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How do you design your leadership development program? How do you evaluate and – most important – how do you redesign these programs?

Some of the key characteristics of a successful leadership development program are:

  • a blended approach: mentoring, workshops, group assignments, on-the-job assignments, reading, time to reflect, blending online and offline, on various locations
  • build a platform of enduring learning and leadership development; the larger part of learning takes place at work, while on the job; create a thriving environment for leaders to deploy what they’ve learned; it’s not a personal development program, but to lead others and drive a successful organizational development; design a customer and workforce-centric program, instead of a leadership-centric program; after all, it’s not (solely) about them but about their value to others and to the company
  • deploy nowadays’ technology that inspires, engages and provokes people’s thoughts and behaviours; AI, gamification, behavioural interventions, collaborative learning and collective intelligence can all be built-in to elevate and deepen learning from each other
  • design with reality as well as the future in mind: collect vetted insights, by means of collective intelligence approaches such as CircleLytics Dialogue to learn about priorities, challenges and upcoming changes that require (new) leadership. Stay close to the people who know best what’s needed most, as research show, to become more effective and add more value; for this don’t limit yourself to insights from participants, yet also from employees.

What do these guys teach us?

A recent article in MIT Sloan Management Review inspired us to cluster and assess our own experiences and those of our customers’. The article was authored by Hannes Leroy Moran Anisman-Razin and Jim Detert.

CircleLytics is applied to collect qualitative, validated insights and recommendations, far beyond what focus groups and surveys can deliver. These insights are essential to your design and redesign. Hence, to answer any question your CFO should ask about the impact your programs make. “Spend only what you can justify” (as the article mentions), and added to that, take opportunity costs into account: what else can be done with the costs that are involved.

The authors highlight that those responsible for selecting such programs often struggle. “Struggle to show how their spending has produced significant, enduring changes in participants’ individual capacities or collective outcomes, yet operating executives continue to fund these efforts without requiring such accountability.”

They further on the topic by reframing and rephrasing evaluative items into meaningful questions. The following table can be found in their article as well. They emphasize better questions to prompt their thinking and improve (re)designs.

Some of our own reflections

Prepare to followup on results of your evaluation and alter your program accordingly. While evaluating, don’t ask questions about things you won’t change. That’s really acceptable. You might have valid reasons beyond participants’ views on the leadership program. Participants might overlook longterm aspects that you as a professional, or outside experts, consider of essential value to the company.

Still, monitor closely how your assumptions work out over time.

By corollary, deliberately identify dynamic aspects of the program that with surety can and will be redesigned, once evaluation underpins its necessity; when working with external vendors of such programs, select the ones that are clearly open for feedback and redesign. Don’t hold back on improving your program, merely by vendor’s argument that “other companies want this”, while your participants’ feedback clearly underpin that change is needed.

LDP managers are more keen on evaluating and redesigning programs once they have the better tool perform these evaluations: surveys nor focus groups pay off sufficiently. You need evidence, a data-driven approach to validate your program and clarity on what to change, how and why.

When evaluating your leadership programs, take into account that up to 80% of learning evaporates in – worse case a matter of weeks to months. Hence, evaluations should be repeated, preferably after 3 weeks, 6 weeks and 20 weeks, but any other cadence that fits your case: go for it. Over time, you can better assess the impact, the strengths and weaknesses of the program.

In addition to evaluative purposes, by asking open questions you can effectively increase (and refresh) participants’ awareness. Basically, remind them of the program, how they acted on that, made alterations to their leadership style, etc.

What prompts people’s thinking?

Here are a few questions to consider, and that have been tested to work. Ask these questions again after some more weeks and months to learn how the program’s effectiveness evolves, grows or diminishes.

❓How did the program change your habits regarding [ ……. ] and can you explain what happened, so others can learn from that?

❓What aspect of the program affected you most, on a personal level, and can you share what this means for your leadership at the organization?

❓How did the program change your thinking about [ ……. ] and can you explain the benefits to the organization?

❓Can you critically reflect on the most striking impact on your team, since and because of joining the program?

❓How would you alternatively have spent 25% of the money on this program, now that you’ve finished the full program?

❓What situation(s) did you encounter by putting to work what you’ve learned?

❓What one suggestion do you have to significantly improve the program’s effectiveness for future candidates and what’s your thought about the benefits of this suggestion behind this?

❓What do you consider an aspect of our company (systems, culture, anything) that holds you back on deploying all you’ve learned?

❓How would you alternatively have spent 50% of the time this program has taken?

❓What did the program bring you, that changed the way you lead, yet diminished over time? Why did this happen you think? Can you change it back?

❓What surprised you most after […..] in the way you lead others to perform? Can you reflect on that?

❓Is anything blocking you from leading others and developing our organization that should be addressed in these programs?

❓What changed in markets, culture or anything, that impacts how we (should) lead the organization?


It’s the people, not the participants ….

Don’t forget, their leadership, hence, your program should bring value to the people and organizational development, with positive customer and revenues driven outcomes. Ask employees of the participants’ departments what’s their reflection on their leadership’s development, impact on culture and quality of management. Since these are critical factors for talent to stay or go, it makes sense to take these aspects into account and become more effective. Furthering on this, employees can be engaged to build more intelligent programs, tailored to talent’s needs. It doesn’t make sense, and CFO’s should question this, if your leadership development program is designed topdown, without sufficient input from employees, especially newly onboarded talents.

❓What do you wish for your leadership to develop better, for the benefits of the whole department/company?

❓What do you see your leadership improving at, and what’s the meaning for the team in your eyes?

❓What’s needed most from leadership to help you develop and commit to the long term at our company?

❓How would you promote our leadership style to job applicants?

❓What do you doubt or don’t like most about leadership in general at our company? What’s the effect right now?

❓What do you doubt or don’t like most about your specific leadership? What would be the positive outcome of changing this?


Evaluation is great, preparation is another…

CircleLytics Dialogue is also deployed to prepare for upcoming programs or modules of your program. This way, you can do check-ins, assign tasks, set and learn about expectations, and more. Consider these questions to ask some days, but not more than two weeks in advance:

❓In a few [days, weeks] you’re invited to module N of the program. What do you expect to be better at, for the people you lead, upon finishing this module?

❓What do you bring to the table, during this upcoming module N and how can you unleash that value or experience?

❓Can you work on the following three challenges to prepare for the next part of program. Others will learn from your perspectives, as you can from theirs.


It’s in your hands

In all of above instances, open questions ignite people’s thinking, and CircleLytics’ unique approach secures their learning from others’ different perspectives. This deepens theirs as well as your learning and understanding. Design, evaluate, redesign based on collective intelligence from employees, alumni leaders and managers and (prospective) participants. Leadership development programs require first of all your leadership, open to multi perspectives to create value that lasts. Again and again.


Plan a meeting in our agenda to exchange thoughts about how CircleLytics can elevate your great work and LDPs here.



If you’re interested to convert from survey (one-step) based listening and move up the listening maturity ladder, to introduce dialogue (two-step) based listening and drive actionability? Just let us know, and trust us: it is easier than you imagine.

Just bear in mind a few things:

  • employees are ready (for a long while) to leave behind survey fatigue and lack of action
  • managers are ready: they want to listen to employees, yet, it should be tailored and related to business
  • you can take with you any question from your previous platform and re-use these, after some re-designing that we showed you in part 1 of this blog; you can even keep the closed-end part to keep on collecting scores and compare notes with previous years and cross-departments
  • you can also choose CircleLytics Dialogue as add-on to your current platform and connect our data to your existing platform to leverage insights and get to higher quality, more actionable data.


We share this Ventana Research outcome, showing the absence of convincing satisfaction with regard with current technology, and surveys being the dominant technology in the current arena.


Now how about adding dialogue to complement and elevate surveys

Let’s now take a few different questions, from Qualtrics, and examine and explain how strategy 2) would work out: adding-on dialogue or separate, followup dialogue based listening, for the situations in which your company wants to keep surveys for some purposes but recognizes survey results alone fail to deliver.

Why would you do so by the way? We can imagine, in addition to the reasons mentioned in the above, you might want a transformational phase: experiment with new listening solutions, while not giving up on incumbent ones. Maybe for rational reasons to compare notes, ie. compare outcomes of surveys and CircleLytics Dialogue.

You can compare this and learn about dialogue:

  • respons rates are usually higher, in less time, without pushing employees to fill in stuff
  • employees invest heavily in writing/explainging via textual answers and recommendations
  • dialogue is rated 4.3 out of 5 by over 50,000 employees now, on a consistent basis
  • dialogue gets you to action 90% faster: simply compare cycle times of surveys vs dialogue
  • ask managers: they’re not burdened with post-survey meeting requirements but turn recommendations from dialogues instantly into results; this will be seen by their superiors.


So, let’s examine some survey questions, and see how you can build dialogue on top of that.

Two more Qualtrics questions are:

“What is our company doing well?”

 “What should our company improve?”


Here’s a few alternatives if your survey platform allows you to edit these questions.

“What is our company doing well and why is this meaningful to you?”

“What is our company doing well and how does this impact you?”


“What could our company improve according to you, and can you explain us in your own words?”

“What should our company improve and why do you pick this?”


This way, you accomplish two important aspects of open-ended questions:

  • make people think harder and this way invest themselves deeper
  • make results more valuable, by avoiding short-cutted answers or just one word


Now it’s time for dialogue!!

If your survey platform allows you to change the generic questions into – for example – our versions, you can simply export those open-text answers from the survey audience. Import these in the CircleLytics Dialogue platform, or use an API for a (semi/full) automated process. Start the dialogue. All respondents now receive first your personalized message inviting them to the dialogue. They will see others’ differing answers and let them vote these up and down. Our AI is driving the distribution of 100s or many 1,000s of answers in varying sets of 15 answers. People will also add recommendations to enrich their (up and down) scores. This way respondents learn to think even deeper and you increase their awareness of the challenges of some of the answers from coworkers.

CircleLytics’ AI and natural language processing techniques first read all open answers, compare and cluster these, upon which unique, varied sets of 15 answers are produced and offered to each respondent. This increases their learning, engagement and gets you their up/down votes ánd enrichments via recommendations, hence, gets you the much-needed actionability.

Management and HR will receive an instant, vetted-by-the-people result, contextualized by by the intelligence of the crowd of employees. This is way more valuable and significant compared to the mere result of natural language processing. Only humans, by reading, interpreting, reflecting and voting up/down, can produce natural language understanding. After all, it’s their value system and collective experiences that give specific meaning to language. That’s the power of dialogue: it’s the understanding of what people say and mean, that helps management to understand what to do next.

What did we examine and learn in this latter part?

  • if for whatever reason, you keep your surveys, then we recommend to consider adding the open-ended part of any closed-end question
  • this way you get more relevant, valuable insights to run the instant dialogue as followup
  • with full respect of privacy for employees, you collect contextualized, vetted results and leading recommendations via the two-step dialogue process
  • instead of mere language processing, you leverage your results to collect language understanding and prioritized recommendations, hence, what actions to take
  • this two-step dialogue process proves to be highly engaging and appreciated by employees and managers.

And now let’s, finally, see how to followup your survey by dialogue, via a separate step.

For this, let’s learn this Philips case, explained in his own words, by one of the directors.

“At Philips, we conduct bi-annual employee engagement surveys. These are standard questions we ask Philips employees worldwide. This survey is intended to gauge the ‘temperature’, asking ourselves, ‘are we still on the right track? It does not yield any qualitative answers that drive my decision making today, because these are closed-ended questions that never vary. The textual answers remain unweighted: I don’t know what importance or sentiment others attribute to them, so I can’t derive reliable, decision-making value from it. We wouldn’t be able to make good comparisons with previous surveys if the questions were varying, so these global engagement surveys with generic questions make sense. But this also means that you cannot put forward specific topics to ask questions about for superior, faster decision-making. You will have to come up with another solution. The survey platform and surveys do not answer the ‘why’ and ‘how can we improve’ questions, to summarize it.”

and furthering:

“In a word, the survey is good for its purpose but not for decision making purposes. At Philips, we have high standards and strong ambitions, also when it comes to taking action where necessary. I wanted to gather more qualitative feedback that I could use within my team. So, I took the initiative to use the CircleLytics Dialogue. The Employee Engagement global team supported my choice because the engagement survey is not used for qualitative deepening, let alone co-creation, to tackle and solve (local) challenges together.

I used CircleLytics to ask concrete questions from two perspectives:

  • I wanted to dive deeper into some (of the many) topics from the global engagement survey where my region achieved insufficient or very high scores. I wanted to understand the why of it all and learn what decisions are crucial.
  • I wanted to tackle some issues in my own management agenda. I used CircleLytics for co-creation sessions with my people to make them aware, involve them in these issues, understand the root causes, and create solutions.”

Read here about the complete case, to learn how to followup your generic survey by two-step dialogues to dive deeper, and engage people in vetting others’ answers, while learning from these differing perspectives.

Now we’ve examined all instances:

1) replace engagement surveys by engaging dialogues and, if needed, keep surveys for focused research including external benchmarking,

2) followup your survey’s improved questions by an instant dialogue, and followup your survey’s result by a dialogue for specific items, and even for specific groups.

What triggered your thoughts most about our vision on people, listening and collectively move forward? What experiments are you open to? Reconstruct surveys, replace them, add dialogue, or other ideas?

Please contact us to exchange thoughts and analyse your company’s ambitions. We’re curious about your view on people, collective intelligence and why you want to step up your listening game.

A while ago, I was more closely introduced to a range of leading survey-based listening platforms such as CultureAmp, Qualtrics, Enalyzer, QuestionPro, Effectory, Survalyzer, Perceptyx, and a bunch of their friends. Mostly seeing them through a lens of measuring employee engagement.

I was very impressed by their capabilities and ease to set up surveys, and send, collect and compare the data. CultureAmp for example has a massive amount of data and benchmarks to explain how your scores compare to other companies in your industry. Qualtrics has enlarged its capabilities to analyse open texts, by a 2021 acquisition of Clarabridge. Lattice enables nudges, as does Perceptyx via their recent acquisition of Humu. By the way, while admitting having lacked actionability for over a decade.

This blog’s focus is not to hone in too much on the differences between surveys and the CircleLytics Dialogue, other than sharing and explaining the following.


A three-step dialogue approach vs a one-step survey

Dialogue is a structured three step approach via two rounds, compared to surveys that are designed as a one step approach. Via surveys (mainly closed-ended) questions are sent, answers collected and graphs, natural-language-processing-based textual analysis and reports are produced.

During the second step of a CircleLytics Dialogue, however, employees are more deeply engaged to read and learn from coworkers’ diverse answers to your open questions. They score these answers and as a third step, enrich these by saying what to do next, ie they give meaning and understanding to others’ answers. This way seriously co-create a company’s next step and basically: solve your question. Moreover, they will come closer to decision-making and feel involved in what’s going on at the company: this will positively impact their acceptance of and commitment (read this BCG article). Your question about fostering trust, increasing retention, simplifying work, progressing on DEI, reducing costs, innovating the company’s offering, etc. Anything. People literally spell it out. It’s the question you ask, that drives the answers you get. Managers love it, and employees love it. And that’s worth a lot. That’s the result of collective intelligence.

