About Facilitating Competencies

Today, I took part in a workshop on facilitation organized by the Finnish Association of Facilitators (FAFA Ry) at the HUB13 Business Hub in Helsinki. I am a member of the association, as of last year, when I first met Piritta Kantojärvi, the CEO of Grape People and the author of several excellent books on facilitation.

FAFA Ry is the Finnish chapter of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF). The IAF is a worldwide professional body established to promote, support and advance the art and practice of professional facilitation through methods exchange, professional growth, practical research and collegial networking.

During the workshop, the participants collaboratively took on to examine the core competencies of a professional facilitator. I found the event a very interesting one in the sense that it gave me insight and information on the competencies of a certified professional facilitator.

I am also a member of the Finnish “Fasilitointi 2.0” network since last year, and have so far taken part in two meetings of that group. I have found these meetings give the participants a great deal of new ideas, information on useful methods, and boost the professional competencies of the participants.

The very first time I took part in a meeting of that group, the theme of our discussion was “How to deal with difficult people?”.

As even professional facilitators may sometimes encounter participants with negative attitudes in a workshop or other collaborative event, and it may also affect the outcomes of the event, I think sharing experiences and insight on difficult situations and how to solve these with other professionals is very important.

The outcome of our discussion of that theme seemed to revolve around creating “a safe space”.

To me, this simply translates to that the people participating in a collaborative event must be able to trust the facilitator. There are many external factors that might affect the situation, of course.

But basically, the facilitator must be able to create a relaxed creative atmosphere.

To me, this means being relaxed and confident yourself, first getting people to know each other via ice-breaking exercises, and only then establishing a clear context of the session, and evoking a sense of a shared mission in the group. I find that keeping up with the original plan for the session and schedules during the session is very important as well.

If some disruptive behavior or a conflict should arise, the facilitator must be able to face that issue with diplomacy, assume a neutral position, and gently lead the group on to create a collaborative resolution for the situation.

In brief, it makes sense to hire a professional facilitator for a collaborative event of any kind.

The core competencies of a certified professional facilitator are listed at the IAF website.

You can find the list behind this link: https://www.iaf-world.org/site/professional/core-competencies

On Generating and Maintaining an Innovative Organizational Culture

How do successful organizations cultivate creativity? And what is it that makes generating and maintaining an outstanding organizational culture so challenging?

The organization’s capacity to innovate, as well as its creativity and connectivity are increasingly highlighted as essential for success. The concepts of “innovation environment” or “innovation ecosystem” are referred to very often in this context.

When describing a creative organizational culture in more detail, case-examples of start-ups and influential Silicon Valley enterprises pop up in various publications, and it seems Richard Florida’s theory of the “creative class” is still dominating many discussions.

I believe that given a chance, any individual or a group of people can adopt a creative mindset and participate in generating original innovations.

And I think the best innovations are created by breaking the silos and getting a multi-disciplinary team of experts from different departments collaborating on a shared project, and by introducing and applying service design methodology at the workplace.

This view is based on my own experiences with co-design so far.

But I think many professionals that have experience of working in similar teams might agree.

Service design processes and methods can be of assistance in generating new, innovative concepts and in streamlining existing services — as well as generating and maintaining a culture of co-creation.

I think organizing co-design workshops based on recent analytics and research can help an organization to boost and foster a creative culture at the workplace and to refine the personnel’s capability to innovate.

Obviously, there are costs involved in gathering analytics, conducting initial research and organizing any co-design process, in terms of human resources, time and money.

However, co-creation and co-design may yield significant benefits, both internally and externally.

As I’m a planner, I have only so much to do with strategy implementation in my current organization. But I think reflecting on and aligning one’s own tasks with shared strategic objectives is important.

And similar thought should be given to the team’s role in the organization, and to one’s role in a team.

An important notion here is that each team as well as each individual is equally responsible of committing to the organization’s common goals and values as well as mutual respect.

One of the core values of my current organization is “together”.

I find that my co-workers in the FNG are an enthusiastic and inspiring group of professionals.

A creative environment is often described as “dynamic” and “open” — it supports fresh ideas, it is emotionally safe and compassionate, and its atmosphere promotes the freedom to brainstorm. In such an environment, debates are considered positive, conflicts constructive, and moderate risk taking is allowed.

As a result of this kind of atmosphere in the organization, new ideas emerge and flourish, and they have enough time and space to take shape. And even more importantly, the people enjoy working together.

Service design methods and intrapreneurship combined can yield the very best of results, when they are applied in a way unique to the organization’s culture.

Soren Kaplan, the author of the best-seller “Leapfrogging”, says that when we are “cultivating innovation”, we are, essentially, “cultivating a unique system”.

