[Interview] Collaborative workshops as cornerstones of the “Grand Paris Sud”

This interview is offered in collaboration with Madmagz Com'In, the leading technology agency specializing in internal communication. It was first published in French on Com'In, their reference site on internal and digital communication that help internal communication professionals meet the challenge of digital with advice, testimonials, practical cases and trends.

A collaborative workshop

Founded in 2016, the Grand Paris Sud urban agglomeration is an economic and cultural hub of the Greater Paris region. Collaboration was key in turning this project into a reality: collaborative workshops increase both productivity and engagement of all relevant parties. To learn more about it, we sat down with Franck Plasse, advisor to Grand Paris Sud vice-president Michel Bisson, who explained the collaborative approach underlying this ambitious urban planning project.

The Grand Paris Sud

Can you tell us what the “Grand Paris Sud” project is all about?

The “Grand Paris Sud” urban agglomeration was founded in 2016 by 24 municipalities. From the start, mayors of all these districts knew very well they needed to build a territorial structure that could embody the project they wished to promote, create a common vision of their shared identity and determine the main operational goals. Over one year of collaborative work brought together all the relevant stakeholders: the conurbation’s elected officials and personnel, municipal representatives, the public, the associations, the private sector and all the other parties involved.

Why is using collaborative processes relevant for this project?

There are two main reasons. And that works for any given project. First, giving the floor to a wide variety of opinions and points of view radically improves the overall efficiency and productivity: gathering the inputs of all the stakeholders will enable you to create new synergies and come up with innovative solutions. Moreover, bringing together all the parties involved helps you pave the way for what lies ahead: when the project is co-constructed from the very start, everyone can relate to it in a more personal way and be more actively involved. The project literally becomes their own.

What are the most efficient methods and tools? Why?

A lot of my work is based on gamification: using games, recreational activities or other kinds of entertainment tools.

My preference goes to card games, which are both extremely easy to implement and have great potential to create new kinds of dynamics. I also use a tech-device that I can now hardly do without: Stormz, an incredibly efficient Meccano to generate collaborative workshops on tablets.

How do your collaborative workshops usually unfold?

I can give you an example of a typical problem-resolution collaborative workshop designed for a team already comprised (a half-day session).

A collaborative workshop step-by-step with Stormz

- Sequence 1: Guidelines (15’): Presentation of the workshop’s topic, sequence and method.

- Sequence 2: Perception of the problem (30’): Using the problem map, a poster showing a visual representation of problems typology, to express individual opinions regarding the workshop’s topic, followed by discussions in small groups.

- Sequence 3: Search for solutions (30’): With the takeaways of sequence 2, and using picto-soluces, cards showcasing visual representations of bricks of solutions, to promote individual critical thinking regarding potential solutions, followed by discussions in small groups.

- Sequence 4: Problem-solving (30’): Using Stormz and the takeaways of sequences 2 and 3 to start pinning down the solutions imagined by each group.

- Sequence 5: Assessing solutions (30’): Using Stormz and the takeaways of sequence 4 to evaluate, on the tablets and within each group, the solutions imagined by their peers.

- Sequence 6:  Results consolidation and debate (30’): With the takeaways of sequence 5, proceed with a group discussion and debate about the ranked inputs.

- Sequence 7: Decision-making and conclusion (15’): With the takeaways of sequence 6, collectively agree on the retained solutions (for a second work session and/or immediate implementation, depending on the context).

How frequently do you organize them? Who are the participants?

It depends. The only unshakeable parameter is that the participants are the stakeholders. I enjoy organizing events to leverage everyone’s efforts and inputs in a short period of time. For the “Grand Paris Sud” conurbation project, I designed a half-day event where several hundreds of municipal counsellors worked together simultaneously … and remotely from all the 24 cities; I also organized twelve summer brainstorming workshops for the personnel at all the learning centers of the territory.

Did you run into any major obstacles when implementing the collaborative actions?