To us, nowadays listening is driven by the need for an increase of bottom-up decision making, asynchronous collaboration, collective instead of small-group intelligence, elevate people’s engagement and to induce people’s openness to (constant) change (see picture).

You can read here more about our view on people, on change and on leadership (we’re included in this human-first approach to change IDC paper). You will read here about our view how qualitative listening, through dialogue, fosters an engaged performance culture and elevated decision making. Qualitative listening via a two-step approach gets you a 60% more reliable result than through surveys, about what’s really going on, why, where and, most important: what to do next. This reduces time to action by 90%. Furthermore, dialogues score high on experience for employees, whereas surveys are dealing with survey fatigue and most of all fatigue caused by a lack of action. Dialogues score a 4.3 out of 5, by many 100,000s respondents by now.


Why are surveys still here?

Reasons for companies and HR leadership to still apply survey (single-step listening) technology may vary, but usually consist of things such as:

  • internal reporting systems are technically interconnected with this platform
  • benchmarking throughout the years with previous results
  • availability of external benchmarking (sector, country)
  • HR and others are used to this platform
  • there’s more stuff going on on the listening platform, eg CX, etc
  • the contract is still running.

And one reason we were recently told about, by an insider in the HR Tech industry: “survey based technology masks that leaders don’t really want to listen to what’s going on to avoid addressing issues“. What we instantly added: well, then these leaders neither want to listen to opportunities, ways to move the needle, solve problems… Listening to employees does not equal ‘listening to more problems’ nor ‘doing what they say’ but it does mean listening to solutions, listening to things that will risk your strategy, listening to things that can be more simple or reducing costs, etc. It’s the power of the questions asked, the framing of the context, that determines the outcome. As well, as when you step up your listening game, and add qualitative listening & multi step dialogue to your listening portfolio.

We never read nor hear back, nor have found any academic research that:

  • employees simply love surveys, feel taken seriously and invest themselves deeply
  • managers can instantly, seamlessly make decisions based on survey outcomes
  • CFOs underwrite the high and explicit return on investment of money spent on surveys
  • retention, trust, engagement, etc are significantly increased by survey-based listening.

Unfortunately, the investments in survey technology to engage, commit and retain employees remain unproven, except for incidental cases, exhibited on survey platforms’ websites.

We do believe that upon introducing qualitative, forward listening, connecting people with others, and them to true company challenges, companies can reposition periodical surveys, framing it as ‘doing research’, since that’s the primary focus. This might induce employees to check all the survey questions with even some pleasure, simply because they’re helping out their employer to do research, while they know that voicing their opinions is done elsewhere, in an other way.


The history of surveys explains today’s ways of doing

Did you know that surveys versus interviews and open-ended questions were, some 80 years ago, already the lesser means to an end to collect better data? Surveys gained traction only because of the speed and ease of processing closed answers, to measure the population’s sentiment; as input for government policy making during war. Not for reasons of quality, not for reasons of depth. Nor were surveys ever meant to make impact in any way on the respondents themselves: not on their thinking, not to spark creativity, not to rethink and learn from each other. Doing research is the primary, and maybe only, focal point of surveys.


After the war, surveys gained further traction to “measure anything” and find new markets post-war, as many companies had to do. War propaganda agencies turned to PR. Oil companies influenced building infrastructure to boost the automotive sector. Nowadays, people demand more than surveys and fatigue has set in, quite strongly. People want influence, co-creation, to be taken seriously, to learn from others, to better collaborate, and move forward collectively to keep their job instead of losing it. And technology is finally available to convert one-way-street surveys into interactive, qualitative dialogues, hence creating a new category of listening to people, and to build better companies with, through and because of employees and customers.

Nowadays we know to by increasing self-efficacy, empower people, and allowing (some level of) influence on decisions that concern their work or work circumstances, research (re job control, job-demand-resources-model) shows you will gain:

  • higher success rates for your change initiatives and strategic goals
  • lower experienced stress, burnout risks and cynicism, and higher satisfaction.


The old top down model failed, here’s our take from now on

We believe (and witness at many customers’) that bringing employees closer to what’s going on, diagnose problems, predict market trends, design solutions, simplify complexities, etc, not only increases trust and engagement, but also brings companies and leadership closer to success.

Take a look at this traditional ‘old’ model of leadership, listening and getting things done:


And what it brought us: disengagement, attrition, survey & meeting & change fatigue and a lack of trust.


Then take a look at this new model of leadership, co-creation, dialogue and to bring employees and customers closer to the company’s purpose, decision-making and daily improvements:


Given this latter, new model, listening to us means active-forward listening. In this context, you will understand why we redesign the way companies’ leadership, management and HR listen to and co-create with people.


Two strategies to elevate your company’s listening

We will examine and explain how to do this via two different strategies.

  1. stop surveys and move listening forward: combine specific and generic closed, specific open, and specific closed/open ended questions in platforms such as CircleLytics Dialogue
  2. keep surveys for now, with generic closed-ended questions, yet combine with dialogue. Either via a separated approach: survey results are used to select and prepare separate dialogues; either via a (zero, semi or full technically) integrated approach: survey results trigger a dialogue

Our collective intelligence and AI driven employee listening is, compared to surveys, a much-needed and timely step for HR, leadership and management to take, also considering Josh Bersin’s latest, quite shocking research (picture).

After all, it’s these days all about co-creation with employees and processing business-and people critical insights faster than competitors, to obtain high-quality employee data tailored to solutions to enable managers and people to perform. To engage as a verb, more than measuring engagement as a noun. Collective intelligence emerges when respondents are enabled to interact with each others’ thinking, solutions and ideas. This aspect of collaborative and network-based learning is what differentiates CircleLytics Dialogue from literally any single step survey technology and has put us seriously on the map and on our customers’ and analysts’ radar.


Stop survey-based technology and shift to dialogue

Let’s examine the above-mentioned first strategy (1), hence, to stop survey based technology, and move your listening spending forward and elsewhere.

CircleLytics Dialogue offers a unique, intelligent QuestionDesignLab with 3,000+ open-ended or open/closed-ended questions, covering all business and people critical topics and themes. Any question can be deconstructed and re-constructed into a better one, more specific and tailored to your people, your business, your customers. After all: everything is specific, and in specificity lies the uniqueness of what you do and sets you, your employees and company apart from the rest.

For this reason, CircleLytics Dialogue does not believe in external benchmarking, nor do we offer this as a consequence. How can you add specific value for your people and company, based on generic information about how other companies score? If trust scores 7.4 in your company, and 7.6 is the external benchmark, how can you compare these apples and oranges? Is there at least a clue? Or is 7.4 ‘high enough’? It is people and business critical to know what théy say and feel about trust, and what théy recommend to raise the bar at théir company. You don’t need an external benchmark to take them seriously and select leading recommendations to improve trust. And people certainly don’t need to be ignored for their recommendations to improve trust, just because the generic question scored above some industry benchmark. That’s not about listening, that’s about ignoring…

So let’s zoom in on a question. Let’s pick this one, from the CultureAmp much-promoted engagement survey.

“I have access to the things I need to do my job well.”

A few things we notice:

  • this changes throughout the day, the week, depending on tasks and project phase
  • this depends on my role, that might have changed a number of times
  • this depends on my coworkers and manager(s) that as well change over time

More important:

  • it’s an important question to be asked by my manager, eg throughout the month
  • it’s an important question to follow up on in, let’s say, days since it impacts performance
  • it’s a question to ask ‘in the moment’, about a present situation.

Remember, we’re biologically wired to forget things that happened. Not to remember. Asking people for input about things that happened weeks or months ago, is just a recipe to outcomes you can’t rely on, nor consider it reliable input to judge managers.

Our question design team suggests to change this question into:

“Do you currently have access to the things you need to do your job well, and can you explain or express your additional needs?”

 And …. have this question asked by managers regularly, not via HR’s generic and periodical survey. Managers can this way show they care and know what actions to take. This saves 90% time to impact. Employees feel this action-focused listening, commit to answering these questions and vote up others’. Everyone is set to go! And employees love this approach and rate it 4.3 out of 5.

Ask employees to score this question (the same as for the original CultureAmp question). And enable them additionally, through the power of dialogue, to vote coworkers’ textual answers in the second step up or down, and add tips/recommendations for specific actions to take.

Employees get to:

  • express their opinions (as we know, this directly impacts their engagement and trust)
  • learn from coworkers how they see things differently and experience this connectedness

Managers get:

  • answers that were supported up by the group, with their tips/recommendations
  • opinions that were rejected by the group, and reasons why.

Everybody happy. Managers can implement things to improve, and avoid things that are rejected by the group (voted down).

To make HR happy as well, this improved question can be asked by HR and they facilitate these type of action-oriented questions being asked on behalf of all managers of all teams or departments. The scores and overviews in the dashboard still help HR to track scores over time, and the CircleLytics Dialogue dashboard creates meaningful reports and insights based on these vetted qualitative employee listening data. HR tailors to managers’ needs and enables them to engage their employees.

Look at this other (beautiful) question from CultureAmp’s set:

“My manager (or someone in management) has shown a genuine interest in my career aspirations.”

CultureAmp mentions you should be worried when scoring below benchmark (65-75% range). We say, you should be worried when you score below what C-level has set as ambition with HR, and you as a manager of that department or team. Given the talent shortage, I must say I don’t care how other companies treat career development of their talents, as long as wé as a company do it our way.

Our take on this question to run via CircleLytics Dialogue:

“Do you experience that I show a genuine interest in your career aspirations. Can you score this question first, and then add your explanation or recommendation to learn from.”

 The manager can add the following text in the second step via CircleLytics Dialogue:

“Here’s your invitation to read what coworkers think and feel about my interest in their career aspirations. Which answers do you support, which don’t you support? Any additional tips so I can change things for the better, or keep things that should be kept? Thanks in advance!”

The manager receives a Top 5 and Bottom 5 of answers to the question, including employees’ recommendations. There’s not even a need for managers to sit down with your whatever-number of employees. They were given an equal voice in this anonymous dialogue to help out with this very important question and subsequent step to learn from, reflect on and vote up/down what others say. This phenomenon of collective intelligence (two step dialogue) goes beyond individualistic intelligence (one step survey) by a 60% higher reliability and 90% faster time to action. The manager is instantly helped, employees learned from others, felt trusted and taken seriously. Ready for action.


This whole dialogue process is securing employees’ constant privacy. All is treated and processed anonymously. Why would you send engagement surveys that people can join anonymously and take privacy away from people when you want to deep-dive?  After surveys, why would you require from managers to solve the red flags from survey outcomes “with their team without any privacy for people”? To us, that does not make sense for a few reasons:

  • if privacy is needed for the survey, then have employees explaining in a team meeting, facing their manager, why they take a negative stance on something is for sure something that requires privacy. It doesn’t make sense to take away their privacy at this most vulnerable moment
  • psychological safety is of the essence, and most leaders, HR and managers still have to tailor listening and other work processes to this much-needed thema
  • dialogue and collecting diverse thoughts and perspectives is best served by anonymity. A good read is “On Dialogue” by David Bohm, or take a look at this video by Lorenzo Barberis, PhD, or the academic “Collective intelligence in humans: a literature overview”, by Salminen.


Do you know it takes companies on average 8 weeks or longer to followup on survey outcomes? This while the essence of listening and feedback is to put it to work within days and followup, not put it aside. Do you know on average no more than 1 out of 5 managers actually followups on the results? For this reason, we recommend deconstructing employee survey based listening, and reconstruct it again in the way we’re showing your right here.

In addition to CultureAmp, let’s examine a few questions by Qualtrics, ie the EX25 list of questions, on which list we notice:

“I feel energized at work.”

 “I have trusting relationships at work.”

Here’s our redesign, but first of all we note that the question itself is influencing employees’ respons by stating ‘feel energized’ and ‘have trusting…’ instead of formulating these in a neutral way like this:

What can we learn about your recent level of energy at work, and can you explain this in your own words?

[at any closed scale of ‘low energy’ to ‘high energy’ and add a text field]


“I currently feel (yes/no) energized at work and my main reason for this is ….. ”

[at a scale of for example -3 representing no, to +3 representing yes, and add a text field]

Our design team at CircleLytics Dialogue strongly recommends to always ask a deliberate open-ended question, to extend and deepen your closed-end question.

So, instead of “I have trusting relationships at work” you better ask: “I have trusting relationships at work, at this moment, and here’s what it means to me.”. And include the second step: ask employees if they recognize/support what others say, and ask for any tip they might have.

Again, people can’t look back for weeks, let alone for months (let even more alone … a full year). To correctly compare results between responses, it’s consistent to ask everyone for their recent experience. Your results will then be comparable, since time frames are comparable. It doesn’t make sense to collect survey results without knowing what time frame employees are referring to when scoring your question low (or high). Can you imagine how unrewarding it is for managers to receive survey reports and they can defend themselves nor reconstruct textual (negative) feedback? The impact of feedback should be close to ‘in the moment’ to enable people’s brains to reconstruct what situation occurred and how the feedback induces learning. This loop is basically absent when receiving feedback late (or even extremely late), inconsistent and unclear in terms of situation it refers to. Can you image the opposite? Receiving precise recommendations, close to the situation and timeframe the brain can handle, and show employees that you took them seriously and be able to thank them? Feedback will turn into active forward listening. That’s the essence of our dialogue platform, elevating AI and the power of qualitative listening to drive actionability and move people and performance forward.

What did we examine and learn till now about our consideration to stop survey based listening technology? Please contact us if you don’t follow or think differently.

  • make questions specific instead of generic, except for maybe a few and frame these as research instead of listening and clarify the purpose of doing research
  • have questions asked by managers or at least from their angle to humanize listening
  • phrase questions in the ‘here and now’ or ‘future’; there’s where change and performance happen, not in the past: stop looking back unless you’re evaluating some project
  • introduce a deliberate open-ended part in your question to spark people’s thinking
  • add the second step to have open answers prioritized ánd enriched for fast actionability and benefit from the power of dialogue, hence learning from each other.

If you’re interested to convert from survey (one-step) based listening and move up the listening maturity ladder, to introduce dialogue (two-step) based listening and drive actionability? Just let us know, and trust us: it is easier than you imagine.

Please click here for Part 2.

In today’s rapidly changing work landscape, the relationship between employees and employers is undergoing a significant transformation. 

With increasing layoffs, more network-oriented approaches to managing companies, and new technological developments, such as the uncertain impact of AI on our jobs, trust has become critical in fostering productive, collaborative, engaged workplaces. Traditional listening methodologies, which often relied on passive, individual-focused, and point-in-time surveys along the lines of the organizational chart, no longer suffice. To continuously build trust and create thriving organizations, a new approach to employee listening is needed — one that embraces transparency, safety, and continual dialogue at the heart of matters: getting purposeful work done together.


In this article, we explore the importance of employee voice, the role of leadership in fostering trust, and the potential for dialogue-driven organizations to drive business value.  Furthermore, we provide a model for human-centric listening practices that organizations can adopt.