Kaplan’s notion is echoed in the recent book “Strategy That Works: How Winning Companies Close the Strategy-to-Execution Gap” by Paul Leinwand and Cesare Mainardi. According to the authors, what makes the distinctive internal practices and capabilities of successful organizations so special is the fact that they cannot be easily replicated by others in the same field. In that sense, creating a unique organizational culture and supporting an innovative ecosystem pays off.

In the aforementioned book, Leinwand and Mainardi emphasize, that the most successful organizations:

  • Commit to what they do best instead of chasing multiple opportunities
  • Build their own unique winning capabilities instead of copying others
  • Put their culture to work instead of struggling to change it
  • Invest where it matters instead of going lean across the board
  • Shape the future instead of reacting to it

According to the authors, these are the five essential practices for connecting strategy and its execution.

Having given various issues quite a lot of thought last year in the middle of facilitating a series of workshops on our digital strategy implementation and other tasks, I eventually decided to document some of my thoughts on different topics related to my work and some of my other interests in this blog, now also found via the domain name http://lifeofaplanner.fi.

I have been surprised by the amount of unique visitors and visits here, as well as the amount of positive feedback from colleagues and other friends.

Thank you for reading and all the comments!

About Urban Planning and Ikigai

Today, I attended an intriguing lecture by the architect Hella Hernberg, the author of the book “Helsinki Beyond Dreams – Actions Towards a Creative and Sustainable Hometown”. This book came out in 2012, as Helsinki was a World Design Capital.

Hernberg is one of the key professionals behind initiatives that transformed the former cargo port of Kalasatama, still in the middle of its ongoing construction, into a hip area in Helsinki. This area was opened to the general public in 2010, as I moved to neighbouring Kallio myself, and has so far witnessed the creation of open-for-all graffiti fence, urban gardening, a pop-up sauna, and various self-organized events. It’s one of my absolute favourite places in Helsinki, especially in the summertime.

Hernberg’s book explores new perspectives of a city in transition. As Hernberg states, it’s the “new we-spirit and enthusiasm of its people” that has turned Helsinki into an inspiring place to live. “In the past few years our previously quiet and reserved Nordic hometown has been a source of constant surprises”, she says. Helsinki is indeed bubbling with new ideas and creative endeavours. “People are motivated by doing concrete things that have an impact – however temporary – on their environment,” Hernberg writes.

According to the Japanese, everyone has an “ikigai”. The term ikigai is composed of two Japanese words: “iki”, referring to life or spirit, and “kai”, which roughly translates to “the realisation of what one expects and hopes for”. Finding one’s ikigai, according to the Japanese requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is regarded as being very important, since it is believed that discovery of ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to everyday life. An ikigai is essentially ‘a reason to get up in the morning’ – a reason to enjoy life.

Reflecting on the concept of “ikigai”, perhaps we would benefit from letting more people have an impact on their surroundings. As ikigai, more or less, consists of doing the things you love, which you are good at, which you can be paid for, and most importantly, that which the surrounding world needs, I think this concept is extremely useful in relation to crowdsourcing urban planning. One example of such co-design is the project coordinated by the University of Helsinki in the abandoned Marian sairaala hospital area.

According to Hilde Heynen “architecture – in its most broadly conceived sense – forms the framework for life”. Heynen also says that “But in accepting this as a starting point, one should also recognize that there can be something more”. In Heynen’s view, “the critical impact of an architectural project is not equivalent to its smoothly fitting into the international magazines”. Nor should it be. According to Hella Hernberg, the designer or the architect should act as an agent for a positive change. I am happy that my hometown is co-designing urban projects more and more.

About Co-Design Disciplines and Workshops

How to make sense of the numerous co-design disciplines and choose the correct methods of design? And how to apply this methodology in a workshop environment?

An excellent Aalto University research group called INUSE has recently created a “Co-Design Journey Planner”, which I found to be very inspiring as well as useful.

This framework is grouping different approaches to co-design under four different dimensions, entitled “Inspiration”, “Investigation”, “Cooperation”, and “Community”.

The nine main co-design approaches are then listed as follows, starting from the designer-centered end, and ending in community-based practice:

  • User Inspiration
  • Developer Immersion in Use
  • User Experience
  • Human-Centered Design
  • Collaborative Design
  • Co-Creative Design
  • Firm-Hosted User Design
  • Hybrid User Innovator Community
  • Independent User Innovator Community

Of these methods, the first two, “User Inspiration” and “Developer Immersion in Use” are characterized as the most designer-centric methods. The purpose of the first method is to gain impressions in order for the designer to renew and re-envision old categories and models of thinking. The second method is about the designer’s experience in the user domain, mainly about the context of use of a product or a service. These are the methods that are most useful in the context of getting inspiration when creating something new.

In the opposite end of the spectrum, we find the community creation phase and methods, with two different main categories, or “User Innovator Communities”, characterized here as “Hybrid” or “Independent”. The “Hybrid” one is a partially independent community, empowered by a third party, whereas the latter, “Independent” one hands over the design and maintenance of products or services to the community of their users. To me, these seem like the most mature models of co-design.