Not really. The design phase sometimes requires you to be extremely meticulous to create a blueprint that’s both flexible and robust enough. That’s where a tool like Stormz is helpful. Sometimes, I also have to regain the trust of our partners or participants who can be skeptical due to previous failed experiences with “post-it” animations, summer-camp style, which some gadget-friendly consultants are crazy about. But it’s rarely a major obstacle.

Do you have any advice to give to someone who would like to generate collaborative dynamics within a specific project?

There are a few basics not to miss out on in order to set the overall framework of the project. It can be summed up in four questions:

  1. What kind of behaviour do you wish participants to adopt during the action?
  2. What kind of knowledge will the participants need to get acquainted with?
  3. What kind of interactions do you wish participants to have?
  4. How fun can/should the event be?

Once you’ve determined these four parameters, coming back to it frequently to make sure you’re not drifting away from the initial framework ensures over 50% chances of success.

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Meet Us in Saint-Louis at the "Leading for Creativity" conference

Stormz and Leadership Dialogues are partnering with The John Cook School of Business, Saint-Louis University to turn their next conference into a unique collaborative experience that will engage all participants, foster cross pollination and increase learning efficiency.

Leading for Creativity is a "one-day conference delivering cutting edge advice from research and practice for leaders, managers or consultants who wish to help those who yearn to be more creative in their professional lives".

Stormz will both power brief interactive activities (Q/A, Feedback, KnoWonder) to engage the audience, and facilitate in-depth large group collaboration sessions during the event. Alexandre Eisenchteter, our co-founder, will also share his experience on combining Creative Problem-Solving Techniques with digital technology to deliver innovative creativity sessions with large groups and/or remote teams.

Stormz and Lego

You may know that we are firm advocates of combining low-tech devices with high-tech tools. So it probably won’t come as a shock to you to know that we are particularly excited at the prospect of co-facilitating a Lego Serious Play + Stormz session with our facilitation partners Ellen Moran and Greg Bliss.

If you would like to join us there, you can register on the conference website.

Are you a conference organiser? Stormz partners with a few selected conference organisers to help them deliver a unique collaborative experience that will engage their audience like never before. Contact us if you wish to get more information regarding our "Conference Partnership Package".

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10 reasons why you should use Stormz


Seminars, just like training sessions or corporate meetings, are now going digital to harness its incredible power in simplifying and strengthening interactions. As is the case for any ground-breaking innovation, one must consider both the pro’s and con’s and keep in mind what this can bring to your event. After having facilitated hundreds of collaborative workshops, we decided it was time to take a step back and write down the 10 key arguments pleading in favour of our digital solution. Would you like to learn what are the main benefits of using Stormz and how to present them to your clients or colleagues? This article is for you.

How to go beyond the simple quiz and really address the heart of the problem?

"By combining an interactive solution and the science of facilitation."

There are two ways to improve interactions during an event: hiring an outside facilitator or using a digital solution. Thanks to Stormz, you can choose a digital tool that will boost collective intelligence. Furthermore, you can not only ask us to take care of all the technical aspects, but you can also benefit from the experience of our consultant-facilitators to design collaborative workshops combining the art of facilitation with digital instruments.

"By choosing a custom-made methodology for the issue(s) at hand."

Stormz is highly flexible: you will therefore be able to use collaborative dynamics to address any given topic, either by adapting your own methodologies or by using ready-to-use activities. Stormz gives you access to all the necessary features to brainstorm, decide or develop solutions, enabling you to foster truly collaborative discussions. You can also combine Stormz with manual activities, such as prototyping or graphic facilitation – taking pictures for example.

"By favouring in-depth discussions for a stronger appropriation"

Lewin experiment’s demonstrates how an interactive discussion, after the announcement of a major change, strengthens the participants’ involvement and engagement for the suggested solutions. Discussions and collaboration, not only favours an in-depth understanding of the issues at hand, it increases the participants’ involvement and enables us to address everyone’s doubts. Confrontation of diverging opinions improves decision-making thanks to a deeper understanding of all the different interests at stake.

How to neutralize negative group bias?

