labs and Theory U. It can take days, weeks or even months to agree on a common purpose, but it will be an important and invigorating guide for the work. Following purpose, the next five dimensions of Chaordic Design are principles, people, concept, constitution and practices. To find out more about these six dimensions and their founder, visit the Innervention blog.

Trust Theory

Trust Theory was the final framework that Kate had time to examine during her presentation. Trust was presented as a kind of continuum, with high trust at one end and high fear at the other. You can imagine which end is more productive. If a group finds that it holds high trust it can move toward open engagement, the realization of possibilities and, finally, interdependence. It might be interesting and helpful to think about the current levels of trust in your organization or enterprise, and about what can be done to improve them.

Follow-up events

  • Kate’s visit to Toronto was a terrific precursor to follow-up events later this year. Working with MaRS, SiG is welcoming Lucie Stephens from the New Economics Foundation in July for a presentation on co-production.
  • SiG will also be presenting a series of webinars on lab processes and social innovation practices, including one with Sarah Schulman from In With For in May and another with Michael Quinn Patton on developmental evaluation in June.

SiG is focused on providing useful resources to support entrepreneurs on their journeys to realize solutions for people and our planet. To learn more, visit the SiG Knowledge Hub.

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Geraldine Cahill @ MaRS

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Geraldine is the Communications Manager for Social Innovation Generation, a group that addresses Canada's social and ecological challenges by creating a culture of continuous social innovation.

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