I first learned about co-development when I joined ViTi in 2016 as a saleswoman. The company’s founder led remote co-development sessions every week to introduce our digital co-development approach to employees who wanted to experience it for themselves. (By the way, if you’re interested, the sessions are still held every week and you’re welcome to find out more about the method and its remote application on our dedicated platform: to
register, click HERE).

I attended these sessions every week, so when the facilitator of these sessions had to be replaced at short notice, I immediately agreed to do it. I wasn’t trained but I had attended about fifty sessions as a participant. Over time, I started to lead these sessions and participants’ feedback confirmed my beliefs that I knew what I was doing and that further training wouldn’t be necessary.

Nevertheless, I completed some formal training and received my certification. During the course and afterwards, when I saw the difference in myself as a facilitator, I realised that this formal training was vital. I hope to show you why in this article.

Why write an article on the importance of training when you want to lead co-development
sessions?

Because ViTi offers co-development training, you’ll say! Yes, but that’s not the only reason: because it’s more complex than it seems and training isn’t enough on its own! It’s the first step; the second involves putting theory into practice! We’ll come back to that.

Let’s start by tackling some misconceptions.

1. Co-development is a process which is carried out

Yes and no. Each session is structured around six stages: 1. Presentation of the subject, 2. Clarification, 3. Request and Contract, 4. Consultation, 5. Commitments, 6. Feedback and Learning. A facilitator who is familiar with these steps will be able to give clear instructions for each stage. However, the process is more complex than it seems.

Firstly, the facilitator plays a role in forming the group to ensure that the following conditions are met: parity of participants, no hierarchical link, no conflict of interest, a willingness to participate and open up to others by following the method.

Forming a group is not something to be taken lightly! The same can be said of the stage when subjects are presented. The trained facilitator is able to guide each of the participants as they present a subject and can identify potential flaws in an apparently “valid” subject, namely one which is genuine, current, unresolved, actionable, non-technical and important.

Indeed, with training and practice, the facilitator can identify the following pitfalls: 1. Presenting a “fake” subject for fear of opening up to others, 2. Presenting a subject which is not actually actionable, 3. Presenting a subject which the participant doesn’t actually want the group to help with or act on, 4. Presenting a subject which cannot be addressed because it provokes too much emotion, etc.

The facilitator’s training, which includes supervised practice, and experience helps him or her to develop intuition and the ability to question each participant at the beginning of a session to prevent a session from going awry because of a subject which isn’t “co-dev compatible”.

What’s more, at every stage, the facilitator must use this intuition to be alert to anything which a novice would be unlikely to see: changes in posture, tone of voice, the lexical field used, silences, the group’s reactions, etc.

2. Co-dev is all about enforcing key principles

Yes… and no. Although the main principles of co-development (avoiding judgement, confidentiality, kindness, engagement) seem simple to apply, enforcing them throughout the session is actually quite complicated.

What should you do when a participant slips up and makes a judgement? It’s vital to “redirect” without hurting him or her, to protect the group and the client’s integrity. But when the words have been said, it’s not so easy to get back on track. As soon as a participant starts speaking, a trained facilitator will be able to tell if things are going in the wrong direction and can interrupt the person immediately to encourage them to reformulate their words. The same facilitator will also be better able to deal with the situation, having been trained to do so.

Of course, when everything’s going well, it’s not complicated to apply these principles. But the reality is that there’s a “risk” every time someone speaks, because we’re all learning and we can all make mistakes. It’s when things “go wrong” that the facilitator can see these difficulties and what’s missing. 

How could I have avoided this issue which disrupted the session? How could I have got things back on track? How should I deal with strong emotions (crying, anger, etc.)? These questions can be answered with training and lots of practice. 

For example, the facilitator intervenes in the clarification phase to help the group to explore aspects which they may not have considered previously. 

The facilitator does the same thing during the consultation stage, providing insight and serving as a model for the group’s participants, encouraging them to reconsider their responses. During the Request and Contract stage, the facilitator helps the client to formulate a request and think more deeply about the issue in order to identify the real need which the group should focus on.

 

3. Facilitating co-development sessions means facilitating group interaction

Yes, but that’s not all! What is the role of a co-dev facilitator? It’s not enough to carry out the process in accordance with the principles of co-development. The facilitator’s role is to help the group and each of the participants to take a step back from their professional practice and develop new skills. Focusing on “real situations” makes this possible, but this is actually a pretext which makes it possible for all the participants to question their way of working. Co-development isn’t about problem-solving; instead, it’s about making progress with peers. Consequently, the facilitator has a crucial role in developing the group’s skills at each stage of the process.

4. So what do we learn by attending a training course on co-development if we already know the process and the principles?

Firstly, the collective intelligence of a group has benefits when it comes to practising, receiving feedback and questioning ourselves about complex cases and how to approach them; it can also be beneficial when it comes to trying out different facilitator approaches, creating our own routines, finding our own style and unique flow and so much more.

Imagining or revisiting the “worst case scenario” helps participants to anticipate, alleviate or live through these situations; this benefits the group. Questioning the scope of the facilitator’s role and continuing to discuss and interact after the training course, as part of a continuous learning process, really does make all the difference.

At ViTi, our co-development training course includes an e-Codev® day to learn about how to lead remote co-development sessions on the SquareMeeting platform. It consists of 3.5 days of in-person training and 6 sessions of remote learning, each lasting 2 hours. To find out more, contact us on +33 (0)6 73 94 59 93 or support@viti-coaching.com

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