Tag Archives: Organizational Change

Collaborative Synergy – Mapping team communication with Sociomapping

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Stephen Sillett facilitated a contextual drama activity with 5 brave and generous DwD volunteers to explore the theme of “team communication and synergy”. The drama activity also provided a safe opportunity to develop characters who could input data into a software visualisation tool called Team Sociomapping. Stephen came across Sociomapping in 2010 and contacted Pauline Willis to learn more about it’s potential application. In 2011, he visited the offices of QED Group in Prague, whose founder Radvan Bahbouh developed Sociomapping – during that trip, Pauline Willis provided an opportunity for participants from a Scenofest workshop, to visit the QED Group offices and unpack their group interactions using an early form of Sociomapping software. Since then Stephen has been looking at ways to bring Sociomapping and other visualisation tools into his practice, and learning from organisational development practitioners that specialise in team dynamics.

Background: thoughts on session theme

  •  How do we observe and intervene in the way groups interact?
  • How can we help organizations and teams improve their performance while relying less on top-down, command and control approaches?

When we look at dialogue between members of a small-medium size team, we may think that discussions are more about task type, resources, skills and goals. However, there are softer, less tangible group dynamics at play which can have significant impact on performance. The way that members of such groups interact, and the team dynamics at play, particularly when groups are separated by time and space, can be difficult to probe, monitor and make sense of.

The session

The Sociomapping tool, has key utility in looking at changes in team/group dynamics over a time frame of months. For the purpose of the session we will use participatory drama simulations of groups, so that we can compress time, and explore how dynamics of groups can change through a couple of scenario interventions that our actors will represent. Stephen Sillett led our DwD group through what I many think of as a simulation workshop in which a team of performers played out a ‘set of scenarios’ involving a project a corporate publication team was assigned to complete. Stephen referred to the scenario as in terms of being a Contextual Drama session, and asked those attending the workshop to imagine that they are looking in on the action much like a fishbowl. This contrast to the normal way we think of theatre, where we are an audience watching a performance that has been designed with the audience in mind. In this “Contextual Drama”, the team in the scenario comprised of a millennial junior designer (Patricia), an efficiency-driven IT Lead (Tim), a new production team team leader (Kelly), a perfectionist Graphic Designer (Lauren), and their hyper-competitive Head of Sales and Marketing (Geoff).

Session Reflections from Farzad Sedghipour

The first part of the exercise was for the audience to identify one of the characters in the scene and follow them on their journey, looking at their relational perspective. In doing so they would see ‘what was happening’ from an outsider’s perspective, and reflect what we might have done were we involved in similar situations ourselves.


Photo by Farzad Sedghipour

What became noticeable for me observing the team simulation was how siloed and self-centered each team member was, and how in obsessing about their own interests and the project deliveries assigned, they missed the bigger picture and the relationships needed for the team to accomplish its collective goals. The story of ‘The Blind Men and the Elephant’ came to mind. This team was actually less than the sum of its parts – a team scenario I admittedly have been a player in more often than I would like to admit. This simulation reminded me that in times of such frustration with team (under) performance, it is important to seek to acknowledge my frustrations, take personal responsibility for having played a role in creating them, and to seek to understand the points of view of my other teammates’, instead of running to conclusions about their intentions and competencies.

Visualisation with Team Sociomapping

After the theatre scenarios were complete, every team member was asked to two questions: 1) to rank how ‘mutually positive’ their relationship had been with each colleague? and 2) how happy were they with the position they had at work?

These results were then visualized through the Sociomapping tool, which showed a sort of topographic ‘map like’ illustration of how each member connected with their fellow teammates, providing each member a view of how they themselves were perceived by the other members of their team.


For us the purpose of the Visualization tool was not diagnostic per say, but as a sense-making tool; it was proposed that instead of analyzing the results, the team members stand up and play out the their places with respect to each other on the floor, as the Socio-map illustrated on the computer screen.

We found this approach helpful in taking us away from ‘analytical judgement’ towards opening the space for understanding and co-creation. For example, the IT Lead could voice “I really hate that I’m so far from the New Project Manager and wish we could have a better relationship together.”

This interest-led approach opened up the space for authentic inquiry into the obstacles that had created distances between team members, and how the team could overcome these challenges in the future – connecting each team member’s point of view to see the whole elephant. This process would enable the team to design ‘interventions’ from within the group itself that might benefit the group’s behaviour and dynamic, and run them for 1-month intervals before re-assessing to evaluate if the intervention had been successful at helping the team develop, with the goal of becoming greater than the sum of their parts.

Suggested areas of further research included ways to ensure team members felt safe in answering the Socio-mapping questionnaire truthfully, and ways to explore power dynamics and how they might be addressed with the help of this tool.

About the Host and explorers/actors

ssillettStephen Sillett is co-executive director of Aiding Dramatic Change ~ in Development (ADCID), and helps the organization research, facilitate and direct dialogue, drama and art processes for healing and community development. He directs InFusion Labs where theatre artists, therapists, scientists and social practitioners explore spatial approaches to exploration and discovery.

The actors in the team were Patricia Kambitsch, Tim Lloyd, Geoff Foulds, Lauren Stein, Kelly Okamura. Pam Patel stepped into the scenario as a disruptor character, but was not mapped as part of the team dynamics.

If you see potential for such teams development in your areas of practice please email Stephen.

Don Officer on Living & Dying through Change & Transformation

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Something about August reminds us of those unseen tipping points that mark the change of seasons in the year, in our lives, in our organizations and ultimately cultures. The fruits of summer need shorter days and colder nights to ripen. All are harbingers of harvests but likewise endings soon enough to come. So it was timely that Vanessa Reid opened up a conversation to the 30 or so DwD participants in the Lambert Room on Wednesday, August 12 around the perpetual mystery and wisdom of transitions.