The Breakdown of Trust 

The employee and employer relationship has shifted in terms of power dynamics.  Pre-pandemic, the power in this relationship was held by organizations.  Yet during the Covid pandemic, we observed a shift of power to the employee, as organizations had to adapt to a world that kept employees safe and healthy at all costs.  


Today, the relationship is shifting yet again.  Amid difficult market conditions, and a constant need for change, organizations are demanding more from employees, and many have to reassess the viability of their workforce.  Over the past few months, we have seen many layoffs while rising inflation levels and cost of living continue to create anxiety for employees. Some organizations have tried to step up and amend salaries and provide a cost of living allowance or once-off bonus. This requirement put even more pressure on an already constrained budget for most organizations.


As the debate around remote work, flexibility, and AI dominates conversations, it’s essential to recognize that the conversation goes deeper than work models or technologies.


The conversation is about belonging, safety, and trust.


A sense of belonging creates an environment where employees can authentically voice their thoughts and opinions. Safety is essential for employees to feel secure when speaking up, knowing there won’t be negative consequences. Finally, trust is the foundation that enables a continuous relationship between employees and the organization, allowing ongoing listening and dialogue.


Employees need to feel heard and valued as humans while at the same time being empowered to influence direction and contribute meaningfully to their organizations. Research reveals that these debates are sometimes less about the outcomes and more about the “fair process that allows for people’s voice” followed to get there. Recent examples in the Return to Office domain confirm that organizations that involved employees in finding solutions to this new reality are adapting better. [source]


Traditional listening methods are coming up short


Unfortunately, traditional (survey) listening methods have often fallen short, lacking the ability to engage in ongoing, qualitative dialogue, often being treated with suspicion, and employees feeling uncomfortable and not taken seriously when they voice their views in the ‘comment field.’ Even though traditional surveys have a place in organizational practice for generic reasons, a mature listening strategy cannot function effectively without the underlying relationship of trust, a sense of safety, and the opportunity to voice your opinion authentically and learn from others. Listening as a means to collectively move the company forward creates a sense of belonging, collaboration, and experiencing co-ownership of the company’s success.


Trust is crucial for relationship-building, navigating uncertainties, and driving corporate performance. It involves instilling confidence that leaders will act in ways that do not harm employees and creating an atmosphere of psychological safety while co-shaping the company’s next steps. Procedural justice, characterized by fair decision-making processes and openness to employee input, plays a vital role in building or detracting from the trust relationship. 


Leadership must establish trust by actively engaging employees in understanding and addressing uncertainties, problems, market threats, internal weaknesses, etc. This approach involves acknowledging vulnerabilities and co-creating solutions collaboratively. By involving employees in problem analysis, predicting trends, and even decision-making processes and valuing their input, leaders demonstrate trust and ensure that uncertainties are not solely their burden but a collective challenge to address. Listening becomes management’s strategic tool instead of HR’s siloed survey.This inclusive approach builds a sense of ownership, empowers employees, and fosters a collaborative environment where everyone can contribute and thrive to the company’s strategy and operational goal setting and attaining [source]]


To address the trust deficit, organizations must embrace authentic listening strategies that tap into the collective wisdom within their ranks or company-wide, and even with external (customer) groups. Passive and siloed approaches to employee listening via surveys are no longer effective unless serving generic purposes. Instead, leaders must take ownership of the process and foster an environment where employees feel safe to share their perspectives and enable leaders to take multi-perspective decisions driven by the diversity of thoughts of the many. By creating opportunities for continuous dialogue, organizations can unlock valuable insights, cultivate a sense of belonging, and empower employees to contribute their expertise. All in one go. 


The components of an effective listening strategy: 


A robust listening strategy creates an environment where authentic conversations can occur between employees and the organization, benefiting everyone involved. While many organizations have some form of listening practices in place, there is still work to be done. Most listening strategies are survey-based and focused on the employee journey instead of business performance-centered dialogues.


Sometimes, organizations get caught up in the analytics, tools, and platforms, which are indeed important. However, it’s crucial to remember the underlying purpose of listening and be critical about why survey-based listening strategies didn’t deliver on their promises, hence, decreasing engagement, retention, and trust. Mature, strategic employee listening is not just about metrics and disclosing topics they mention a lot. Instead, it’s about leveraging the wisdom of the organization, collectively making things better, and surfacing key or even new insights to thrive.


To implement a robust listening strategy, six key components need to be in place:


  1. Clear focus and purpose: Clearly define why you want to listen and engage employees in the conversation, ensuring transparency about the goals and intentions of the listening strategy.
  2. Multi-channel approach: Embrace inclusivity by recognizing that employees have diverse needs and preferences when raising their voices. Explore various channels and methods to reach them authentically.
  3. Continual two-way dialogue: Solicit qualitative feedback and embrace active and passive listening. Foster an environment of open, collective, and transparent dialogue that facilitates collaboration and validation of feedback and feeds decision-making to drive the organization forward.
  4. Moments of value: Identify the key topics and experiences that matter to the organization and the employees. Engage in meaningful conversations about these moments to gain insights and understand their impact.
  5. Mixed data methods: Balance quantitative and qualitative feedback using both data analysis approaches. Generalizable findings are important, but so is diving deeper into specific topics to uncover their underlying meanings to drive specific results.
  6. Action and feedback: Ensure your listening strategy emphasizes action and feedback. Avoid the trap of passive listening followed by delayed communication. Instead, prioritize continual listening, reduce time to action on insights, and circle tangible results back to the organization.


However, these ingredients can only flourish if built on the three fundamental pillars we discussed earlier in this article: belonging, safety, and trust. Working collectively, the listening strategy contributes toward achieving business outcomes, such as performance, productivity, or engagement, to mention a few.



In the face of changing work conditions and a trust deficit, organizations must recognize the power of employee voice in building strong, engaged workplaces to move forward together. Authentic listening, continual dialogue, and shared decision-making are essential for creating an environment where trust thrives. By integrating employee voice into daily workflows and strategic decision-making processes, leaders can foster collaboration, inspire commitment, and drive business value. In this new era of dialogue-driven organizations, trust, safety, and belonging are the foundation for success.

This article was written in a collaboration between Dr. Dieter Veldsman (Academy to Innovate HR, AIHR) and Maurik Dippel, MSc. (CEO/cofounder Circlelytics Dialogue).


Plan your exchange of thoughts or demo to CircleLytics Dialogue here.



The advisors of The Growth Lab (TGL) have years of experience in improving team and organizational performance. With data-driven and people-oriented insights, they transform employee experiences in a way that also positively influences customer experiences. Particularly with strategic change tasks, it is important to involve employees as much as possible in the change. They use various methods for this. Increasing the well-being and involvement of employees is leading in their projects, says Bas van ‘t Eind, partner of The Growth Lab. Van ’t Eind: “Happier people deliver better services and successful changes. How do you keep employees happy? We investigate under what circumstances people work, how they work and we actively involve employees in change processes as much as possible. We focus on employee satisfaction. If they are happy in their job and do not become overburdened, it will have a direct effect on the primary goal of the change project. And that works out well for everyone.”

Measurable, collective opinion formation with 600 teachers

The Faculty of Digital Media and Creative Industry of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences has asked The Growth Lab to (re)assess the workload for teachers. To this end, calculation models are set up about, among other things, the workload. However, it is difficult to measure the extent to which these correspond with practice. The board and participation council of the university of applied sciences (sub-council) wanted to investigate this together with the more than 600 lecturers in permanent employment. They then enlisted the help of The Growth Lab. Van ’t Eind: “In the past, the board and the district council consulted together to arrive at the new calculation model that indicates the task load. Then it was implemented in the organization. But because so much has changed at the same time in the forms of education, the roles of teachers, the organization and teamwork, a new approach is needed.

Schedule your appointment or demonstration here to find out how the platform and dialogue advance your goals and people together.

Actively involve supporters

We have advised to exclude the bias of each person, and to avoid decision-making being determined by a small group, of which you do not know whether they represent the entire group. We advised that the entire constituency be involved in thinking about the issue together. In other words, active involvement of the collective, which is what The Growth Lab stands for. Teachers – just like any employee – certainly need to express their opinions.  The challenge is, you don’t get that many lecturers together in a room, if that is even feasible from an organizational point of view. And a video meeting with more than 10 people is already quite a challenge. Often in plenary, inhouse meetings, the most vocal attendees predominate and there is little time and space to collect good ideas and to really have time to listen and to reflect. An average survey form is also too limited: you don’t get the deeper, qualitative layering from the open answers and the validation of the results is missing. After all, something that is mentioned the most does not mean that it has the most value according to the group. Participants have not listened to each other’s answers, so you don’t yet know what they think of the answers of others: better or less good than their own? In addition, we also notice a survey fatigue among employees in general and a need for dialogue. At The Growth Lab we use different working methods and we have now used CircleLytics’ online, asynchronous dialogue twice at this faculty. The most supported contributions, those that receive the most support from others, determine the result. But also the contributions that are most rejected by the rest provide indispensable data for smart analysis and decision-making.”

Frank Kresin, dean of the faculty: “Turner and The Growth Lab have broken through an impasse that had arisen in recent years. We are pleased that with their help we have found a supported solution for the complex problem of task load.”

Successful online dialogues

The CircleLytics Dialogue consists of two rounds. In the first round, a number of questions are asked. Participants answer these (mostly open) questions. In the second round, participants are invited to rate the answers of their colleagues. They each get to see different answers from others, which are also as different as possible. This really increases the diversity of the dialogue and everyone’s thinking. After this, it is immediately clear which proposals or ideas are warm to the heart of the majority of employees and which are not. This anonymous dialogue can be completed at any time during a number of set days. Van ’t Eind: “The board and district council initiated this dialogue. We used the dialogue to identify the requirements that the new system for determining the workload had to meet. In this working method, employees are really given the space to share what they think of something, they learn how others think about it and they are therefore allowed to think about it again and make choices. The outcome of the dialogues was a success: 200 teachers contributed to answering these questions and collectively gave thousands of appreciations to the answers of others. That is a response of 33%, which is unprecedented for an online tool at this organization.”


Ask the right questions

Van ‘t Eind continues: “Most of the work is in preparing for the dialogue. Asking the right questions will provide answers that you can move forward with. In order to arrive at the right questions, we held various design discussions with stakeholders. This is how we came up with four open questions for the first dialogue.

It immediately became clear that some terms used are not known to everyone and we were able to respond to this. Participation in the second round shows that teachers like to join the discussion and build on the ideas and opinions of others. Ultimately, this makes the answers more complete and specific. Exactly the intention of the dialogue on this issue.

In the second dialogue we presented proposals for improvement to the teachers. The reactions help us enormously to fine-tune the design to what is important to the teachers. ”

Also read what other organizations in education achieve with CircleLytics Dialogue, such as Salta Group: “Participants have a few days, so you do not have the rush of a focus group, but you do have the proverbial night’s sleep, which is necessary for reflection. That reflection on our questions and reflection on each other’s (other) answers (and scoring up/down) guarantee in-depth and validation. They are also allowed to change their closed scale if they wish and a high percentage do so. Unlike surveys, you therefore get high reliability .” Read more here.

Learn from each other’s differing answers

As expected, the answers were mixed by AI. However, because the participants in the second round could judge the answers given, The Growth Lab got insights into which answers received the most support or least support, and why. Van ’t Eind: “Only because of that validation process, can I interpret the answers properly, not because a word is mentioned a lot. The second round makes this dialogue a guideline for coming up with supported advice and you also learn from people what they reject and why. The open questions also gave us answers that we would never have wanted or dared to ask for in closed questions. We also got some very good ideas from these dialogues.


Structured, people-centered working method

My biggest concern with the project was not so much the content, but much more how we could achieve a supported result. No one likes fake democracy. It will work against you later on and will lead to resistance and loss of involvement. This has been prevented with the use of dialogue. The evidence is on the table. These are reliable, data-driven results that you can back up. Our client sees the added value of solving complex problems together in a fast, structured way. However, it is always important to determine the timing of the dialogue in the process, and how you design the questions. The dialogue is easily scalable and can also be used for very large populations or in smaller parallel sessions to run multiple asynchronous workshops for example. This working method is an enrichment of our toolset. We have now used the dialogue fairly early in the decision-making process, but you can also use this working method to monitor and make adjustments during the implementation phase.”

Creating reliable support

The client is very pleased with the use of the online dialogue. Gerald Stap, chairman of the faculty’s sub-council: “Thanks to the contribution of The Growth Lab and Turner, we as a sub-council gained a better insight into what our lecturers think of this complicated issue. Questioning the teachers was important to the project in order to identify the question behind the question and thus address the actual problem rather than just the symptoms. This made it possible to convince management and steering group of possible and feasible scenarios. (You can listen to a podcast about the project here.)

Because the lecturers are involved in this process (both during the questioning and the elaboration in working groups), this helps to create support for approval from the participational body.”

To learn more about The Growth Lab, one of CircleLytics Dialogue’s partners, click here. If you would like to speak with CircleLytics further and see a demo, click here and schedule your appointment.

Dialoog voor Zorg

Surprising insights at Spaarne Gasthuis

Participation and influence are important pillars within the hospital Spaarne Gasthuis. They want to get all perspectives on the table, and especially diverse ones, so that well-considered decisions are made based on knowledge and supported points of view. About two years ago, Spaarne Labs came into contact with CircleLytics’ online dialogue. Saskia Haasnoot, Senior Business Partner Development HR&A at Spaarne Gasthuis, says: “Through my colleagues in the innovation team (Spaarne Labs), I and colleague Priscilla Verwoert started to delve into the dialogue. After 30 dialogues I can say that the dialogue is a revelation, I am very excited about it. We have never used a method before, in which so many colleagues can simultaneously question and talk to each other online, at a time that suits them, from a place that suits them. Secure, simple and anonymous. The Spaarne Gasthuis has about 4,500 employees spread over three locations and has a great diversity in professional professionals. Finding a way to reach many people in our 24/7 work environment is challenging to say the least. Our team has since experienced that this dialogue successfully provides balanced answers in a short time, is received positively and can lead to surprising insights. The reason why we often use the dialogue.”

Using brainpower: colleagues solve problems. Read here what Spaarne Gasthuis previously shared about the approach and impact of dialogue.

Dialogue helps with decision-making

The dialogue can be used for many challenges. Each challenge is suitable for a dialogue where everyone can share their expertise and experience, provided that the questions are well formulated. The latter requires thinking time and sparring time, which immediately pays for itself in the results of a dialogue. A well-posed question yields actionable answers that aid decision-making. Thinking about the question in advance forces you to understand the essence and to define an issue. Moreover, asking open questions forces you to use language to involve and touch people.

Haasnoot: “Transparency in communication is very important to me. There are many hierarchies and dependencies in relationships in our organization, which make expressing your opinion quite difficult at times. A good example in which the dialogue once again proved its added value is the following: in a department, we had an alarm that repeatedly went off wrongly. The smartest solution was sought through the dialogue, in other words in co-creation with the people involved. The outcome with a large (majority) support was different from what we suspected and was initially mentioned by most in the first round (“invest in a new system”). We ended up betting on good instructions to set an alarm instead of asking a colleague to release himself to every times to check the alarms (which was mentioned a lot in the first round of the dialogue). This dialogue saved us a lot of time and money, as we were able to immediately switch to the best solution and avoid the one that was mentioned a lot but didn’t get support on second thought. It proves that what people initially say is not what you should blindly consider to follow up on. You invite them to the dialogue, the second round: please (re)view what others think about it. What do you learn from that? How do you feel about it now? And what will come out of that? What do you think on second thought?

