Here’s a great idea we came up with on how to insert advice based decision making into small group workshop formats, such as the World Cafe.
First, we were working in three small groups standing in front of flip charts. Each group was creating ideas for a different previously chosen topic. Number of ideas had no limit at this point. After 15 minutes or so, there were 5-10 ideas on each board, without any prioritization.
At this point, we instructed groups to rotate to the next board, with a mission to give three votes to the ideas they deemed best. Voting was conducted by dot vote, i.e. adding a specified mark to the post-it note presenting the idea. After votes were given, groups rotated to the next board and also gave their three votes on that board.
Now everybody had seen all the ideas, and teams rotated back to their original board to see the results. Now their mission was to choose three most promising ideas for further handling. They saw the votes, but were still allowed to make their own decisions instead of just choosing the topics with the most votes. This made sense, because the people in original groups knew most about the ideas, and also were the ones most interested in that topic. Because they chose that board in the first place.
From there we proceeded to discuss concrete actions around these chosen ideas.
I saw two very clear benefits here, compared to e.g. just walking around looking at the notes.
- The prioritization involved everyone. People were allowed to have their say on the topics, and the decision making involved everybody.
- With the mission of giving the votes, there was much more incentive to really pay attention to the notes, discuss them with the group, and form an understanding and an opinion on each of those. To me, this was even bigger than the first benefit!
This technique has connections to Advice Process used in some modern organizations, as described in e.g. Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux. I’ll very likely insert something like this into more and more workshops and other workplace decision making in the future.