Facilitated discussion as a format for learning and improvement

26 Feb, 2019
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Sharing knowledge is import to us at Xebia. It’s one of the four core values the company is built on. We share knowledge at our clients and with the community, through meetups and conferences. Every second week we organise a Xebia Knowledge Exchange (XKE), our bi-weekly mini-conference. Filled with lots of different sessions, on all sorts of topics. There is always something interesting to learn!

During a recent XKE we came up with the idea to do a peer conference. The topic of the conference was the consultancy work that we do. We all have our own approach and experience, so there is always a lot we can learn from each other. At the conference we experimented with using K-Cards.

The K-Card experiment

To facilitate the discussion we used the K-Cards format. Therefore, each participant gets a set of coloured cards, each of which has a special meaning. Whenever someone wants to say something they hold up one of the cards. They hold up a green card if they want to ask a new question. The yellow card is shown whenever they have a remark on the current topic. The facilitator makes sure to keep track of the different threads and participants can only speak when given permission. This might seem strict, but by following the threads the discussion gets a lot of focus and depth, something that is often missing in regular Q&A’s after a presentation. The group is in control of the discussion and responsible for steering it in the right direction. As such, we used the other three colours to interrupt, vote to stop or support the on-going discussion.

During the conferencePeer conference at the Xebia office

We picked a day to spend at the Xebia office, with four consultants speaking on previous assignments and what they learned from that. After a while we adjusted to the facilitated format of the discussion and we got a nice flow going. During the day we discovered some shared topics, such as: scoping of your assignment, techniques for creating management buy-in and how to get seemingly incompatible personalities in a team to work together. What a great opportunity to learn from colleagues!

Reviewing the format

We had two feedback moments throughout the day to evaluate the experiment. A short retrospective just before lunch to see if we were meeting the expectations of the group. This way we could change the format to fit our goals, if necessary. At the end of the day we did a longer retrospective to see if the K-Card format was something we wanted to continue with.

All of the participants agreed that the use of K-Cards helped the group structure the discussion. A follow up session is already planned, but with a few changes:

  • We decided to schedule half a day instead of a full day as the in-depth discussions can be quite energy intensive
  • To give every topic the focus that it deserves the sessions will be time boxed more strictly
  • We will also do an experiment with visualising the discussion threads, so the audience can follow along with the facilitator

Overall, the K-Card experiment was a success! Experimenting with different formats helps to shake things up and keep fresh ideas flowing. It is easy enough if you’d like to try, all you need is a few coloured cards or stickies and a group willing to share. We can recommended it as a format for knowledge sharing between peers!

Want to join a XKE or our next peer conference?

If you’d like to experience one of our XKE’s or feel you should be a part of our next peer conference please get in touch.

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