Salta Group: The good of qualitative research, but on whatever scale you want: from 10 to 1,000s. Read more here.

People-centric, time for reflection

The dialogue is completely anonymous and works asynchronously, offering the chance to really say what you think, at your own time. People can show their vulnerability through this online dialogue, which makes it a very human tool for me. Technology can therefore be people-centric and that is important in our culture. As a result, people start talking to each other – anonymously – and this leads to better and supported solutions: we stimulate everyone’s active open mind, sharing information and critical thinking. The limited number of characters to explain your answer stimulates people to get to the point and makes them take a little more time to think. And it is precisely in the second, subsequent, round that people jointly indicate what they consider most important on second thought. This produces the supported solutions that administrators can use for their decision-making. It emphasizes new leadership in our organization: asking open questions creates a culture of genuine listening, of openness, involvement and better decisions. Particularly at a time when the labor market is under pressure and the concern for an important transition, leveraging collective wisdom is essential.

If there are ideas that are widely supported, but cannot (yet) be implemented or not in the short term, you must also communicate this. It remains crucial that you do not use the dialogue as a sham to get a say and then do nothing with it. People’s trust in the dialogue, because we act on the results, contributes to the power of listening and the power of CircleLytics dialogue.”

Dialogue encourages trust and generates creative ideas

Haasnoot continues: “In the past, surveys were also used. We observed survey fatigue. And we have noticed that surveys can have a polarizing effect, you are either for or against something, there is no in-between  or space to explain your choice nor rethink or change your own opinion. The response was low and an analysis of the answers quickly took a long time to complete. We had to interpret what is said and meant, usually based on what is often mentioned or driven by our own preferences. That’s risky, and that’s why we have chosen dialogue as the next level, going far beyond regular single round surveys.

The dialogue is anonymous and promotes creative, different ideas. The response rate of the dialogue is high and we notice that the percentage only increases as people participate in a dialogue more often. The second round of the dialogue encourages reflection on yourself and others’ different views, and stimulates a learning organization. Being able to continue learning is an important reason why people enjoy staying with the organization longer, as well as getting a say in what needs to be done in the organization. It is a conversation that takes place online with many people at the same time. This yields a wealth of insights that we can use.”


Rapid wins and sustainable impact

Haasnoot says: “In departments where we have now used the dialogue more often, we see that the number of participants and the number of answers that participants give in the first round are increasing considerably. Some people need to gain confidence that the online dialogue is indeed anonymous before giving their opinion or reviewing other people’s ideas. We ask a few key questions. We deliberately keep the dialogue short so that it does not take much time. Often only 3 to 5 questions. If a manager or initiator comes up with a question, we dive into the questions together, until it is concrete, or we use the library of 1,000 questions and open questions in the CircleLytics environment. Our experience shows that clear formulation of questions helps with a good demarcation (and vice versa), and leads to more answers from participants and to answers that you can use. The appreciation of employees is always a solid 4 on a scale of 5. That is important, because you cannot bother employees with things that take away the pleasure. Control, anonymity, learning from each other and convenience go hand in hand.

Read our white paper with 18 design principles for your open questions

We also communicate what we are going to do with the results. We can implement some quick wins quickly. For example, there was an ICT thing that could be easily remedied and which emerged when asking what makes an unpleasant working day unpleasant. This had not been reported en masse at ICT, and yet the dialogue showed that many people experienced this as annoying. Our ICT department quickly resolved that. A quick win that we would never have discovered without the dialogue. In any case, the duration of the dialogue can be short, as long as it is clear what the problem is and good questions are asked. The answers of a dialogue are easy to analyze: the fundaments are done by AI and by the participants. So an impact is quickly possible by using the dialogue to get the collective strength of employees on the table.”

Are you interested in dialogue and collective intelligence as a working method? Then schedule an introduction or demo

PGOsupport works from the conviction that care, welfare and research must meet the needs of the people concerned: people with a disorder or disability. It helps patient associations and other patient movements to increase the impact on the quality of life of the specific patient group they focus on. PGOsupport is an advisor to many patient associations and research centers in order to reach the target group and thus bring the collective voice of the patient or client to the fore. Dries Hettinga, director of PGOsupport, adds: “These associations use the experiential expertise of patients themselves to improve care and well-being based on their voice. We have been assigned by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport to help patient associations in this. We have organizational consultants and trainers who help them with matters such as strategy, volunteer policy and fundraising. We also offer a suitable range of training courses and PGOsupport advises on constituency consultation. As a patient association, you need to know what is going on with your target group in order to keep people involved, to attract them and to tailor your offer accordingly.” And that also applies to an organization like PGOsupport; in order to gear our services properly to the questions of our patient associations, as a director I need to know what is going on among my stakeholders, those very patient associations. Those insights helps me as a director to make choices in our range, to focus and thus to work towards our own impact.

Consult background

The CircleLytics online dialogue has been developed from the need to collect weighted answers based on in-depth, open questions to a large group of people, completely anonymously. The answers given in the first round are learned from and assessed by the participants in the second round, so that it is clearly measurable after this round, which answers and ideas are appreciated the most but also the least. Moreover, the participants build on each other’s ideas, emerging new, leading perspectives and outcomes. This is impossible to accomplish with regular single round surveys. Unique AI ensures that they do not have to read and appreciate all the ideas of others, but a group of 10-15 that is as varied as possible. In this way, the best solutions are created through this use of the collective intelligence of the participants and based on maximizing diversity of thought. Insights also regularly surface that would otherwise remain hidden, if you limit listening to workshops and surveys, and would therefore remain undiscussed.

Spaarne Gasthuis: “The dialogue is anonymous and promotes the development of creative, different ideas. The response from the dialogue is high and we notice that the percentage only increases as soon as people participate in a dialogue more often. The second round of the dialogue encourages reflection in yourself and others.” Read more here.

Use dialogue for multiple purposes

Hettinga: “We have various methods to reach target groups and advise our clients in this. One thing is crucial here: Which question do you want to be thought about and answered? We have now used the dialogue for some time to gain input about and support for our own services, the internal organization and we also offer this to our customers as a method of consulting their members and patients. As a director, I therefore ask open questions to understand what is (most) important, what is considered important, and what is less important. Results from the dialogue provide a solid foundation for decision-making and prevent unnecessary mistakes. Knowing what people reject and why, is as crucial as knowing what they support.”

If you want to ask a broad audience and if brief answers or simple closed answers suffice, a static, regular survey is fine. However, we also notice that the number of members of patient associations is declining, and surveys didn’t help to prevent that. How do you know precisely what is going on with your members and stakeholders if only a small part of your target group is a factually still a member of your organisation? Why are they leaving in the first place or considering to do so? What do they need and in what form do they want to see it? As an association you want to be able to respond to this, so that you keep people involved and enthuse new people to become a member. You want to fulfil a sustainable and relevant role. In the short and long term.”

Online dialogue for deepening

Hettinga continues: “At such a moment it is appropriate to talk to each other online and ask in-depth questions that provide more insights, collect ideas and stimulate participants to (re)consider. That is why we offer the online dialogue to the associations we work for, where participants join at their own preferred moment. We have devised questions that fit well with patient associations and, based on our knowledge and experience, we guide them in using this elevated dialogue solution. A good question invites, challenges and makes you think. Not only about your own answers, but also about those of others who think differently.”

If you want to know more about how CircleLytics Dialogue works, schedule your appointment here. If you are reading this because you are involved in a patient organisation, please contact PGOsupport directly. You can do that here.

Keep in touch online

PGOsupport would like to continue to meet the needs of their customers and understand what they consider important and what not. She therefore uses the dialogue to collect ideas based on customer needs. Hettinga: “We have invited various customers to structurally think about our own services. First we need to understand where the needs lie. The response is high and we elaborate on the most valued ideas, so that participants see what we do with their answers. For example, one of the results of a dialogue held among our stakeholders was that they missed an offering for advanced professionals. We suggested a course, but there appears to be a need for some form of intervision. Now we look at the form in which we can deliver that intervision. Because we enter into a dialogue and it is very easy to use, we can make choices more easily and design matters that fit what our customers want. Exactly what our mission stands for. And as a director I avoid making decisions that don’t land: I’d rather know in advance than afterwards. As far as I’m concerned, making a good decision starts with listing the most important options. I list these by being open to the perspectives of others who (may) think differently than I do.”


Well-founded analysis

Hettinga continues: “Our first own internal dialogue was about working from home, the pros and cons. I have also experienced it myself, the second round makes your participation more active, it stimulates your own thinking. You read answers and ideas from others and that increases your creativity. In the case of a survey, as director I receive the answers from the survey and I have to make an analysis of this. In the dialogue I have a more well-founded analysis, because the participants have already given a certain interpretation to the reactions of colleagues. The dialogue has already taken into account the collective knowledge and experience of colleagues and as a result I am better informed, I know what feeling prevails and what they really think is important. The chaff has been separated from the wheat. By themselves. Based on that, I can better decide what the next step should be. Isn’t that what every leader wants?

You can reach PGOsupport here and ask questions about consultation, dialogue and involving members in your association or other questions. If you would like to get acquainted with CircleLytics Dialogue and schedule a demo, you can do so here.

Jan Vrencken focuses on integrated organizational development with MoJa Potential Activation. They detect and activate the true potential in the organization. Employees that experience a higher job satisfaction and work smarter achieve better results. This also results in more satisfied customers. Part of its approach is the CircleLytics dialogue that they have been using with their customers for about four years to collect input from employees and engage them at the same moment.

Vrencken: “With this approach you offer and get involvement from your employees and at the same time you create ownership of your company’s challenges and opportunities. You literally give the entire organization a voice within a few days to two weeks via the online dialogue, within the context provided by management and the current challenges. Ideas are delivered bottom-up and validated, so it is truly a joint effort. As an employer, asking the right question provides you with an amazing pile of validated, ranked insights, that you otherwise would not have been able to obtain. You can reach anyone you want in just a few days to weeks. One of the responses of a management team member to the results of a dialogue always sticks with me: ‘This is just a goldmine’. And he couldn’t have said it better.”

Inclusive approach

The dialogue consists of two rounds. In the first round, one or more questions are asked and in the second round, the participants evaluate the answers given in the first round from each other. Algorithms ensure that they learn from colleagues who think differently, and that makes them think a lot deeper and deal more consciously with the challenge you presented them. The management team of our clients is well aware that employees can make or break decisions. In other words: if employees do not understand, support and are not involved in the decisions and changes, you will hurt their commitment. Alternatively, now, you can involve them via employee dialogues, activate them, let them think along with you and thereby win their support and loyalty. Employees participate at their own time, from their own location, so simply during and between work. You can reach anyone you want in just a few weeks and listen seriously to what they experience, know, think and feel. This is a truly inclusive and collective intelligence approach.

Best wishes card

Recently MoJa Potential Activation deployed the CircleLytics dialogue with an mid sized company at the beginning of the year and they asked only one question: What do you wish your company for in 2023? Management wanted a better insight into what was going on within the organization, among the employees themselves. What topics do they find important? Why?

Vrencken: “In January, best wishes are flying back and forth, but what does that mean for every employee, those best wishes? What exactly do you wish and why? And does the management team also know what people need or do they make assumptions? And what decisions do they base on non-validated assumptions? An employee satisfaction survey is often mainly based on scores and individuals’ input, without you knowing whether the other employees see it that way as well or change their minds because of someone’s input. The single (only one) round of such old survey technology simply does not provide a basis for making decisions. And it is impracticable for members of the management team to speak to everyone face-to-face, let alone on a regular basis. You want the involvement that brings about personal attention, proximity. With an online (anonymous) dialogue you do get those insights and at the same time you feed a more positive spirit and culture.

Answers to that one question provide great insights into what people think, see and experience and where they want or find change necessary. This allows the management team to get to work immediately, for example for the new annual plan, a project or a bottleneck. After all, she knows where the accents should be and why. Within five weeks instead of five months you will have a strategy that you know employees want. After all, they contributed to it themselves. That is five times faster and a lot more effective.”

Voice from the organization

The online dialogue is a modern, meaningful working method for management teams, change managers and HR. In the first round, one or more questions are asked and in the second round, the participants assess the answers given in the first round. This makes it immediately clear which answers are preferred and which are not. In this way, the management does not have to think for the employees, because they retrieve answers directly. An example is that employees answer that one question: ‘What do you wish for your company in 2023?’. Other examples of questions are:

“What do you think is an important idea to ensure that [….] becomes successful?”

“How do you think ABC can best be accelerated?”

“What is your experience/tip that others could learn from to deal with the high workload?”

“What do you find most difficult to do in a good way at home instead of at the office?”

“What can managers in our organization do smarter or differently to increase job satisfaction?”

The CircleLytics Dialogue unique QuestionDesignLab helps to translate your challenge into solid open-ended questions.  You can also ask as an open + closed question in one or just stick to a closed scale question: the platform is this way a one-stop-shop and you don’t need a separate survey provider anymore. Vrencken: “We design a lot of custom work and tailor questions and the frequency of dialogues to the specific situation of the organization. For example, every quarter, you can present a smartest set of 3-5 questions to employees and cover this way a number of topics.”

Representative answers

Vrencken: “We always coordinate the questions in co-creation with the customer, but we ourselves have extensive experience with questions that challenge, inspire and encourage thinking along. Only with the right questions will you receive targeted answers that you are looking for and employees will learn from each other’s inspiring words. Because the results are reliable and representative, you can arrive at a higher quality of your decisions after those two rounds. The participants themselves are asked about their experience with the dialogue, and, as in the example above, the dialogue scored a 4.5 on a scale of 5. Important, because you want to do things that positively influence the experience of employees. Giving them a say and taking them seriously are two things, but make sure it’s done in a way they appreciate and find interesting. That creates high engagement ánd commitment.

Important to know: ask only a few questions, but very relevant ones. This creates focus and avoids employees being distracted by questions and topics that are beside the point.

A lasting gift

The dialogue gives a go-ahead for concrete improvement in the field of organizational development and the great thing is that these topics come from within the organization itself. Vrencken: “We will share the results in a presentation with the management team and we will elaborate on some of the most supported answers in the integrated way that MoJaPa works. It is of course great that there is such a high level of commitment from the staff. In the dialogue, they immediately indicated other topics on which they would like to explore and think along. A good time and a great springboard to continue and to use the joint knowledge and experience on these new subjects as well. With the results from the dialogue you have a data file from which you can define improvement processes in all areas that are supported by the organization. That is also what working smarter is about. Create time, increase efficiency and do the right things that contribute to the goal. The dialogue is rightly a gift that you benefit from immediately.”

If you would like to know more, please contact Jan or his colleagues. You can also schedule an introduction or demonstration with the CircleLytics Dialogue team.

