What is a day of learning really like in an out-of-the-ordinary place, with innovative pedagogy? A participant tells the story of her experience.
Kicking Off with a Game
It’s a little before nine a.m. and the blue Provence skies provide a perfect backdrop to the natural surroundings of this very special place, both futuristic and calming. The cafeteria is already doing a brisk trade, with groups of people mingling here and there, and I can see the teams already at their desks behind the glass of their office windows. As agreed, I’m waiting by the olive tree, together with a dozen or so complete strangers. All seem to be very keen to learn more about this concept of “collective intelligence”.
Our coach, Antonin Léonard, is an entrepreneur and speaker specialized in collective intelligence, the sharing economy and the future of work, subjects that he has had practical experience with as a co-founder of the Ouishare collective. He invites us to follow him outside onto the lawn. He immediately catches us off guard by asking us to improvise a situation in which our boss arrives to announce we are about to be made redundant due to us being replaced by robots. What do we do…?
A little shaken, but nevertheless motived, we get started. In less than twenty minutes, the scene has been played out with brio. Proud of our creative performances and, it must be said, a lot more relaxed, we head off to start our day’s work.
Projecting Our Realities
Right from the start, each of us is asked to describe how we relate to the subject that has brought us together by talking about our company, the levels of collaboration and hierarchy and how the work is organized on a daily basis. We then share our own definitions of “collective intelligence”, which the presenter then reframes.
Without further ado, he puts us into doing mode: taking the challenges we all face on a daily basis, we have to work together and come up with a novel solution based on the principles of collective intelligence. This is sounding exciting!
Sat around a table, we begin to understand that we’re in for a day of brainstorming driven by discussions, activities and, above all, experiments. We split up into small groups: each one has a challenge (and opportunity), and has to come up with an answer, and a process for its implementation. Getting to know each other as we go, we thus embark on our own project.
Taking Time and a Step Back
Lunchtime comes, providing a welcome break to clear our heads and go back refreshed. Exploring the site, we take off down paths lined with rockrose, helichrysum and lavender, gradually leaving the main building behind, towards the wooden accommodation units. We climb the outside staircase to the viewpoint that looks out over the plain. The Montagne Sainte-Victoire and the Etoile Range dominate the horizon, with the surrounding pine trees marking out the protected natural areas in the immediate vicinity.
This overlook provides us with a better understanding of thecamp’s environment, with its glass cylinders set out like biological cells and covered with a protective canopy to “allow ideas to bloom”, as the campus’ designer, architect Corinne Vezzoni, describes it.
We come back to Earth gently with a vegetarian meal, an opportunity to try out a way of eating with a low environmental impact.
Changing Our Approach Concretely
If the learning itself uses concrete examples, the way the workshop is conducted is based around the theoretical principles and fundamental practices that a collective intelligence strategy has to take into account if it is to succeed. So, at each stage of our prototype’s construction, our coach makes reference to very diverse – yet interconnected – notions, such as an organization’s power structures, principles of independence and alignment, the importance of myth, ideas of trust and commitment, the experimentation approach and the role of the troll.
After much thought and discussion, and taking into account the key principles and formulas at each stage, we formalize our hypotheses, set out the processes and, lastly, put the finishing touches on our prototypes for innovation or culture change within the organization.
The results far exceed our expectations. We leave the workshop with promising leads we can follow up back at our companies, a desire to act and, above all, a firm belief that we now understand what working collectively and intelligently really means!