"One iPad for three, the guarantee of a reliable and balanced collaboration"

By giving out one iPad for every group of three participants, you foster dynamic and creative discussions whilst enabling sufficient group moderation to generate the most relevant digital contributions. Groups of three people are small enough to involve potential free-riders or temper the ardour of more assertive figures, but remains flexible enough to enable the free expression of creative ideas.

"With Stormz, everyone has their say, even with hundreds of participants"

Stormz shatters the usual barriers – such as shyness or hierarchy – enabling everyone to express themselves, anonymously on their own smartphone or an iPad. Participants will not be discouraged, as is often the case if they have, for example, to queue in front of a post-it board or wait in line to take the stage. Anonymity, by putting egos aside, is a liberating factor and increases the number of inputs, as well as their relevance.

"Favour discussions by showing, live, the key take-aways and results"

When we leave the floor to an assembly, it is important to make the participants feel that what they say has been heard and that their input is taken into account. Thanks to Stormz, you will be able to give participants a first feedback during the event, through a word-cloud, a histogram or a bubble-graph. Pay attention to their reactions while they read their own contributions in order to ensure a truly constructive debate.

“How to ensure a smooth and reliable workshop?”

"Stormz interface is simple, highly intuitive and adaptable to all settings"

On a smartphone, tablet or laptop: either way, Stormz technical support is flawless, fast and efficient for all participants, enabling them to focus on the issues at hand. Our interface is available in several languages (French, English, Spanish, Russian and Italian) and can be accessed from any browser.

"Use the Stormz Box to connect all your participants!"

No more awkward moments when your internet access falls apart. The Stormz Box is the most powerful tool on the market, generating a local, reliable and secure Wi-fi network able to connect up to 90 devices simultaneously. Stormz can also extend this network and adapt it for more ambitious settings. This guarantees an effort-less experience, without any connection break, even with hundreds of participants, in a train, castle or scattered over several separate rooms.

"Rend hundreds of iPads for your event"

Stormz handles all the logistics, the iPads and Wi-Fi, to provide the most secure, neutral and reliable setting for your participants. They will find their iPad waiting at their seat at the start of the event, fully charged and ready-to-use, thus enabling them to focus on the content of the workshop. At the end, Stormz takes back the iPads and makes sure they are sent back in good conditions.

"No need to spend your nights deciphering post-its"

Conclude your event by exporting, with a simple click, all collected data in the format of your choice (Pdf, Word or Excel). Thus giving more time for facilitation, analysis and discussions about the results.

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Stormz takes care of your facilitation!

Using Stormz for your workshop is like riding a bike: you must first believe in yourself, practice a lot and anticipate anything that might go wrong. Once that’s settled, you have many different options to become an accomplished facilitator! Either for high-end corporate seminars ou smaller informal prototyping group activities.

We are here to assist and guide you along this road:

## To answer all your questions

We launched a live-chat available from our website so that you can ask any question you may have, should they be highly specific, such as “how do you protect my data?” or more general, like “Any idea regarding a training session with students?”.

You can always get in touch with us to solve any problem that may arise. You only have to press the bubble-shaped window in the lower right corner of the Stormz interface. If ever you happen to leave before getting an answer, you will receive it by email.

## To learn how to use Stormz

The best way to grasp how Stormz works is to listen to an experienced professional explain everything in a clear and detailed presentation. He will talk about every feature and illustrate it with concrete examples taken out of past experiences. At the end, you will have a better understanding of all the possibilities Stormz offers you.

## To share best practices

What’s the difference between a good school and a great school? The ability to learn, not only from your teachers, but from your peers. So, would you like to meet other Stormz users?

We organize on a regular basis sharing hours to gather participants from all around the world. Based on the American time zone, they will allow you to meet experienced facilitators and get better acquainted with Stormz. A great event to take part to, even if you’re not American! Contact our North-American office to make sure you don’t miss the next one ;)

## To follow our latest updates

Stormz is constantly evolving and designing new features, always extending the scope of facilitators’ tools. To get updates on our latest developments, you may use several channels:

  • The news that you can read in the bottom right corner of Stormz, briefly summarizing our new features and workshop templates.