The best ideas come from employees themselves. I put it this way: it is best to take employees seriously, because that ensures the most acceptance of change, the rapid identification and resolution of problems and the timely identification of opportunities. Research (by Gallup, for example) has shown for years that engagement is directly impacted by the extent to which you seriously listen to employees. Change is then better understood and embraced more quickly. Conversely, research shows that change failure is primarily due to disengagement and a lack of employee voice. So, you have to engage employees. Every day.

But how? We do agree about sending single round surveys (the ones we all encounter so often unfortunately): it gauges the temperature, but that’s all they do. And let’s just say it out loud: no manager bases decisions on ‘often mentioned topics’ and word clouds, right?

Gartner Co-Creation

Do you leave it to individual managers then to structurally engage their people? That is possible, but research shows that in 80% of cases, departing talent points to that manager as the reason for leaving. And only 1 out of 5 managers effectively follow up on HR’s survey reports. There is also something pinching there …. And as a CHRO, how do you make sure you genuinely activate all managers, and all employees? Measurably? That you spark a culture in which change, solving problems, accomplishing goals, and seizing opportunities are normal things? A culture of co-creation as recent research from Gartner also confirms.


In my view, this requires three things.

One network, one brain

First of all, in our companies, we are not individualists, but a living, learning network of connected individuals. We share, talk, gossip, ask, tell, app, email, lunch, consult, feel, think, organise, reflect and we desperately need that. It happens in that interaction between people. Think of people as one big brain. The collective intelligence you can acquire from approaching people as one big, connected brain and have them co-create just about anything, yields up to 60% more intelligence and creativity than the combined individual performance of individuals’ brains. People are like the neurons in your brain: only the connectedness through synapses make it a brain. Strong networks of connected employees perform up to 2x better. So, pay attention, because 52% of employees do not experience that connection. How do you intentionally increase people’s connectedness?


New leadership

Second, it requires new leadership. Do not make top-down decisions and roll them out, but address and engage the workforce in a structured manner. You gain trust and commitment by engaging them in continual dialogue, via challenging, deliberate open-ended questions and listening to employees how they collectively solve these. This way, you put the diversity of their thinking to work, of all of them in a way to respects diversity and full inclusion. Asking questions challenges them to think about the status quo, about tomorrow and next year, what to keep and what to let go of. About what is needed most and why, what obstacles can be identified and taken down, what can be done smarter, or be simplified, what must change to accomplish ABC, etc. Asking open-ended questions that matter now is the cornerstone of leadership and the heart of engagement. The brain is therefore better able to handle change and people commit themselves to the problem solving you engage them in. Simple right? Engaging people leads to engagement, not the periodical measurement of it. To engage is a verb, more than it is a noun.


One brain requires new technology

Third, it requires a different view on technology. It’s wonderful to have an online meeting with several people. However, it is necessary to involve all employees if you want to accomplish less biased and more reliable results. We need scalable dialogues and co-creation in order to unlock collective intelligence, to increase connectedness and impact people’s willingness to change. Technology can and does, with human power and a piece of AI. With a depth and impact that were previously unimaginable. Qualitative ideas, recommendations, analysis and suggestions can now be processed, given meaning, be validated and enriched in real time by humans and AI. Research and data from our customers show that in this day and age the speed of processing information determines your chance of survival and organizational development.


New listening, connecting and changing

More than 70% of organizations continue to invest heavily in employee engagement, according to Ventana Research. Our advice is to choose technology in which people as a network are central and value is added to the business. Consider even divesting old employee listening technology, such as surveys (pulse or other) that have not proven themselves in the eyes of employees and managers to deliver corporate performance and retention. Change, connectedness and retention demand you to do everything possible and develop a new view on people, leadership and technology. CEOs estimate only 1 out of 3 CHROs to be up to the task and deliver on the company’s priorities, according to Accenture.


The highest priority to rethink how engagement meets corporate performance. What do you do?


Want to talk more about it? Plan your meeting here.


Maurik Dippel, MSc, is CEO and co-founder of CircleLytics Dialogue




Medewerkers dialoog

“As a participation body, you are there for your constituency. You want to find out how everyone thinks about certain topics. With other tools, you only speak to a small group. Dialogue offers insights into what really matters to our entire constituency.” Shuwei Loo is a member of the works council within the municipality of Breda, which employs some 3,000 employees. He is happy to share his experiences with CircleLytics’ dialogue.

Shuwei Loo: “We have been using the dialogue for several years. The fact that the anonymous dialogue consists of a round of questions (input) and in the second round (validation) participants rate the answers of their colleagues from the first round, adds value to the overall conclusion. Employees do receive an extensive employee satisfaction survey from HR and management, but we experience survey fatigue among employees. Moreover, such a survey is a single snapshot in the year, whereas we can use dialogue more often and over days to one or maximum two weeks really get people thinking.

In our first dialogue, we asked one question; what do you think is important as colleagues? Please explain your answer. This revealed as number one of the top five most valued answers, that good internal communication was lacking with reasons why. We shared our findings and conclusions with the municipal secretary, and they took concrete action on this.

High participation

We previously picked up through dialogues that employees find it important to express their opinions on topics that are in play within the organization. Participation in dialogues obviously varies by topic, and overall we are very satisfied with the percentage of employees participating. Throughout the year and measured over several dialogues, you do reach everyone.

We keep the number of questions limited in the dialogue by asking only 2-3 questions. I think this is also the strength of the dialogue; it keeps it a small-time investment for employees to participate. From the requestor side, it is a convenient tool to use because the number of participants makes no difference to the analysis. The system automatically reveals a top 5 of most and least appreciated answers.  That saves us filtering and minimizes the subjectivity of interpretation of the answers.

Read what the Ministry of Health says about dialogue, validation and the difference with survey here

Second round makes a difference

We do notice that second-round participation is regularly higher than first-round participation. It’s nice to see that this second round therefore makes a big difference compared to a regular survey consisting of only one round. Apparently, it still triggers employees who did not participate before to now appreciate the answers given by colleagues from the first round. We keep emphasizing that second round as an added value, also in our communication with employees beforehand.

We post the announcement of a new dialogue on our intranet, use the available news tickers and, of course, employees also receive the newsletter. We will also again use break times to inform people collectively about an upcoming dialogue. Moreover, we will continue our efforts to involve even more people in the dialogue and offer solutions for participation to people who are digitally literate, for example.

The ball is in our court

With the dialogue, we – as a participation body – have an instrument at our disposal in which we are leading. Of course, we coordinate the topics and questions in advance with various stakeholders within the municipality, but the initiative, implementation and analysis of the conclusions and findings comes from us. We find that the results from the dialogue that are black and white on paper are hard to ignore. The dialogue certainly carries weight during these discussions.

Several dialogues annually

Dialogues can be used more often. In our case, we want to carefully attune both the content and the concrete questions we ask in the dialogue with several stakeholders within the organization. That does take some preparation time. We also always test the questions with CircleLytics and we are very satisfied with their advice in this. We use the dialogue about four times a year for topics ranging from the policy for personnel activities, major reorganizations to how do you experience workload within the organization?

A tailor-made conclusion

In the dialogue on workload, we asked two open questions in addition to age category and department, namely: How high has your workload been in recent weeks? Zoom in on a period and explain your answer. This is how we wanted to avoid cliché answers and really find out whether there was something going on in terms of workload. Moreover, if employees give examples, it gives more context to the data we obtain from the dialogue. The second question was: How do you currently assess how you dealt with the workload over the last few weeks?

Overall, our conclusion was that although there is a high workload, employees cope well with it, and it is not perceived as negative. Because we asked about the employee’s department, we saw deviations by departments. This allowed us to zoom in and question them further based on the concrete explanations they gave. We then discussed these findings and conclusions with the HR department, which was able to take targeted action. These conclusions were also shared with the employees.

We share all findings and conclusions from our dialogues with the WOR director, HR and at the same time with our employees. We think it’s important to be transparent and communicate well with our constituencies. As an employee participation body, we owe that to them.”

Curious to know what CircleLytics could mean for you? Schedule your demo or introduction here.

The power of involving people with each other and in your organization’s challenges is needed everywhere. Issues concerning absenteeism, projects that are struggling, changes with the customer, your supply chain, achieving objectives, etc: you want to know quickly and thoroughly what is going on, how to solve it, and how to prevent it from happening again.

Having been through one or more dialogues yourself, you know:

  • That you have to start with the end in sight,
  • How to move from themes to questions,
  • How to draft good questions and which principles are important,
  • How to keep response rates high,
  • You come to action through and after your dialogue
  • How to harness the diversity of everyone’s thinking.

Now is the time to share your experiences with others. Why? For some obvious reasons.

Reasons to further expand the use of dialogue

Firstly, problems that are not on your plate, but on the organization’s plate, are solved faster and better using CircleLytics Dialogue. Not only are you helping others; you are helping your organization.

Secondly, more employees are involved more often, in more relevant challenges and more issues. This is great, because it directly contributes to more commitment and more trust, in each other and in the organization. You bear the burden of issues together more easily and are you will be smarter and more creative together.

Thirdly, the organization’s agility increases because people are more aware, quicker and more willing to change and adapt. Employees are more forthcoming and see more (together). Using the multi-step dialogue approach, they understand each other’s different opinions and solutions and become more flexible in their thinking and the way they respond.

Fourthly, you realize a culture of dialogue, of learning and encourage connection between people and between people and the organization. This increasingly pushes the regular meeting or regular survey into the background (no more survey fatigue!). You save time and cost, and gain intelligence and engagement.

Fifthly, you get more meaning and value from the collaboration between your organization and CircleLytics. You usually already save costs with the initial dialogue (that’s our bet) but the value you get from better decision-making, faster and more sustainable change and more employee commitment is worth many times over. Sharing access to this platform and dialogues with your colleagues simply delivers more.

Finally, it prevents knowledge and skills to deploy dialogues, co-creation and collective intelligence from being lost the moment you leave the organization or change positions. Don’t underestimate what you bring about by reaching out to 100s or even 10,000s of employees, prompting them, engaging them, touching them and driving them to change. This, we believe, is at the heart of Future of Work and employee engagement; deploying technology, the power of people combined with the power of AI, or (re)engaging people, solving problems and creating value. Spread the possibilities of dialogue, co-creation and collective learning, your inspiration and experience will help others. How do you ensure continued onboarding?

Employees are ready. Your leadership too?

Onboarding new users within your organization goes a lot easier if the organization’s leadership is ready for it. After all, it requires quite a step in terms of leadership. Usually, leadership is used to:

  • taking the decisions and set the direction themselves; as far as we are concerned, this does not change and co-creation and dialogue does not mean giving up this role, it just means being able to execute in a better substantiated way, realizing changes with higher speed and greater chance of success
  • discussing and weighing options in small teams; however, that small team does not know what the larger team (the whole organization) knows, learns, sees and can solve; so in this case leadership makes a big step by inviting the entire organization ‘virtually’ instead of a small team
  • hiring a few external consultants and not 1,000s of internal ‘consultants’; usually, those external consultants go through interviews and an ‘old-fashioned’ survey to gather insights and data. This can now change; for complex, important challenges, you actually ‘turn on’ the collective of employees, gaining their commitment, and your external consultant can just get to work with CircleLytics Dialogue, of course.

If the leadership sees ‘collective intelligence and collective learning’, things will be a lot easier, but even without that, you can inspire others and make them co-users.

What is needed to get other colleagues to work with CircleLytics Dialogue?

The easiest thing to do is to contact us. We can let you know immediately whether your contract has agreed that other users can be allowed. CircleLytics usually allows an unlimited number of users in its contracts and would like to let your organization ‘use the dialogue widely’, although the contract regularly contains a limited number of dialogues versus group size. We can let you know if you have an unlimited contract, also in terms of the number of dialogues, and if the contract allows you to target external or only internal audiences, has a restriction as to the countries in which it can be used, or perhaps can only be used with a certain (legal) entity or component within your organization.

The Processor Agreement may need to be expanded (due to the GDPR and privacy/security requirements of your organization and ours) to include type of target group (e.g. for external, if it is now only for internal use), or the type of personal information processed in dialogues by other colleagues. Personal information concerns characteristics such as age category, department, function, etc. This often goes smoothly and your privacy/security officer can amend the annex to the Processor Agreement.

Data of participants such as their contributions are processed automatically, unless agreed otherwise in your contract and something can be traced back to a participant. We can ‘customize’ this technically, so that it legally matches the needs of the organisation and the privacy/security requirements of your privacy officer/organization. We can also turn that on/off for a specific user.

You can also very easily check the administrator of your account’s contract and options for you as a new user or for your colleague if you are already a user. You can find this user manager via the drop-down menu in your Dashboard button at the top right after you are logged in. In your Profile, you can see the user administrator for your account and their e-mail address. You can let your colleagues know or inform that person yourself and provide names of colleagues who also want to use CircleLytics. This administrator knows, as we do, whether the contract is flexible for additional dialogs and users. If necessary, an additional quote can be requested and sent, usually within 24 hours, for additional costs. We charge only once for fixed costs for a certain duration and organisation size.

For example, suppose your organization consists of 10,000 employees, but your current contract covers only one section, consisting of 2,500 employees, and the term is 6 months. If more users are desired, who want to use CircleLytics throughout the year with other or more than these 2,500 employees, we can extend the contract for the ‘excess’ of 12 minus 6 = 6 months and 10,000 minus 2,500 employees = 7,500 employees. This means that the fixed costs already paid are not charged again. We often renew the contract, and credit the remaining part of the already running contract.

The user administrator can now create new users and assign rights and you can get to work right away. If you are the user administrator, you can add a personal message to the automatically sent login details. This way, the new user can get started right away and knows that they can come to you for questions.

Dialogs can be branded with a house style each. This means that within one account of your organization, you can apply a logo because of an event, project or otherwise. We see this for example in organizations where HR, the Works Council as well as project teams use CircleLytics. They sometimes want their own look and feel.

A new user immediately receives initial instructions and guidance in their e-mail with the login credentials to quickly (self) start the first dialogue. After logging in, various tips and instructions are displayed in the dashboard, access to topics with ready-made sample questions, a white paper with principles to design questions and tutorial videos. In addition, contact details are offered to schedule an appointment for training, guidance on designing your dialogue or otherwise.

Finally, we recommend that organizations inform the internal communications department, colleagues from HR, works council, commerce and other key managers. Especially your communication colleagues can show through videos, case descriptions, infographics and in other ways that this organization connects its people, and brings about a culture of ‘learning, solving and doing together’.

Onboarding, in our view, is all about:

  • Leadership
  • Applications, cases and communicating the impact
  • Practical instructions and training for use.

With this blog for onboarding new users, we aim to ensure that the power of people combined with technology, is unlocked across your organization.

Contact us with your questions, a demo, training, introduction or just because you are curious!

Leadership Active Open Mind

Everyone has limitations. I certainly do. How do you compensate for them?

