Three Days in Montreal

Travelling at night by train from Toronto to Montreal (a journey I imagine would be beautiful in daylight), I wrote about my enlightening time in Toronto. Today I sit at a little kitchen table in a ground floor flat in Le Plateau with my head spinning and my heart fizzing from three full days on this amazing island.

For more than a year, I have been scheming and collaborating virtually with our friends at Percolab. A series of opportunities presented for me to be here in Montreal to serve alongside Samantha and the team in the first of a series of events with the CRHA, Quebec’s professional society of HR practitioners.

The society invited me to hold a workshop in addition to the ‘main event’. So, on Wednesday morning around 40 wonderful humans welcomed me to share with them some practices of Deliberately Developmental Organisations. Whenever I work with unfamiliar groups, especially in different countries, there is always a level of trepidation. It’s important to me to reflect an appropriate level of cultural sensitivity, so I started the morning like this:

Mon nom est Susan et je vi ens de Nouvelle Zealand. C’est un plaisir de vous vour ce matin, je vous re mercie de me permettes de parler en anglais.

As always (with me) we sat in circle and had a check-in, with the question ‘what is bringing you energy this week’? After sharing, I gave a brief overview of the concepts of a DDO, including ‘nothing extra’. Using the liberating structure 1–2–4-all, we harvested topics, which were then convened using Wise Crowds to unleash the collective intelligence of the group, practice deep listening, as well as feedback. We had two micro-sharings of process noticing, and finished with a round of intention setting evoked from the question ‘how did this process change your thinking’?

It was great to receive the following feedback:

“it is a lot easier than I thought it would be”
“no bells and whistles necessary”
“it’s safe and doesn’t cost anything!”

My critical feedback for reflection is that the session was billed as a conference/talk, where it was actually a participatory experience. I wrestle with this question, because I wonder how many people would have been turned off by the latter, but were pleasantly surprised/challenged by something different?

Thursday was the ‘main event’ around the seemingly ever-present topic ‘Future of Work’. There were 4 sessions, of which I had the pleasure of co-holding two with Samantha, the first on the Impact of AI and the second on New Organising Structures.

I was disappointed to miss the simultaneous sessions held by Nicolas Langalier, Editor-in-Chief of Noveau Projet, Canada’s magazine of the year in 2015. Launched in 2012, the magazine has been a catalyst and rallying point of progressive forces in Quebec in the 2010s, and seeks to encourage and nurture public discussion.

In our first session, groups worked in small teams to identify the tasks at their workplace that are most likely to become automated. We used a useful tool called ‘the Periodic table of Work tasks’ to visualise. The last step was to reflect and consider how the tasks that cannot be replaced will be enhanced, and moreover what is enabled in the space left by those tasks that will no longer be manual.

Periodic Table of Work Tasks

The reaction in the room was a collective sigh of relief — the topic seems so huge and overwhelming, that having a process to start identifying the potential impact in our own professional realm is liberating, and hopeful.

The second session on new forms of organisational structure was a lot of fun for me, because I just got to sit in the fishbowl for an hour :) I recognise that Enspiral sits on the far end of the progressive continuum, but we know it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing. The mood in the room felt like a collective buoyancy and confidence to try.

The the afternoon ended back in the collective circle with a ‘musical shares’ courtesy of the piano and a gifted pianist in the room; a simple process, share reflections with one person during a 3 minute musical interlude, when the music stops, shift to someone else. Repeat 3 times — I highly recommend it!

Friday was an early session; I had been invited to be the first guest in a series of Matinee Numerique Montreal events hosted by Espace Temps. What a pleasure and surprise to see around 80 people turn out to an 8AM event. Hosted by Vincent Chapdelaine and Elodie Gagnon, I shared a bit of my story and an Enspiral 101, with a focus on how we use technology to organise, and how it supports our distributed network.

It was great to finish up my trip speaking to a group of activists, anarchists and entrepreneurs. There is something really unique, but quietly resonant of home — perhaps it’s that Montreal, like New Zealand is an island. Perhaps it’s that both communities (endeavour to) integrate cultures. I am flying away awash with possibility and gratitude, for snow, fromagerie to rival Paris, new friends, and my imminent return for Tranformer Montreal on 29th April. A bientôt!