  • The blog comprising in-depth articles about design-thinking and facilitation. You will also find descriptions of workshops highlighting the use of specific Stormz features, like vote or pictures.

  • The newsletter summarizes our latest news, features and events. Don’t hesitate to register to receive it on a monthly basis.

## To plan ahead

Stormz gives you the possibility to lead an ambitious facilitation, for up to several hundreds of participants! However, you also know that, in order to manage the best possible workshop, you should take all the necessary precautions. Stormz is here to assist you with a few “packages”: - Have a Stormz facilitator read through your workshop to ensure that it perfectly matches your goals and, if necessary, have him give you facilitation tips.

  • Ask for a remote technical assistance service to solve problems that may arise and address all possible contingencies.

  • Hire an assistant facilitator who will handle Stormz and guarantee the best collaborative experience. You will therefore be able to focus more on facilitation and yours participants.

You need only ask!

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A playful template to develop your team with LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®

Today is a special day! We're really proud to announce a new template named "Develop your team". Created in collaboration with Strategic Play, a great team who empower organizations to unlock their creative genius using play, and especially LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methods.

To celebrate this collaboration, we welcome Jacquie Lloyd Smith from Strategic Play and Author of the book "Strategic Play: The Creative Facilitator's Guide", as a guest on our blog. She's sharing her 20 years’ global experience in the design and delivery of incredible learning experiences in a playful way: a card deck featuring LEGO® visuals and now powered by Stormz!

A deck card using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® and powered by Stormz

So we leave it to Jacquie to tell us the genesis of this collaboration and how you can develop your team with this practical, visual, and user-friendly technique.

Stormz Technology and LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methods

By Jacquie Lloyd Smith

Have you ever met someone, maybe only briefly, but your paths continued to cross until you finally connected?

Well this is the story of how we at Strategic Play and the creative minds at Stormz began an interesting visual project. The story takes place over a span of five years and starts in Buffalo, New York, going to Sestri Levante, Italy; back to New York, then to Toronto and Whistler, Canada; and ends in Paris, France. Beautiful locations for the happenstance meetings, but the backstory is not as interesting as the final outcome—the electronic visual cards.

Back in June of 2016, we (Jacquie and Steve) at Strategic Play® were in the final stages of production of the cards, when Mary Ellen introduced us to the Stormz technology tools. From the first iPad swipe we knew it was a partnership made in heaven. The teams at both Strategic Play and Stormz had already met at a number of creativity conferences, but until this moment we did not know what we were going to develop together.

We are happy to announce we have now firmly connected our 3D Diagnostic Cards, based on LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methods, with Stormz. These cards are available online in an introductory set in the complementary Stormz Visual Package. If you are a facilitator using Stormz, make sure you try out the set and please send us an email to let us know what you think.

Build your values on LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® with Stormz

Stormz is designed and developed for group discussion and decision making, it is proving to be a powerful tool for creative problem solving. The technology allows for groups to identify, discuss, vote, and comment on concepts and ideas in order to gain greater understanding.

The diagnostic cards are powerful, pocket-sized tools for inspiring creative thinking, problem solving, decision making, and collaboration. Why do people love these cards and what makes them so powerful?

The LEGO® vignettes use a degree of satire to convey powerful meanings about human conditions.

With this form of communication, it’s easy for anyone to say “The Emperor has no clothes.” In a world where people often hide behind language, tread carefully not to offend, and search for real meaning in communication, these visuals help conversations get to the point where people can tell the real story in a way that is perhaps lighthearted, palatable, and most effective. The cards allow people to tell their stories and move away from a “you” point of blame to an “I” point of view.

We designed these cards to transform dialogs and enable critical conversations.

Used with the Stormz technology on smartphones and iPads, facilitators have a tool to reach large groups and facilitate powerful conversations. Online or in-person.

Create a free account and play with the new Stormz Lego template or learn more about Strategic Play Diagnostic Cards!

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