When I get up, one of the things I do is put my lenses in or put my glasses on first, because of the limitation of my vision. I’ve had this since I was about 14. Without glasses or lenses, I see people, things, situations and dimensions blurred. Extremely limited, and therefore extremely limiting. It closes me off from the world around me. And that immediately has an effect on me: I close myself off from the world a little more. If I can’t do anything with it, if I can’t see it, it’s as if I don’t need to see the world. I stay in a kind of bubble, a somewhat apathetic, isolated situation. As a teenager I didn’t want to wear my glasses, and we didn’t have money for lenses, so I only wore them when I had to. Then I noticed how you can close yourself off from the world or open yourself up to it. Shutting off, being open, shutting off, being open. With a simple tool. Well, simple, a unique innovation that 60% of society can no longer do without. So you can apparently take charge of your own limitations.

The limitation of limited vision is just the beginning. I have many more. That is why, for example, I make sure that I read every day. To cope with my limitations.

Not seeing or not wanting to see

We often close ourselves off from things we don’t see, don’t want to see or don’t want to know. We leave our limitations, if we are aware of them at all, as they are. You look the other way, and presto, your own limitations immediately exist a lot less. Such a bubble is sometimes useful: in that bubble, you can just do what you want and what you can, without seeing it, and define or ignore the outside world. Your assumptions and beliefs remain intact. You’re always right. And so you stay close to what you already know, which fits in perfectly with the trend of ‘staying true to yourself’. Moreover, nowadays you can expect to be allowed to be yourself in your organization, from the point of view of psychological safety and diversity & inclusion. So with all your limitations, you must be given room to be yourself, including your limitations. You can expect others to respect and accept you for that.

But my question is: what do you do with those limitations? Who or what do you look for to complement yourself? And vice versa? Who fits your limitations? Who is creative if you are not? Who is more analytical if you are not? And who can you help with what someone else’s limitation is? Which colleague do you sometimes help, “I see that you’re struggling with that presentation, why don’t we look at it together?

Madam Curie described it beautifully, working on yourself and being there for others: “You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”

Needing each other to deal with your own limitations

Doing something about your limitations, getting out of your bubble? Boring or interesting? Do you take off your glasses or do you put them on to see better? Like for the love of your life. Or finding out why employees leave you, while you send them a survey every month to measure engagement. Or finding out the real reason why a customer won’t renew a contract, even though your sales team says it’s just because we don’t innovate enough. Or understanding the resistance to a particular change project and how you can turn it around. To see or not to see? Eyes open or eyes closed? We desperately need others. As a mirror for our own actions, thinking, feeling, observing or the absence of it. To learn from and to ask for and offer help. To get feedback and advice, to ask questions that we did not dare to ask of ourselves. Where is our limitation to deal more cleverly with our limitations?

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

Two behaviours limit us from learning

Cognitive dissonance, also called Myside bias

The first means that we shun or distort information if it can confuse us or make us feel uncomfortable about how we see things or think about something. In other words, new knowledge is not welcome if it questions our current knowledge. Getting out of your bubble, seeing something better than you do now, takes some effort. Check out the American psychologist Leon Festinger on this topic who wrote the book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance in 1957.

Confirmation bias, seeking confirmation

The second behaviour, confirmation bias, says that we prefer to look for information that confirms our point of view, our current knowledge and assumptions. We pay more attention to matters (and information) that are more familiar. Like attracts like. We prefer someone on the team who understands us, fits in with us, and is not going to slow us down with new views. We also prefer not to make the meeting too big, especially not with that critical colleague, because “we want to get on with it today”. We’d rather experience the comfort of hearing what you want to hear from a familiar, small group. We need confirmation. We see what we want to see, what we can handle. This is how we bring our personal, emotional limitation to work, even though research shows that being actively open to reflection and other opinions and to diversity benefits the team, results and critical and creative thinking. Not the superficial kind of diversity, like gender, skin colour, religion, etc., but the deeper kind, like knowledge, experience and other perspectives. A growth mindset: looking for what you don’t know yet, for new information. Looking for contradiction instead of avoiding it.

In dialogue? Learn from others: look further!

Physicist David Bohm, and I too, indicate that the technique of dialogue can compensate for your own limitations of knowledge, experiences, insights. You actively look for different, new perspectives to improve, sharpen or even reject your own point of view. I prefer to call a standpoint an ‘expression of temporary and limited insight’. A standpoint is a point on which you stand, an immovable position, reinforcing behaviours such as the ones mentioned above. In science, the opposite of this is called Active Open-Minded Thinking: looking for reasons not to be right. CircleLytics Dialogue has been developed to ensure that the diversity of everyone’s thinking is immediately available to you. According to our vision, new knowledge, insights and ideas must be gained, learned from and used in a fast, safe and accessible way. In dialogue, you actively renew your temporary insight. CircleLytics can be used for this purpose. For group sizes of up to 100,000s, for every conceivable subject, for hours or days, and sometimes weeks. Open-ended questions are essential, and the second step. Because the first step is to be open to renewing your own opinions, assumptions, beliefs and standpoints. Already in 1995, Kotter (Harvard) explained that research shows that the more people get involved in transformation, the better the outcome.

By the way, Bohm suggests a minimum group of 20 people (for physical meetings; he lived before the internet emerged), because with a smaller number you would know each other too well, you wouldn’t be surprised, and therefore stay within your comfort zone. You do make your decisions within a few hours of such a meeting, and you think that is because you keep the group small and the lines of communication and interaction limited. Clear and … limited. But … limiting. Bohm says: “these decisions by such a small group are risky and simply not the best ones”. You also do not build support outside the small group and that can cost you dear. After all, these are times when employee engagement and inclusion are paramount. The picture here shows the richness of connections when you involve multiple people: you gain a multifold of interaction and enrich dialogue, hence insights. Organizations such as Philips, Unilever, the National Police, the Ministry of Public Health and Welfare, RIVM, Landal GreenParks do this with 100 to 10,000 people at a time. But also with smaller groups, from 10 to 100, for brainstorm sessions, preparation of offsites, top 100 meetings, Works Council meetings. CircleLytics uses its algorithms to recognize differing opinions and confront the participants with these differing, anonymous opinions. This leads them to new and better thoughts. And those thoughts are bundled and delivered as a result in real time. The more people, the richer and more diverse the insights, and the more interactions. You could be ready in a few days (prior to your meeting) using the technology of CircleLytics Dialogue. Or sometimes a few weeks and – if it’s urgent – in hours.

Continuous change requires constant engagement and constant dialogue. However, if you follow a heuristic, bias-sensitive way of working, just because you want to stay in your comfort zone, you face cognitive dissonance and run unnecessary risks. Our view is that this can affect the weak trust, low engagement and toxic culture that organizations measure. If you make your decisions without knowledge, experience and insights decentralized in the organization, successful implementation is far from guaranteed. What do you think it does to people when they have to do things they don’t agree with, and possess experience or knowledge you weren’t interested in? 

Modern leadership: dialogue and the brainpower of many

Modern leadership at clients such as Philips and Spaarne Gasthuis organize their options, risks and ideas digitally with CircleLytics. It is based on the diversity of the way of thinking and experience of many people, even tens of thousands. We recommend at least 10 participants. The dialogues often precede a meeting in which the diversity and pooling of results are included in the decision-making process. The collective intelligence is therefore brought to bear by leaders, managers, project managers and other decision-makers. Growth-minded decision makers make stronger decisions by compensating their own cognitive and creative limitations with the brainpower of others. Since every human being has these limitations, there is no shame in admitting it. Addressing and compensating for them is the step we need to take now. And in my opinion, not doing so is questionable and risky; moreover, unnecessary. The developments of these forms of leadership and organization are going fast. The World Economic Forum white paper on “Decentralised Autonomous Organizations” is an interesting read in this regard. Organizations cannot be managed exclusively top-down without risks. Cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias and keeping your decision-making power in a small group are recalcitrant phenomena. What can you do about it?

Francesca Gino of Harvard studied some time ago that asking for advice and feedback from others is seen as a sign of strength and intelligence. The opposite was also brought to light; I think nobody wants to be seen as a weak leader or manager. It’s all about knowing your limitations, looking for new insights and learning to ask open-ended questions! Open-ended questions are instrumental in dealing with your own limitations. You show openness and vulnerability towards your employees, which not only gives you insights, but also builds trust. BCG also emphasises the positive impact of organizing dissent, debate and other perspectives. Moreover, BCG indicates that employees stay longer and are more involved if this is part of the culture. They recommend that “leaders should incorporate the concept of productive debate into corporate value statements” and “leaders should formally incorporate the values of productive disagreement into the organizational fabric and ways of working”. Plato already knew that asking questions is the essence of learning, and more recently,  Harvard Business Review mentions the following about deliberately asking open-ended questions: “you’re communicating that you haven’t come with an immovable agenda, you are demonstrating that you care about and are open to the other person’s perspective, creating trust”. McKinsey writes about deploying people from outside your team or crowdsourcing with large groups: “Accept that it’s OK to draw on diverse experiences and expertise other than your own”.

Usually, leaders and managers are seen as ‘having limited cognitive resources and operating within the limits of bounded rationality, merely satisficing by making just good enough decisions’. And ‘working in complicated, often emotionally charged, organisational systems, decision makers have to respond to the needs of multiple stakeholders, who can politically influence the decision-making process’. This is the intriguing step that managers, HR, works councils, boards of directors and project leaders are taking by deploying CircleLytics. They are mobilizing the collective brainpower and creativity of (very large) groups of stakeholders. For many leaders and managers, this is still challenging. Professor Lynda Gratton of London Business School: “When we fear failure, we retreat to the known” and “leaders can address legitimate fears about the complexity of getting the employee proposition right and create a practice of embracing change that is fair and inclusive“. Not every change required in an organization allows for a participative – and therefore bottom-up – approach, where employees are seen as essential to that change and where there is a strong moral contract between management and employees. Sometimes a change requires a . The former is a rather tough and directive top-down approach, where employees are seen as instrumental to shareholder value creation. Our focus is on Theory O leadership and change management.

Read here also what health care institute Spaarne Gasthuis says re collaboration, team dialogues and manager actions.

What this innovative generation of leaders is achieving:

  • they prevent individuals or emotions from negatively influencing or dominating their decisions
  • they ensure that they have a support base by engaging (all) stakeholders
  • they compensate for their own biases and bounded rationality, i.e. their own limited thinking power
  • they use the creative, problem-solving abilities of the group.

In other words, as managers and leaders they recognize their own limitations and compensate for them by activating the experiences, knowledge and creativity of others. Be inspired by HR, as they are close to the people side of the organization. Don’t let HR hinder you, because your organization should not be limited by HR relying too much on old technology to approach employees. We often see that the biases mentioned above play a strong role in HR as well. Familiarity and emotional involvement with solutions such as employee research based on surveys and in general the ‘old’ technology of surveys and closed questions, block the unlocking of knowledge, experience, insight and involvement from the shop floor. However, new technology such as CircleLytics Dialogue, based on more rounds, open-ended questions and collective intelligence, is seeing a huge rise. The pressure is growing on HR to choose solutions that increase engagement rather than just measure it, and that directly help managers make smarter, faster decisions. Together.

Technology such as my lenses and glasses enable me to cope with my limitations. We have long accepted that someone’s sight is not good. And for a long time now, we have also accepted that, as human beings, we have cognitive and creative limitations. “You can’t ignore this impact,” says the management of Landal GreenParks.

Technology such as CircleLytics Dialogue enables leaders to deal with their own limitations and those of the organization. It shows strength when you dare to tackle them, as well as something else that is sorely needed in this situation: you show that you take your employees very seriously and that keeps them involved and committed to the organization and each other. The more they experience that you take them seriously, the longer they will stay.

In times that challenge you to retain talents and make more complex decisions, you’d better show that you’re pulling out all the stops.

Interested in what CircleLytics Dialogue has to offer for the engagement and retention of your people, your change processes and the performance of your organization? Plan your session here to get acquainted or schedule a demo.












Dialogue Education

This Customer Case focuses on the ongoing change process within a (very) large educational organization, and how dialogue with 1,000s of stakeholders shaped strategy. They are getting ready to adopt a curriculum based on professional tasks. The knowledge and skill development being taught will be constantly tailored to the professional tasks. This curriculum must represent a significant, policy-based issue and change process. This process is a substantial task, and the organization enlisted the help of several colleagues willing to commit to this and formed a project team. They first started to investigate whether there was a need for change and why they should change the training program. That preliminary process took quite some time. Once they decided this was the way to go, the next step was to reformulate the professional tasks. That is when CircleLytics Dialogue got involved.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

How to reach everyone? Through dialogue!

The professional tasks are the basis: what are the main ingredients of the teaching profession, and what tasks are involved? So, the team set out to gather answers from teachers within our educational organization, students and primary school teachers working in the field. This last group was essential to the organization because they do the actual work and the organization has much contact with them.

Organizational management: “In the past, we had used surveys, but the response was often low or not all target groups participated in similar numbers. The CircleLytics dialogue involves a broad group of people, so there’s no risk of always asking the same group of people for their opinions or the same people responding. The online dialogue’s attractiveness and high response rate provide a representative picture of the current state of affairs. The dialogue is innovative, reaches more people and provides a broad understanding of their answers and everyone’s appreciation for those answers.”

Good preparation helps achieve the desired response

They started by determining the right questions. That took some time, but the question design was essential to receive the answers that were needed. “We did not want to use the term ‘professional tasks’ because teachers in primary education do not use it, but we had to make clear that we were talking about professional tasks. The risk was that people within our organization would start to list their current professional tasks, which we wanted to avoid. Constructing the right question and determining who would send the e-mail message was a complicated assignment. CircleLytics provided the right guidance throughout the process. There was room for quick consultations, and we were well advised about what we should and shouldn’t do.”

“In the end, our dialogue consisted of two open questions and a profile question (closed, multiple choice). The first question was about the content of professional tasks; the second question left the respondent free to tell us more about their frustrations or desired changes. Both were open questions with a unique second round (dialogue), where participants appreciated each other’s answers. And finally, we wanted to know which target group the respondent belonged to.”

Positively surprised by the dialogue

The most striking result was the high response and the equal distribution among all target groups, which we are very pleased with. The questions were sent out to approximately 4,000 people, and 700 responded. That is a higher response than any survey we sent out before, and the qualitative value is extremely high. We got very positive reactions, and people felt heard and seen. In addition, the reliability is high: the response is twice the response required for reliable, representative research. The CircleLytics team also told us that the response rate increases even further once people get to know the dialogue process and experience that it really isn’t a survey and their opinions are really wanted.”

“For us, the outcomes of the dialogue feel like a victory. With these results, we now have a good picture of what is happening in all our target groups. This input has enabled us to give well-founded advice. We also actively promoted participation in advance. We visited people and told them that if they wanted to influence the future of this training program, they should seize this opportunity to participate in this dialogue.”

Read here also what health care institute Spaarne Gasthuis says re collaboration, team dialogues and manager actions.

Online dialogue and sentiment analysis: innovative approach

The organization continues: “The dialogue is entirely anonymous and it is inspiring because you see the responses of others. This also gives people different insights during the process; on closer inspection, they might prefer answers that differ from their own. This reflection is essential. The dialogue encourages you to think; I have not seen this implemented in this manner in our industry before. Preparation takes time because it takes time to think about what you want to know and to formulate the right open question. Next time we apply the process, we will be familiar with the platform!

