For facilitators of collective intelligence, and in particular facilitators of Professional Codevelopment Groups

Setting the framework, defining the rules of the game and of the group, this is the basics of the facilitator.

Let us measure to what extent the instruction and its understanding by all are vectors of success in achieving goals in a group?


Let’s take an example, mentioned during seminars or team-building. If I ask participants to pass on simple information without speaking, how are they doing
to take ? Naturally, 80% of them will mimic the information to be transmitted, breaking it down into rebuses and posturing.

Because the information to be communicated is simple, the participants imagine that carrying out the exercise is complicated.

Jotting down the information on a piece of paper and passing it on to your neighbor would be too obvious … When in reality this is the most effective solution!

An instruction is therefore defined above all by what it says and by what it does not say. The context in which it is said influences its understanding.


Giving an instruction is like opening a door: either it opens onto an extremely wide range of possibilities, or it opens onto a road, if you take the time to mark it.

Depending on your objective: to measure the group’s capacity to work collectively, or to bring it to a specific place, … you can play with these ambiguities or reduce them to nothing.

As a facilitator, I have learned to convey the most explicit information possible in my instructions, assuming that everyone hears what they want to hear.

So I try to make each instruction explicit by reformulating it if necessary after having stated it the first time: “What I am asking you is to (…)”. <SILENCE> “It is therefore not a question of (…) but of (…)”.

On SquareMeeting, which I use to host groups remotely, I ask attendees to upload a profile picture to the “my account” tab, in the same way that Facebook regularly suggests updating your profile picture. On several occasions, I found myself in session with participants telling me about the adventures they had gone through to find a profile picture on their computer, only having it “face to face”.

For the person receiving it, an instruction is not ambiguous. It is seen as well thought out from the start. The trust that the groups you lead in you mean that they have no doubts about your instructions and that they have no doubts that the response that comes naturally to them is adequate.


In a professional co-development session, the instruction is supreme. It’s a
guardrail. It allows the facilitator to reframe, reformulate, interrupt and
reorient the group. In the end, here is everything that well-laid out instructions can achieve in a codevelopment session:


1. Participants are on time and the session starts on time. If the facilitator has taken the trouble to tell participants that they are expected on time or even in advance, they will take the trouble to pay special attention. Conversely, if the host says nothing about it and relies on decorum, the reality of everyday life (traffic jams, misplaced toothpaste, etc.) will quickly get the better of him and his patience.


2. The participants are able to present subjects adapted to the “codevelopment” format, to expose them to the group without going into too much detail but in such a way that everyone understands what it is about before positioning their choice on a subject to be treated for the session.


3. The client of the session (the one whose topic is chosen) is oriented to present his topic, its workings, its implications, the stakeholders and its expectations vis-à-vis the session and the group. He therefore seeks to provide as much information as possible and not just to paint a general picture of the situation.

4. Consultants (participants who help the client in the session move forward on their topic are called consultants) are equipped to ask open-ended questions (which do not imply a “yes” or “no” answer), and not to answer “yes” or “no”. not provide disguised solutions at this stage. Thanks to this, the client of the session really gets to see their subject from a different perspective.

On this point, the equation is simple. If through his questioning the consultant seeks to “make the client realize” something, he is no longer in the questioning. He does not seek to discover something and does have an intention for the client of the session.

Conversely, if he is careful not to have any intention and seeks to broaden his understanding of the topic, he is likely to ask questions that will surprise the client and move them forward.

Indeed, we are not trying so much to solve a problem in codevelopment as to understand why it is a problem for the client of the session. If as a consultant I am not trying to understand why the situation is problematic for the client, I will tend to show him that in fact: either the solution is simple or there is no problem. Also, instead of helping him to open the field of his reflection, I encourage him to close in front of my analysis which suggests: “you did not know how to manage this situation, I would have known” or then “I, who have been hearing you talk about your subject for 10 minutes, know more than you”.

In the end, what really matters in the expression of an instruction is the meaning that is put into it. “If I ask you to ask open-ended questions whenever possible, it is because very often closed questions hide solutions or judgments. However, I really invite you to consider that you do not yet have the answer about the client of the session. I invite you to seek to broaden your understanding and take the time to understand why it is problematic for our client ”.

5. Everyone is able to reformulate what they understood from the client’s request in the form of a question and not an analytical summary, which can be brutal for the client of the session. Between a reformulation in the form of “What I understand of your problem is how to do for (…)” and “you are in a situation where (…) and you are looking for (…)”, the difference is considerable and otherwise important for the protection of the client of the session who, in one case receives a subjective point of view and assumed as such, in the other, a label through which he is categorized and objectified.

6. Consultants don’t censor themselves for suggesting solutions to the client in the session, they are not afraid to say “nonsense” because they know that even a wacky idea can inspire the client.

7. Because the client is told that he does not have to justify himself on the solutions that he does not keep, he carries out an action plan that suits him and that corresponds to him. He is the one who has all the information to judge which options seem relevant to him in his context. This does not mean that in absolute terms the proposals which are not accepted are not good.


Personally, I find that the finesse of co-development is due to the quality of the instructions given. Sequencing, which is ultimately quite intuitive in breaking down a problem into different phases of clarification, taking a step back and reformulating, is not enough without the finesse of the instructions, rules and framework given to the group.

So I put this vigilance into questioning into practice, as a facilitator and to best fulfill the role that the group assigns to me, being to guide them as quickly and efficiently as possible, from point A to point B.

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