Introducing TFK Consulting
TFK Consulting is a group coaching and changing advisers based in Hamburg, Germany, who provide their service via virtual workshops, digital facilitations and face-to-face meetings or events.
Thomas Krecker is the Principal Consultant who has had extensive experience as an events manager and conference organizer. Thomas believes in the power of technology to help deliver a more sustainable, accessible and engaging event.
He has been working with digital tools for team building since 1995, using them for online and offline facilitating.
Thomas also co-creates and co-facilitate online workshops for consultants across various industries and disciplines, who want to continue with their existing service offerings and methodology without going too deep into the online world.
“Good coaching is not reserved for companies and executives. Much of the technology used today in business… can, of course, be used for all human issues, regardless of the environment in which we are located.”
Challenges with offline Open Space
Having run many conferences, events and conducting coaching sessions for businesses and companies around the world, Thomas saw the increased importance of new methodologies.
The challenge Thomas saw when conducting traditional conferences face-to-face are:
- They can be dysfunctional. Studies, including that by University of Utrecht (Stroebe, 2010) show that brainstorming in groups is less effective than thinking for yourself. Continued interruption, group dynamics, hierarchy, extroverted vs less extroverted leaders were some of the main reasons found that can block free thinking!
- They can be inaccessible. Face to face events are expensive to run and have a time resource effect as well. This can influence attendees’ ability to attend and participate.
- They can be admin heavy. Most of the breakout and workshop sessions still use flipcharts, pinboards and needles to capture feedback. This often needed to be typed up, transcribed, and translated – a heavy time investment.
- They do not meet the demands of modern agile Teams
“In 2014, we wanted to program our own solution for better meetings. Since then I have been permanently screening the market for a solution.”
As a solution they combined the Open Space meeting methodology with the advantages of digital facilitation using GroupMap, tablets and beamer instead of pinboards and flipchart, creating instant anonymity, silent work and inspiration, exactly as the participants needed.
Open Space – often called Barcamp or a non-conference – is participant driven and less organizer-convener-driven. Participants would decide about the conference agenda themselves and are also free to join or leave every conference session, depending on what interests them most.
The next challenge was, to bring this format into the online world.
This process was driven by the conviction that the so-called “new normal” in workshops and team development will need to be a mixture of online and offline meetings. The latter was to be run based on a needs capacity, and as appropriate to the teams’ priorities, such as sustainability, time and money considerations.
GroupMap Open Space as a solution
“It turned out that transferring an Open Space into online using GroupMap was much easier than expected.”
Thomas and his team synchronized individual Zoom meetings with GroupMap by pinning the meeting address on the related map. Each map was then turned into online “rooms” each with a descriptive image that made it feel like you were physically somewhere!
For example, the “Foyer” was used not only as the first point of welcome or entrance to the “GroupMap Open Space” but also a teaser practice for writing on a map. Meanwhile the bar and the information counter became easy points for participants to return, get help or just chat outside the other sessions.
Being able to enter the rooms without a host’s permission lets you stroll through and join the sessions as you would like – similar to if it was a face to face event.
“The experience and the idea of room matters a lot to the human brain. It gives orientation, security and inspiration. It adds “a feel” to the screen.”
Virtual Open Space is a hit!
According to Thomas, the “GroupMap Open Space” style is one of the most successful formats he has run.
“One of the major advantages of is the simplicity and the Pinboard look and feel. Especially in online workshops, where same participants are still stressed and get sidetracked by technical issues, the simplicity cannot be overrated.”
Through GroupMap Open Space conference can be successfully run through combining the use of features such as:
- The ability to create your own maps – GroupMap’s self customized template options allowed Thomas to transform many existing methodologies – such as many of the liberating structures, root cause analysis, ZRM (picture based resource evaluation), Ishikawa and many more – into the GroupMap templates.
- Rating functionality – the ability to rate in different dimensions for brainstorming sessions help to define and weigh each idea in the brainstorming session.
- Automatic reporting – the ability to have all the information from every session downloadable, without having to transcribe and type up – is a time and resource saving.
- Create new maps and workspaces instantly – the ability to create new maps, add new workspaces and sessions while participants are working in other maps allowed for a very agile and responsive way of delivering conferences.
GroupMap build teams and encourages brainstorming
“GroupMap is the core of team building and brainstorming for our customers, like Google or Microsoft is the core for the standard processes.”
Thomas indicated that the feedback on “GroupMap Open Space” has been predominantly very good, with most participants being impressed by the speed and the platform’s ability to create a real “group feeling” online.
“The best feedback I heard was from a group of 35 consultants who ended up using a GroupMap Open Space as a substitute for a personal meeting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They had doubts that a virtual open space would work. In the end, they came out with better and more results than in any physical meeting before.”
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