Habanero’s idea lab: Facilitating roundtable discussions

Over the last few years, we’ve learned to connect and collaborate in new ways. Organizations adapted to remote and hybrid work with impressive speed and agility. Despite these successes, we’re craving deeper connection and the open, spontaneous conversations that can arise from in-person gatherings. When we get together, special things happen: we share our ideas and experiences, learn from each other and build relationships.

It’s inspired us to reboot this insight post, written in 2016, that describes one of our favourite tools for connection: the roundtable discussion.

In these meaningful conversations, we curate discussion with like-minded people across industries to explore concepts and ideas that influence our businesses. While the concept of this type of discussion is not unique, we hadn’t realized how much we’d missed the impact of the roundtable experience or the connections it fosters until we started planning our first post-pandemic gathering.

Roundtables create a beautiful symbiosis between us and the participants, regardless of who attends or what subject we explore. It’s truly a mutual benefit for everyone: 

Roundtable participants get to:

Grow their network of like-minded colleagues

We explicitly invite individuals from diverse organizations who are pursuing similar goals or are faced with similar challenges. Our roundtable conversations are as rich as they are because of the people in the room. Sometimes participants already know each other, but just as often, they’re meeting for the first time. It’s not uncommon during breaks in the session to find folks either reconnecting or making plans to stay in touch after the event.

Share perspectives on a similar issue

Roger Martin, the former dean and director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management, sums up the power of co-inquiry perfectly:

How many times do you get a blinding insight out of your own head? You get to blinding insight when you listen to somebody and take that little snippet of logic or data or whatever, merge it with something that is in your head and — whammo — out comes a new interesting thought.
Roger Martin

It’s extremely rewarding for participants to hear how peers are tackling familiar challenges (successfully or not!) in an authentic, safe and vulnerable space. This authenticity leads to deep connection that lasts beyond the time in the room.

Put learning and insights into immediate action

Through sharing each others’ perspectives and experiences, as well as our opinions or hypotheses, participants leave the roundtables with a list of ideas, tools and techniques, and suggestions they can apply immediately to their organization. After a roundtable we hosted on organizational change, one participant said, “I’ve learned a lot yesterday and implemented some of it in meetings today – people are already sick of me asking what elevation we are considering a challenge or opportunity from!”

See what working with Habanero is like

We invite participants to our offices and facilitate the roundtables in the same way in which we work with organizations and project teams. We use collaboration and design thinking techniques to ultimately create something more valuable than the sum of its parts. The roundtables are like a Habanero amuse-bouche!

In this environment, we enter as individuals but leave the roundtable feeling more like a team. We end with feeling inspired about what's working at some organizations and what could be possible at our own, and everyone leaves with a new network to connect with for future conversations.

As facilitators, we get to:

Validate our ideas in a safe space

What better testing ground for our beliefs and hypotheses than working with current clients and peers in a setting that naturally lends itself to discussion and debate? During the research, exploration and delivery of projects, we often start to see patterns and develop insights. We may discuss these concepts with clients in one-on-one settings, but the roundtable discussion format lets us dive deep into an idea, share experiences, accelerate our thinking and see how these sound to potential clients.

Discuss different ways we can work with clients to improve their business

Once an idea feels fully validated and if it’s aligned with our overall strategy, we incorporate it into our offerings. This is a delicate process, though; ideas and hypotheses don't always correspond one-to-one with an offering. We need to validate with the market to see if what we are proposing to sell actually has value to an organization.

Extend our facilitator skills

As consultants and design thinkers, we facilitate a lot of workshops. Most of our facilitation takes place within the context of a project and within one organization. These multi-organization roundtables provide us with a unique opportunity to facilitate groups of stakeholders who come from diverse backgrounds or companies, each with their own perspectives.

Build empathy and understand our participants’ organizational realities

The solutions we develop are as good as they are because we co-create with our clients. Empathy is instrumental in our project process. It ensures that what we design and develop makes sense within the complex organizations in which it will live. Roundtables provide us with a similar opportunity to incorporate empathy-oriented insights into our ideas and beliefs and subsequently become better consultants.

We’ve held roundtables on topics like culture, employee lifecycle and onboarding, safety, technology topics, and organizational change, among others. If you’d like to participate in future roundtables, please get in touch.

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