Before we started, we informed colleagues in our educational institution that we intended to look for their input. I wasn’t familiar with the dialogue mechanism, and I am not very tech-savvy, but the platform is very easy-to-use. The collaboration was enjoyable. CircleLytics was easily accessible and quickly came up with solutions. After a thorough demonstration and patient explanation, I was quickly able to search the answers without difficulty. For instance, I can hide answers and build a top (and a bottom) 5 based on the top-rated options or words used. It’s very valuable to see in what context people use these words.”

“Our advice is fully supported by the responses from the collective. We cannot and do not want to ignore this. We are now waiting for certain committees to make their decisions, and then the work can resume based on newly formulated professional tasks. But now we know, from experience, that the right questions provide valuable answers that are supported by a representative target group. We highly recommend the CircleLytics Dialogue to other education colleagues and institutions.”

If you want to know more about what CircleLytics Dialogue can do for the commitment and retention of your people, your change procedures and your organization’s performance, please schedule your introduction meeting or demo now.


Plato Academie

CircleLytics Dialogue is widely used in education. CircleLytics is based on the science of collective intelligence and dialogue dynamics. People in the online dialogues are not rushed by a workshop or digital session of one or more hours but can reflect on their and mostly others’ answers, over several days, through two asynchronous online rounds. No video sessions, no survey, but actual dialogues. Dialogues teach us to see each other’s perspectives, it creates nuances and leads to new common insights. That requires attention and time to reflect. The dialogue method enables quick group-supported decision-making, in a matters of days to a few weeks.

This blog is about the different ways that dialogue is applied in the field of education. The dialogue method has been applied at institutions such as Leiden University, University of Amsterdam, Breda University of Applied Sciences, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, ROC Mondriaan, InHolland University of Applied Sciences, Avans University of Applied Sciences, Kentalis (Special Education) and many primary and secondary schools. Working with groups ranging from dozens to thousands of participants.

Read more about one educational organization’s road to better performances “The dialogue feels like a true victory.”

Key reasons why the Education System applies CircleLytics Dialogue

Democratize decision-making

The reason for using CircleLytics Dialogue is usually that organizations want to shape their participatory policy, improving their democratic work processes. Sometimes this is prompted by a direct reason: students or employees who exert pressure and express their opinions, but do so in a disorganized manner, or at unforeseen moments. That type of feedback is usually not very useful. You do not want small biased groups, which may not be representative, to dictate the agenda with their behavior, whether or not through (social) media, a joint signed call for action or a letter, etc.

Innovation: moving forward

Another reason is that organizations want to innovate, look for new forms of work. This is driven by three factors in particular. Firstly, remote working and the development of online education is forcing us to look for new forms of work. This is done to stimulate collaboration, learning and listening, brainstorming, decision-making, implementation, and accountability. Secondly, existing forms of working, such as a group meeting or sending out surveys, have already been digitalized. Technology such as the online dialogue puts people and their interactions about issues at the center of the discussion, and makes it possible to scale this up to tens of thousands of participants. This is what we call co-creation. The power of collaboration plus the power ofDialoog Dialogue digital possibilities unlocks the special, collective intelligence of groups of people. If you want to consult more (scientific) backgrounds on this subject, you can do so here, or by reading the book ‘On Dialogue’, by physicist and philosopher David Bohm.


Policymakers, teachers, employees and students are tired of filling out surveys. This fatigue is not because they receive so many surveys, or the length of the surveys. Our records, and research by institutions like Gallup, shows that they are particularly annoyed by the closed questions. The lack of interest in the participants’ actual personal opinions and experiences has an opposite effect: it has seriously damaged the reputation of surveys as a means of reaching people. People love getting attention and being taken seriously. Through social media, they have become accustomed to the democratic process of voicing your opinion, and they don’t expect any obstacles when doing so. This means that, for participative and representative decision-making, and to create broad support for your decisions, you should not wait and see how and where small groups of people express themselves. You should be the one actually organizing this information gathering. Technology allows you to do this with large groups, even with many thousands of participants. Clients in education and other sectors are looking for new ways to conduct high-quality, more reliable but also scalable, research.

Read here also our blog over ‘Which working  method? Meeting or Dialogue?’

Leadership & the intelligence of the collective

The third factor is related to leadership, and to modern views on the engagement of employees, teachers and students. The idea is to modernize leadership styles to better address issues in which employees play a more determining role than previously thought. Subjects such as listening to the organization, deep democracy, serving leadership, but also agile leadership are playing an increasingly important role. This requires new resources; you cannot solve new challenges with old resources.

We often work for organizations that understand the concepts of deep democracy and expect us to apply it. The minority opinion is actively not oppressed by the majority. This is important to maintain a balance and keep the dialogue going. This means that people can learn from each other, and can jointly and in stages achieve something better. Check out how Sandra Bouckaert, DD expert par excellence, applies dialogue and digital implementation of deep democracy. We work for institutions with a wide range of leadership styles and cultures. As a result, the topics may be asked differently by customers. It can range from “we are planning on ABC, what obstacle could hinder its implementation and how do we remove that obstacle?” (especially top-down, bottom-up for implementation) to “we ask you to brainstorm with us about XYZ and jointly determine the most supported choices” (bottom-up policy and decision-making).

For inspiration, we share these case studies with you. These are actual examples from education practice; they demonstrate how to unlock the power of collective intelligence, the wisdom of the group, and enjoy the combined benefits:

  • people like to take part: they enjoy being allowed to give their opinion and learn from each other
  • you can gather more and reliable insights in just a couple of days, two weeks at the most
  • you prevent your organization from going into ‘resistance mode’ because you have shown openness
  • no analytical background is needed to understand and use the results immediately.


1 Policy-making

You can involve hundreds or even thousands of participants in formulating policies. You can appeal to the people who are the real eyes and ears of the internal organization and the external market. By doing a broad inventory, you prevent yourself from relying on the usual suspects and allowing bias and established assumptions in your new policy, without re-examining them first. You can perceive developments in the environment – such as opportunities, threats, new options, internationalizations – faster and better when you see them through the eyes of many, rather than just your own. Except, of course, if you want to let your view of things dominate for some reason. For example, you can ask about these new developments, how they see things in 5-10 years’ time, what the institution must retain and why, which spearheads they see for this and that, etc. In this phase, you probably tell participants that your explorations are just that, and that you are not yet making decisions. That could be the next phase, in which you use the dialogues to ask for support, thus organizing support for your intended policy. Sometimes participants are asked about a ‘potentially insurmountable objection’ and, if supported by others in the second round of the dialogue, this will lead to some very welcome adjustments.


A closely related topic:

2 Policy evaluation and adjustment

The purchase of a new bicycle shed on campus is a quite static affair. There is not much opportunity to adjust any decisions on this subject. You can retrieve online input and ideas from a group and have those influence your decision. You build it and that’s that. However, most decisions affect the context in which the decision was taken. And the context itself is likely to change. What’s more, your decisions will encourage new behavior. Either it leads to positive behavior to implement what has been decided on, or it causes negative behavior you didn’t take into account. If you involved people during the dialogues in the development stage of policy-making, you knew beforehand where you’d encounter resistance and where there would be support, and you would have taken both sides into account. This prevents opposition afterwards. But if you didn’t, you might also have to deal with potentially serious new and negative behavior.

In short: non-static issues are dynamic, to some degree, so you stay alert. How? By asking those involved about what is having a visible effect, what requires some attention or tightening, and what can be improved. This makes it easy to adjust, quickly and with support. In addition, you and the stakeholders can detect early and regularly where new risks arise and whether they have observed changes that may have an impact. This way, you will not be surprised by any development, and you will remain in control of the situation.

3 Educational programs and quality

Clients test whether educational programs are sustainable. They want to know how education connect to the business world, how quality is assessed, what can be improved, does it attract students, would researchers and teachers want to participate? Our clients in education ask their internal and external stakeholders for feedforward. They combine this with the numbers about the students’ influx and outflow, student satisfaction, teacher retention, success and drop-out rates. They gather feedback and feedforward from alumni and the business community. Both groups greatly appreciate being more engaged, feeling more involved, and sharing what they see and know. The institution can emphasize and even develop new modules and program components based on co-creation with its stakeholders. Several clients are using the platform.

4 Graduation, research, PhD

Students must do research. To this end, they use methods for testing hypotheses, etc. Accurate data is critical. They mostly use interviews, and above all they use surveys. However, people suffer from ‘survey fatigue’; the number of responses is decreasing and surveys tend to create bias. Those with the most outspoken opinions may be those who, through closed questions, experience that you do not take them seriously. In that case, you lose the most important insights, and your response comes from the remaining group. This undermines the reliability of your research. For each research or project you set up through the platform of CircleLytics, you will determine per question which scale is applicable, whether you explicitly ask for an open answer, and whether you start that unique second round. You can also use the platform to ask ‘regular’ closed questions, such as profile questions that are often required for research. CircleLytics Dialogue offers the functionalities that the most advanced survey tools also present, but on top of that, it offers something unique that the others don’t: the processing of open answers in a second dialogue round, where others assess and rate those answers on their substantive value.

The platform is also used to co-create research goals, determine focal points and set priorities with as many participants as desired. This often includes external stakeholders or foreign collaboration partners. That, too, is something you can achieve digitally, but not physically.

5 Modern leadership and human capital policy

From the perspective of leadership and modern human capital policy, you want your organization and projects to be handled differently than before. You’ll want to do away with the old ‘survey’ method, or add deeper layers to it. Employees want to be involved; they want to be taken seriously, and leadership wants to respect and take into account everyone’s diversity of thoughts. You want to invest in employee engagement and experience. Our clients have noticed that regular dialogues strengthen these important objectives and increase people’s willingness to stay with the organization. By asking questions about how they experience equal opportunities for themselves and others, how the culture can be improved, the elements they are proud of, what are surprising reasons to stay or leave, etc. The dialogue respects and embraces the diversity of thought; it is 100% inclusive. It asks everyone’s opinion anonymously. This creates a culture that motivates work and collaboration, a culture where you lead and learn the common language of the organization, the shared values, etc.


In line with this …

6 Research among & engaging of students

Don’t forget: surveys are no longer popular. However, asking essential open questions and some scoring questions is. This relatively straightforward step provides qualitative insights that survey platforms such as Qualtrics and SurveyMonkey cannot offer. That is one of the reasons many of our clients are using our services, in addition to or replacing these platforms. They are applying CircleLytics’ better options, not in the least because we managed to make ‘participating in research’ fun again. And if it’s fun and valuable (because of the unique and critical 2nd round), you can approach and engage students more frequently. You can ask them to provide feedback/feedforward on lectures, teachers, websites, catalogues, education, practical work, events, campus setup, etc. Focus on mainly open-ended questions, only a few at a time and learn from their qualitative insights.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

7 Don’t forget the alumni!

The alumni are underrated. They are very sympathetic to your institution, have built a strong working life, and represent a diversity of organizations. It is a great opportunity, exploring their continued learning needs and learning more about the market trends and developments. This enables you to improve your relationship with them, collect valuable content and use the information about the changes they notice in their working life. You can also discover what they consider valuable events and why, so you can improve attendance.

8 Recognition and appreciation

This is a tricky topic for institutions. Various institutions are investigating and developing policies on this topic with their staff. The second round of the online dialogue ensures that participants listen to each other’s opinions, learn from them, rate their appreciation and provide useful explanations. Any nuance in difficult debates is based on a diversity of perspectives. Don’t forget: a new policy can have significant new, unknown effects on behavior. In turn, this behavior can affect quality, culture and retention. Research can also lead to lingering discontent due to forces that are only emerging after you introduce new policies. We therefore recommend regular checks for recognition and appreciation and how these aspects are perceived. Which elements are considered consequences, and which are opportunities to adjust?

9 Let’s not forget about the primary process: education

Using CircleLytics, you can set challenges for groups of students or pupils. The challenges you set them, and the solutions they come up with, are discussed during multiple rounds. They get to apply what they have learned in practice right away. As a teacher, you get more grip on sustainability. You can ensure your students and pupils can really grasp the theory of the concepts. You also see how they approach, solve, and think about your challenge. That makes them better prepared for a future that is more digital and requires virtual collaboration with new technologies. So, it’s best to start early!

10 Employee participation

You cán and must harness the power of the people. Not only using education, leadership and HR, but also through employee participation (EP). The rules for employee engagement in education can differ from country to country. In general, such as in The Netherlands, an employee council has the right to engage all relevant employees to advice leadership regarding a variety of topics and draft-decisions. For EP to be effective, you need a periodic or ad hoc instrument to reach (a very large group of) your employees. CircleLytics has proven to be excellent for this: all the polls, surveys, and newsletters cannot compete with the rejuvenation of employee participation. CircleLytics’ impact is easy to achieve, and management teams and employees are clearly noticing it.

If you have been inspired by the way that other educational institutions make impact with dialogue & collective intelligence, now is the time to plan your introduction meeting with us.

agility feedforward

We all know Landal GreenParks, with its holiday parks and recreational homes. There are now over 100 holiday parks in 9 European countries. Many of these more than 15,000 homes are owned by third parties. Some 8,000 homes are owned by private individuals. For Landal GreenParks, good communication with all its target groups is essential. That is why they took a good look at their communication with the homeowners and how to develop the owner’s web portal in an agile way.

Landal says: “We already had a magazine, a newsletter and a website to reach the owners, but we wanted to improve the entire communication. So, the magazine received a design make-over. We also increased the frequency of the digital newsletter and started building a new website. We really wanted to involve the homeowners in this agile development, hence to stay in dialogue.”

What do they think of us?

“We consider our homeowners to be involved partners for whom we take care of the rental, administration and management of a holiday park. We really want to know what this positive critical target group thinks of our communication. We want to involve them in this feedback process. There are many (individual) contact moments with the owners, but we are really looking for a way to reach them all, and to let them have a say in this process. We had already organized owner surveys, market surveys and panels, but we were also looking for a way to reach out to all our owners for more agile development of the owner’s web portal. We need to find out what’s going on inside the homeowner group. Based on their input and suggestions we improved our service. We have since updated the website, enabling owners to arrange as much as possible themselves within the same online environment. We used the results of the CircleLytics dialogues to realize the owner’s key needs.”

Read here also what health care institute Spaarne Gasthuis says re collaboration, team dialogues and manager actions.

Deliberate open-ended questions provide sought-after answers

“The collaboration with CircleLytics is enjoyable, and they advised us on how to formulate the questions as pointedly as possible. Being able to link quantitative data to qualitative data is extremely valuable. For instance, if we start by asking ‘How do you rate our services on a scale of 1-10?’ and then ask about the respondents’ motivation or best suggestions immediately following that question, we can truly understand what the figures mean. An important element is asking yourself, beforehand, what you can do with the answers. Can we link concrete actions to it? This is important for our relationship with the owners and their motivation for subsequent dialogues. It greatly optimizes our services, the owner platform, and our communication with the owners.”

The start of the dialogues

“One of the questions from the first dialogue session was: ‘We want to improve our service and communication. What actions do you think we should take?’ We then went to work with these answers. We developed concrete actions from the most widely supported answers, which we then carried out as much as possible, after some internal consultation.