Such conversations take courage. Everything about our culture is designed to downplay two obvious, but annoying details. First, we all change through our lives and experiences. With the passage of years we can do less or fewer of some things and more of others. These slow but inexorable alterations do not usually comply with expectations. If that weren’t annoying enough, the many parts of the world around us move along on their own cycles and rhythms. Vanessa gave us a framework for that, a systems approach called panarchy.

Panarchy is a philosophical and methodological approach with a history some of you will recognize. In human terms we feel the perpetual tension between stability and disturbance in every aspect of life. This personal aspect was Vanessa’s focus at the DwD session. Relating her own experiences as a daughter, an agent for social change and institutional steward Vanessa illustrated how she came to appreciate panarchy from the inside out. As the invitation explains she has been immersed in creating  (and sometimes extinguishing we discovered) broadly aligned cultures. All this she accomplished while immersing herself in some very extended, old yet highly contended global cultures from India to Jerusalem to Greece.

The evening was designed to be interactive. Conversing as individuals in a circle, sometimes in twos or threes, participants pondered aloud their own cycles of growth, transformation and death or disappearance in their lives. Throughout the session process shifts between expression and reflection were felt and consolidated. Living in our hard driving high-energy compulsorily optimistic culture, we feel a powerful resistance to accepting personal or social decline’s inevitable consequences as we, along with our personal cocoons, are overtaken by the power of change from without as well as within.

Some of these ideas did indeed sink in during our three hours together. Closing thoughts from the circle reminded the whole group of the ambivalences that big changes intermingled with tenacious continuances visit on everyone. Vanessa is a living model for acceptance of panarchy’s swirling curves as it describes its sideways figure eight of infinity. Perpetuity is of course not always a consolation when we must give up something or a person dear and meaningful to us. Consciousness does not always let matters go gently into that good night. Moving on is nonetheless active and dynamic. Awareness of the call to close is step one.

Donald Officer

Exploring the Neuroscience of Peak Performance

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Bodies, Brains & Peak Performance in the Workplace

How do we reach a flow state and perform at our best?  How might we enhance self-awareness of our capacity to perform at peak?

Reaching peak performance at work is not just about having high-tech systems and efficient processes in place, but about how we engage with our bodies, brains, and their fluctuating states throughout the day.

The September DwD drew about 25 people to Theresa Cooke’s exploration of these questions with a group of designers, grad students, business leaders and professionals. She delved into some of the key factors in tuning our bodies and brains for peak performance based on recent findings from social psychology and neuroscience. With a combination of theory and interactive explorations, we learned how we perform in high-pressure situations, and how the brain’s strong response to social threat and reward affects our performance in common workplace situations.









Sketchnotes by Patricia Kambitsch
  (Complete set on Slow Learning)




































About the Host

Theresa Cooke holds a doctorate in Neural & Behavioural Sciences from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Germany, and a B.A.Sc. in Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo. She currently works at Siemens Canada as Director of Strategy for the Energy Sector, and in her spare time, cultivates her interest in the connections between neuroscience, leadership and health.

tcooke In 2012, Theresa became a certified coach with the Coaches Training Institute and completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training at Downward Dog Yoga Studio in Toronto.

Conflict Resolution: From Blockage to Opportunity

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June 2012 DwD was presented by Rick Wallace of Peacebuilding International Consulting.

We live and work in a world where conflict exists at multiple scales (locally, nationally and internationally) and contexts (social, economic, cultural, political, and environmental).  Conflicts can be interpersonal, collective, organizational, structural and/or psycho-spiritual.  They can be over values, beliefs, relationships, data, structures, identities and/or competing interests

One thing is certain: conflicts are inevitable. Designing a system to transform conflicts involves, among other things, the values of inclusiveness, mutual respect, participatory processes, collaborative and responsive decision-making, and shared power.  One of the factors that separates constructive outcomes from destructive dynamics are the approach, design and skills of communicating and negotiating.

Whether the conflict be a large-scale social-cultural conflict, an organizational dispute or deteriorating interpersonal relationships, one process of transforming conflict involves the use of interest-based negotiating and strategic communication.

In this workshop, we will outline the basic skills and designs for resolving various types of conflict with a focus on our own interpersonal and workplace relationships. To do so, we will focus on the analytical and communication skills that assist in identifying the nature of the conflicts, de-escalates and clarifies issues, and encourages collaborative problem-solving.

This DwD session explored:

  • The dynamics and meaning of conflict
  • Strategies and skills for facilitating communication within conflict
  • Ways to effectively raise issues and concerns
  • How to utilize interest-based approaches for both negotiation and system design

The session adapted our own experiences to think about the ways people (ourselves) generally deal with conflict. Exercises included active listening in simulated conflict, and working in triads to enact role-play scenarios in order to practice these skills and approaches.

Rick Wallace working with participants.

Contributions from group dialogue.

Rick Wallace brings over 20 years of national and international experience as an adult educator and 14 years as a trainer and mediator in conflict resolution, negotiation, strategic planning and leadership skills.

In Canada, he has worked for agencies such as St. Stephen’s Community House coordinating the Community Mediation Program, as well as the Conflict Mediation Services of Downsview, designing and providing training on conflict resolution, mediation, negotiation, restorative justice and facilitation.

Internationally, Rick has worked with the UN Department of Political Affairs and UNHCR in Rwanda coordinating humanitarian relief.   He currently heads up Peacebuilding International Consulting (www.peace-building.com).  He is also the author of a forthcoming book, Community-Based Peacebuilding:  Indigenous-non-Indigenous Alliances in Canada (Spring 2013, Fernwood Press).  Rick holds a PhD (Peace Studies), LLM (International Human Rights) and an MA (Adult Education).