For most organisations, whether public or private, there is barrier to accessing collective intelligence, sharing institutional knowledge, and developing professional practices through collaboration. This means that it can take longer for individuals to solve issues that come up when they lack the experience in doing so. Whether these be inter-personal, logistical, time management, product development, etc. Each organisation has myriad skills and knowledge that cannot be quickly identified and utilised in peer groups.
Sharing Knowledge and Collective Intelligence
People have a variety of past professional experiences both inside their current organisation and in previous work experiences. This means that there is a lot of uncatalogued and untapped knowledge present at any one time in any one space. It is the aim of CoDev to open this experience up and make it accessible to the peer team around them.
CoDev Collaboration Requirements
The CoDev collaboration method (short for co-development) is an innovative professional co-development model that is becoming increasingly popular to begin to create shared knowledge and problem-solving in organisations while also developing leadership skills. Developed in the 90s by two French-Canadians,this method is predicated on sharing between teams and within teams depending what the issues to be tackled are. It is ideal for smaller groups of between 5 and 8 participants. And can be a regular meet up or set up ad-hoc when an important problem requires this kind of approach.
The method consists of 6 official steps and one additional unofficial pre-step (or a step 0). This method can take anywhere from 90 minutes if you want to deal with just one problem or longer if you want to tackle more than one. In this simple technique, there are many underlying elements that must be understood to get the most from it.
5 Foundational Pillars
For the CoDev method to really work, it is essential that each person comes to the session from a place of empathy. This is because it requires:
- Active listening
In order for all of these conditions to be met and accessible, the participants need to want to be there and be open to hearing what others have to say. And at appropriate times, each person will need to commit to being silent – no matter how much they wish to interrupt or to say something. Each participant must understand that their experience will be heard and it will be duly considered and valuable – whether it is used to move the issue forward or not.
Holding Space and Withholding Judgement
Another important aspect of this CoDev method is the space that is held for people to be vulnerable while asking for help. This encompasses kindness, active listening, and confidentiality. By doing this, holding the space and judgement, a participant feels able to be truthful and committed to the process.
A Time-Based Framework
The CoDev approach is time-based. This means that each step has a set time limit. This time-based approach allows the process to move forward and avoids conversations becoming unproductive or off-topic. A time limit helps to make sure participants keep their advice to the point. Respecting the time set aside for each part is essential even when it may be frustrating for the participants.
Deterring Early Solutions
Another reason to enforce the process as it stands is to deter any early suggestions of solutions. Humans are natural problem solvers and we love to help people in general. This is mostly a good quality but when it comes to exploring problems and hearing their context and needs, suggesting solutions too early in the process can stifle creativity and deeper understanding. By sticking to the process as it is laid out, you make sure that the problem is fully explained and understood as possible for any ideas, comments, or solutions begin to direct the discussion in a specific direction.
CoDev Participant Roles
In this collaboration process there are 2 roles available. There is the problem owner (sometimes called the “client”) and there are consultants. The problem owner is taking their problem to the consultants for a consultation. This consultation will consist of many things based on the consultants’ previous professional experience. This process is meant to prioritise actual professional experience rather than expertise or academic training.
The 6-Step (+1) CoDev Process
Step 0 – Choosing the Problem
Although this is not an official first step, it is an important one. An individual participant’s problem must be chosen to discuss.
Step 1 – Presenting (the Situation)
The problem owner starts by providing as much detail as possible while being as clear as possible. At this time, all consultants are silent.
Step 2 – Clarifying (the Problem)
The problem owner is only answering the consultants’ questions as briefly as possible. At no point should a solution be put forward and the questions are only for clarifying and understanding the problem. There is no judgement about the problem.
Step 3 – The Contract
This is the time where the problem is fully defined and the problem owner states what they are looking for from the consultants.
Step 4 – Consultation
This step requires each consultant (going around the table one-by-one) to share their thoughts, impressions, opinions, comments, ideas, suggestions with the problem owner. The problem owner is expected to stay silent.
Step 5 – Summary & Action Plan
The problem owner recaps what they have heard and shares it back to the consultants and then creates an action plan for going forward which the consultants can also contribute to.
Step 6 – Review
In this last step, all participants take stock of the session and share how they felt about it. Each person can evaluate the CoDev session and determine what they key learnings were.
Benefits of this Approach
The benefits of this approach are many for each peer group. First, the ability to solve sometimes complex problems in the organisation through the group’s experience (collective intelligence). Second, building a collaboration mindset in the organisation. Third, developing skills such as active listening, feedback, perspective-taking, cooperation, and trust.
This approach is best used as a recurring session with the same people. This allows them to build trust in the group and to dig deeper and be more honest about struggles. It is also important to make sure that there are no hierarchy (peer groups) issues and allows them to create a learning community amongst themselves. Many of these can exists at the same time within an organisation of course. This is encouraged.
This is a simple approach with a multifaceted outcome. It requires each participant to fully participate and respect the rules for it to be fully effective and it also requires a dedicated facilitator. The facilitator must be willing to move the process along when they see that it is moving off task or running over time.
Pamela Spokes works as a Service Designer in Metropolia’s RDI team. Originally from Canada, Pamela has years of experience in university admin focusing on international recruitment, marketing, and the international student/staff experience. With a Bachelor’s from Canada, a Master’s degree from Sweden, an MBA in Service Innovation & Design from Laurea, and her AmO from Haaga-Helia, she is interested in purposefully designed experiences that are centred around the user. Don’t be surprised if she knocks on your door to talk about learning co-creation methods through intensive learning experiences.
Payette, A., & Champagne, C. (1997). Le groupe de codéveloppement professionnel. PUQ.