Putting the Collaboration Response to Work

Accomplishing Significant Tasks by Convening the Whole System

A Seminar About Planning, Designing, Leading

For Leaders and Consultants

Much time, energy, and expense can be saved by convening a whole system event—or a series of them. Whether the issue is large (for example, the future of a community in light of unexpected growth) or small (where to locate a new company branch office), it pays to get all parties together for two to four days to develop a shared understanding of the context of the task to be achieved, discover common ground about what is to be done, and then do it. When all parties have a voice in making decisions and plans, the implementation that follows in the months ahead proceeds surprisingly fast.

But this only works when the game-playing stops and all parties reach a point where they are willing to set aside self-interest and do what’s best for the whole system. That’s when the collaboration response is needed.

Eliciting the collaboration response through the design and leadership of a whole system event is straightforward, but it does require an understanding of the social psychology of collaboration. The collaboration response will not emerge from traditional business or conference formats: presentations, Q&A from individuals, breakout sessions, etc. These meeting elements, while intellectually stimulating, are just too passive. Active engagement is required, as are seven other key elements of a whole system event. All of this is explained in our book, The Collaboration Response, but many leaders and consultants, who want to ensure success the first time, benefit from our seminar that lays out the details of planning, designing and leading a whole system event.

Our seminar, Putting the Collaboration Response to Work, has lectures, simulations, small group work, design challenges, and lots of discussion. Participants are encouraged to bring a case for the seminar to study. Participants leave with a clear understanding of how to succeed with whole system events; some leave with an entire plan. Here is a typical outline of the seminar:

  • Creating Connections – Gaining clarity on the needs of seminar participants
    • Relevance of the work of the seminar in today’s world
    • Skills and experience brought to the seminar by participants
    • Learning goals for the seminar
  • Simulation of a whole system event
    • Introduction, purpose, context
    • Simulation of a day in a whole system event (in an hour)
    • Agenda for the day
    • Doing the work of the day
    • Observations, Insights
  • The Eight Axioms of the Collaboration Response
    • Lecture
      • The theory
      • The eight axioms as realized in the simulation
    • Discussion
  • Case Example – from the work of Gil Steil and colleagues
    • Background
    • Purpose of the whole system event
    • Design of the whole system event
    • Outcomes
    • Follow Up
    • Discussion
  • The Psychology of Small Group Development
    • Four aspects of our species important to group development
    • How our minds work – a metaphor
    • The stages of group development
    • The role of task in group development
  • The Psychology of Large Group Development
  • The Flow Model of Whole System Event Design
    • The Beginning – what must and must not occur
    • The Middle – developing essential data in real time
    • The Culmination – decision making or task execution
  • Case Example Two
    • Background
    • Purpose of the whole system event
    • Design of the whole system event
    • Outcomes
    • Follow Up
    • Discussion
      • How does the design reflect the psychology of small group development?
      • Large group development?
      • Use of the Flow Model?
      • What else stands out?
      • What might we learn from this case?
      • Questions of clarification
  • Activities that Require Active Engagement
    • Characteristics
    • Where to find them
    • Inventing your own
  • Norms for Whole System Events
    • Utilizing the knowledge in people
    • The rationalization of conflict
    • Attendance and distractions
    • Transparent decision making
    • Open data and data bases
    • Social media and other technology
    • Appropriate venues
    • Room arrangements
  • Participant Case – full seminar
    • Presentation
    • Design
    • Reports
    • Discussion
  • Participant Cases – simultaneous
    • Working Groups
    • Reports and Discussion
  • Closing
    • Summary Reflections and Learnings
    • Resources for the future

The next seminar has not been scheduled. If you would like us to inform you of the next one, let us know by an email to