In-between, “User Experience”, and “Human-Centered Design” come in handy in the investigation phase of creating a new product or service or improving the existing ones.

The co-operation, in turn, is emphasized in “Collaborative” and “Co-Creative” design.

You can see the nine disciplines listed here: http://codesign.inuse.fi/approaches

The role of designers and design in creating new products or services or improving on the existing ones is crucial, as well as getting the intended users involved in the design process. But choosing the correct methods of co-design can be challenging. The above framework can certainly come in handy in the process of getting the designers and users to converse deeply and create outstanding products and services.

In my current job last year, I facilitated strategy-based co-design workshops regarding digital service design.

Even if your organization only employs a few designers or planners, it can be useful to workshop and create an environment where co-design can happen. Looking for a concise list of the elements of a successful workshop, I found this one by Paula Wellings:

http://adaptivepath.org/ideas/the-ux-of-co-design-experience-principles-for-successful-client-workshops/

Of these pro tips, I found the most useful ones to be “establishing shared reference” and “evoking the mission”. Unless there seems to be a shared sense of purpose, the workshop results may not prove very useful for many reasons. When organizing a co-design workshop, creating a shared mission is paramount. Once the mission is established, the rest will follow, and different methodologies may be applied.

A Contrapuntal Framework

So it was winter solstice yesterday, and next year is getting close.

Last year, around this time of the year, I was involved in working on my first Finnish National Gallery project that was to be online by my winter holiday in Mexico.

This year, I have been working in the Finnish National Gallery in various other projects. We have co-created the Flockler site Kanvas, http://kanvas.kansallisgalleria.fi, and I have been responsible for creating the platform for the research publication FNG Research, http://research.fng.fi.

My main task in the FNG, however, has been different.

The project kicked off for my part after my holiday.

One of the resulting documents was a roadmap for the digital services development of the FNG for the ongoing and upcoming two years. This roadmap suggestion for the Board of the FNG was the refined result of a consulting company’s output. They had been interviewing a few of our personnel in brief and had held a planning workshop for some of our experts as well.

The results of the consultancy were found useful, paving the way for the future developments.

But the task of creating a proper strategy implementation was still lacking completely after the project by the consulting company was over last spring.

My major task this year has been to facilitate strategy implementation. I have been a member of the Digital Services Steering group since I started out. This year, I have been organizing implementation workshops for the other digital services and communications personnel of the FNG. The first one was a workshop on social media last spring, and the other two workshops on digital services development this autumn.

Before the first workshop, I was struggling to pick the best ”contrapuntal” framework, so to speak, in order to get everyone’s harmonius input together, as well as different perspectives on the implementation out. The balanced scorecard method seemed appealing and useful, and to me like the best planning tool.

The FNG wishes to triple its unique online visits. With these kind of tools, with having the BSC and by keeping on updating it, I am confident that it should be relatively easy to reach that goal.

Now, with the BSC and other documentation together, it’s time for me to move on. I enjoyed the project! Looking forward to next year…!

The Convivial Approach to Co-Design

I recently purchased a copy of the “Convivial Toolbox” by Elizabeth Sanders and Pieter Jan Stappers. This book is about “generative design research”, in short, about how to bring the people into the design process.

According to the authors of this book, there is a growing realization that we cannot continue living the way we have been living on this planet because we simply do not have the resources to do that. The authors recognize that there is currently a strong resurgence in interest in and an emphasis on creativity, and that people are more likely to choose experiences over buying commodities. According to them, this phenomenon and new technologies can facilitate the emergence of more convivial ways of living.

The authors of “Convivial Toolbox” view creativity as an antidote for consumerism, where people are only seen as customers. The problem is, most design students of the past have been trained to help people consume more. Nevertheless, many people are now seeking ways to make environmentally and socially responsible choices as consumers.

The book is divided into three parts.

Part One introduces the basic components of generative design research and provides a theoretical background to design research. The book builds on the idea that all people are creative, and able to contribute to design processes, and that people are particularly creative when it comes to the way they live. Part Two consists of four design case studies, ranging from a student project to real client-sponsored projects. Part Three describes how to plan, gather, document, analyze and communicate the data gathered during a generative design research project.

This book also includes 50 individual contributions from a diverse range of people in the design field.

The old, traditional design disciplines are merging. In place of where we used to have for example visual communication design, industrial design, interior design and architecture, we now see an emergence of customer experience design, service design, and design for innovation, transformation and sustainability. Contemporary design is focusing more and more on the context of using products and services.

This, in my opinion, calls for alternative forms of research, co-design and conceptualization. “Convivial Design Toolbox” makes an excellent read and a source of information to any design professionals.