Next, we held the second dialogue session, where we specifically asked: ‘What information do you think should be on the first page of the website once you have logged in? We got many responses and used those to develop the new website homepage. After the website went live, we started a new dialogue a while later. We wanted to use this session to gather suggestions for improving the website’s user-friendliness and tips for further, agile development. For further development of the website, we considered many of the recommendations. For example, one of the owners’ most significant needs was a better insight into the occupation rates and turnover of the recreation homes. Based on this need, we developed a financial dashboard, and the owners are enthusiastic about it.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

Proven support

The dialogues provide support, and the second round plays an essential role: it is where participants rate each other’s answers. Their involvement is very valuable and gives us a weighting that lets us understand their most and least important factors. The data we collect during the two question rounds enables us to extract Top 5 and Bottom 5 lists. The most supported feedback (feedforward, actually) becomes apparent and shows us what most owners agree on. The owners will also discuss the answers others gave in the first round. It is true co-creation.

Informed decisions and actions

Landal continues: “Their commitment shows through in the data: they like to participate very actively, and you can see that in the second round, where they read and appreciate or even supplement many of the opinions of others. It is not a gut feeling or an opinion based on what some of the owners or a (small) focus group say. Instead, you get feedback based on numbers and clear recommendations about how to proceed. It gives you a solid document about what your target group thinks. This feedback has also been presented internally. It will show there is support, and we will continue discussing this internally and externally. Each time, we determine which actions we can take. We like to continue these dialogues and the co-creation. The owners tell us that they really appreciate this level of involvement. It enables us to make informed decisions and apply our people, budget and development capacity where the highest value is.”

If you want to learn more about using the online CircleLytics Dialogue and talk about your challenges and ambitions, please get in touch with us.


Philips Dialogue Leadership

In 2021, René Schoenmakers was Director of Supply Chain at Philips Health for South America. He was dealing with a lack of engagement and involvement within his team. He wanted to gather feedback from the entire team on specific topics and better, engaged decision-making, and called in CircleLytics to start a dialogue.

Insufficient input from generic survey for decisions

René says: “At Philips, we conduct bi-annual employee engagement surveys. These are standard questions we ask Philips employees worldwide. This survey is intended to gauge the ‘temperature’, asking ourselves, ‘are we still on the right track? It does not yield any qualitative answers that drive my decision making today, because these are closed-ended questions that never vary. The textual answers remain unweighted: I don’t know what importance or sentiment others attribute to them, so I can’t derive reliable, decision-making value from it. We wouldn’t be able to make good comparisons with previous surveys if the questions were varying, so these global engagement surveys with generic questions make sense. But this also means that you cannot put forward specific topics to ask questions about for superior, faster decision-making. You will have to come up with another solution. The survey platform and surveys do not answer the ‘why’ and ‘how can we improve’ questions, to summarize it. 

In a word, the survey is good for its purpose but not for decision making purposes. At Philips, we have high standards and strong ambitions, also when it comes to taking action where necessary. I wanted to gather more qualitative feedback that I could use within my team. So, I took the initiative to use the CircleLytics Dialogue. The Employee Engagement global team supported my choice because the engagement survey is not used for qualitative deepening, let alone co-creation, to tackle and solve (local) challenges together.

I used CircleLytics to ask concrete questions from two perspectives:

  1. I wanted to dive deeper into some (of the many) topics from the global engagement survey where my region achieved insufficient or very high scores. I wanted to understand the why of it all and learn what decisions are crucial.
  2. I wanted to tackle some issues in my own management agenda. I used CircleLytics for co-creation sessions with my people to make them aware, involve them in these issues, understand the root causes, and create solutions.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

“People in South America are not as outspoken as the Dutch. They are rather reticent about what is bothering them or what could be improved. That is why Schoenmakers is so enthusiastic about the asynchronous design of the CircleLytics Dialogue. I can reach any team member; they can answer questions anonymously, at their own pace, at their own location, and then rank and comment on the responses of their colleagues in a separate second round. The answers from those who are quick to participate in the first round will not carry more weight in the second round: all input must wait until round 2 starts, and all input is treated equally. Another essential CircleLytics feature is that employees can not only positively but also choose to negatively rate the responses and solutions of others: they can score them with -3, -2, or -1. So, there is room for nuance, but they can also safely choose to reject certain options because an option is risky, unsubstantiated or otherwise not the best option for Philips. Groups can reduce a specific risk by 20-30% by asking questions about it, which is a significant extra benefit of this technology. The response was much higher than I ever would have thought and they showed impressive activity.”

Read here also what Landal GreenParks says re agility, leadership and massive, online co-creation.

Team interactions, diversity of thinking

“My team consisted of 70 employees from four districts. I wanted them to collaborate better, collect ideas from them, and inventory their priorities. I selected the topics for the first dialogue session from the global engagement survey results for South America. We repeated four critical questions (the traditional closed-end question with a score scale) but then extended the question to ask for an open answer, namely “can you give us your concrete explanation”. In round 2, the participants scored each other’s answers and explained their recommendations. This meant a profound dive into the matter after the closed-end questions in the original global engagement survey. For the second dialogue session, I selected a different set of critical questions from the survey. Some of these had scored really high, and some had scored low. I also wanted to learn why the high scores were achieved and how they could be maintained.

I personally came up with the questions for the third dialogue session. For the design of these questions, I held a brainstorming session with my team, and I requested the support of CircleLytics. During the second round of this new dialogue, the employees were once again given their colleagues’ answers from the first round, to assess (scores) and explain their assessment. I had immediate access to the (qualitative) results directly from the dashboard and took these with me to the management team consultation in the afternoon.”

“During that third dialogue session, I asked them about their greatest concerns for the coming months regarding a certain topic. I wanted to know what their first order of business would be if they had my job; what they thought would make people listen to their needs better; and how we could strengthen the collaboration between teams within Philips.”


Implement concrete actions: faster and better informed

“The dialogues’ results were not shocking; the most supported answers were already known (or at least to me). This dialogue enabled me to gather the evidence to prove that the answers were also most supported by my team. The CircleLytics results also show the answers with the least support. That is also helpful information: when making decisions and weighing options, you want to know the risks.

However, actively asking for people’s opinions and having those people contribute to the solutions has been a very positive experience. Their feedback on the CircleLytics Dialogue clearly showed that they appreciate the time we take to engage in a dialogue with our people. I now have a new role within Philips, and the challenge for my successor lies in linking these outcomes to concrete actions. From there, he can also engage in more dialogues with the entire team to ask for more in-depth information, monitor and adjust issues, and present new challenges to the group.”


Balanced team vision

Truly listening to your team is invaluable. I discussed the dialogue sessions and the results with my supervisor. If you use the dialogue more frequently, raise concrete topics, or ask questions relevant to the team, you will also get more balanced solutions. You actively gather the expert knowledge of the team members, creating a substantial collective mental capacity. The dialogue will lead to a broader team vision; it enables people to think quietly, reflect on their previous answers given, and then share their feedback again. And that feedback often differs greatly from their previous opinion: they have gained more knowledge, and the tool cleverly captures that and applies it in the real-time dashboard.

When using certain techniques, such as live conversations, introverted people will often be reticent about expressing their opinions; others will dominate those conversations and not listen to others. In the dialogue sessions, we allow each employee to participate actively and appreciate the responses of others. In a continent like South America, with its more reserved opinions, the dialogue technique is an effective way to gather feedback. I highly recommend the dialogue technique; it has enabled me to make my decisions more quickly and better, with proven support and commitment from my people. It also actively asks for everyone’s opinion, which is a very positive development.”

Intrigued and curious to see how CircleLytics Dialogue works, creates value and can be launched within days? Plan your meeting instantly here.




Dialogue is indeed something else than a meeting, a good conversation or a pleasant gathering. Also, online is something else than sitting together in a room. Limited to a few people or a large group? Finish in an hour or time for slowing-down and reflection? What working methods do you choose? Do you combine working methods? In this blog we will tell you how we see it, bringing in our knowledge and our experience. Nobody wants a meeting culture anymore, and people are already looking for other ways of working than video conferencing as an alternative. Video is still a meeting, with the usual suspects, and that doesn’t feel good. On to a dialogue culture?

Dialogue or conversation? Is there a difference?

Yes, absolutely. A conversation is an exchange of all kinds of information. How are you doing? How is your project going? What have you learned? Shall we go through our presentation again? How shall we handle our conversation with the prospect tomorrow? You probably have these kinds of conversations and (video) meetings all day long with colleagues or a whole team. In our opinion, a good conversation or a good meeting is an effective exchange of information (preferably also an empathic one), where try to listen well and, for example, make agreements. A dialogue is something else, a very different, new way of working (even though the word dialogue is used all the time). You are in dialogue when you actively seek out how others see things, other than how you see them. You want to learn from this, and for others to do the same among themselves. Afterwards, you – or together with others – will arrive at new insights. Different insights and therefore choices than anyone could have imagined. Advancing insights and points of view; dialogue, that’s hard work! Limiting the group size is an easy trap to fall into: you might think that the more people, the more possibilities of each person interacting with others. Of course, and you’re right. That’s the beauty of diversity of thoughts and increasing the group size. Don’t back off you, dialogue requires this high intensity of interaction. And yes, you need technology for scaling up dialogue instead of falling back on old habits of “keeping the group size low to have an effective meeting”. The power of effectiveness lies in the dynamics of true dialogue and including a wide diversity of thoughts. Not a limited set-up.

So far about the dialogue.

Now something about ‘sitting in a room and seeing each other for an hour’.

Seeing is often very pleasant. It is personal. You can also talk about your holiday, work-related gossip about your boss, something fun that you experienced with a client the other day, etc. That personal touch is important for mutual relationships. You get to know each other better and can come to appreciate each other more. This is difficult online. In other words, you would like to keep that personal, that relationship side. But then those other sides, which are a bit less fun …. And they have such a strong impact on the content, on the involvement of people who are not there, on the quality and support of decision-making…

The other side …

A room is limiting

Every meeting room, including the virtual meeting room of Teams or Zoom, is limiting. You can’t just have a discussion with dozens of people, let alone a real dialogue, because then you ‘have’ to listen to each other, and above all learn from everyone, and together come to (completely) new insights and choices. The space of physical or virtual walls limits your possibilities. A group of 5-15 people is often the maximum for such a way of working. And you’re missing a lot of people; their ideas, their experience, their knowledge. This could be a choice; maybe you just don’t want everyone to be able to contribute, or you are afraid that too many people will make listening (and learning) more difficult. Or you are afraid that too large a group will lead to chaos. Valid points if you’re not familiar with new technology, but those types of working methods dó lead to limitations. The question is whether you want that and whether it can be done differently. The latter is a resounding yes. The Future of Work has long since begun, and digital transformation is already having an impact on how we work (together) and how we can better connect with each other. Whether you want it to be different, however …. is up to you. Did you know that larger groups are up to 60% more intelligent than the sum of individual intelligence? And 20% more creative if the group is more diverse?

That clock

It ticks by…. An hour passes quickly, as does a workshop. And yet you would like to be in true dialogue with the whole group. Time to listen, time to reflect, time to learn, and time to come to a supported new choice or idea: all this is quickly lost, what remains is a so-called ‘good’ conversation, a meeting. Another one. Especially the organizer is happy afterwards: we stayed within the time limit because “we don’t want a meeting culture”. The participants themselves leave frustrated but also relieved. Afterwards, they go into dialogue together, or the next day, without that clock ticking. But also without you. So you just don’t know what you’re missing. Literally. And that’s what you’re going to have to deal with along the way. Or they go into sabotage mode: all kinds of light and heavier forms of resistance manifest themselves: from responding late to e-mails, not doing exactly what is asked, whipping up sentiment etc.

Night’s sleep

Remember that everyone’s brain needs a night’s sleep and will think about the issue differently the next day(s). You cannot achieve this with a (virtual) meeting. You would prefer to phase your meeting, to keep it in steps so that everyone can come to their senses. Iterating, in other words. By slowing down you can then speed up more intelligently. Our brain has a fast and a slow thinking phase. We will come back to how the CircleLytics online solution approaches this.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

Social influence

Whether you like it or not. People are sensitive to other people with positions, status, power, unpleasant manners, not listening, or who dominate a work format such as meetings. And even if you say: “now please let someone else speak” or “I would like it if we let each other finish”, the tone is set. The tone and social factors influence the result. You run the risk of thinking you have support after the meeting and making weak decisions that cause discontent now or later. Don’t forget that as a manager, you pay their mortgage and they don’t just protest, not directly, if they are not involved, or not taken seriously. When these things accumulate, they become less satisfied, they start to resist. Then they tick it off somewhere on a study by HR. Or vote with their feet when an opportunity arises. Did you know that 30-50% of employees actively seek a new job? Did you know that many ‘departure statistics’ are already well over the top? We learn another perspective on social influence from the following quote, which is about the emergence of consensus in a meeting and the decrease of diversity in the dialogue, with a vulnerable result as a consequence:

“Group discussions, thinking that if you bring a group of people together, those people will tell you their point of view in an honest way. But there’s substantial research showing that that isn’t what happens when a group comes together to discuss anything. Anyone who’s been in a meeting has seen this. Once consensus starts to form, it generates its own momentum. It’s like a snowball that turns into an avalanche of consensus. And at that point, people no longer offer up their true perspective. (Annie Duke in Strategy+Business).”

It can be done differently….

First, a calculation

How many changes and choices are there in your organization that you want to put your heads together for? Do you want to understand together, list the options, make decisions and get on with it? 10 times something big per month?

Let’s say you have 3,000 employees. To gain reliable insights and make decisions, you prefer to hear all their diverse opinions. Statistically speaking, you’re only doing a valid and representative job if you have involved at least 300 employees. With group sizes of 15 people, that’s at least 20 meetings. With 10 major changes/choices a month…. that is more than 200 meetings a month ….

From the perspective of employee engagement and diversity & inclusion, you would really want to involve everyone in issues that affect them. All 3,000 of them! After all, the more diverse and complete the group, the smarter the result and the more involved and inclusive it becomes. It is also enormously motivating to be able to dive into an issue. Did you know that? Is it the same for you?

This means about 3,000 employees, in groups of 15, 200 groups …. 10x a month…. a total of 2,000 meetings. So to get everyone involved in the really big things of the organization…. you would be holding meetings day and night. And how do you record, observe, combine, reflect? And how do you then learn from this? Our answer is: you don’t.

Read here also our blog “More diversity means more dialogue. Our new 2nd round”

Can we agree that it doesn’t work? Agree that nobody will do this..

That is why organizations fall back on the familiar: a few groups, some workshops, unclear composition, limited time, no reflection, and often the same people talking … But manageable and recognizable … employees are not happy and inspired by that. They prefer to co-create and to get their teeth into something. Being useful, being wanted, being recognized, being seen. That’s good, because if they want to and you want multiple perspectives and insights to make better decisions…. 1 +1 = 3, you’d think?

Now for the dialogue as a working method

Dialogue requires you to look for other perspectives and rethink the issue. Together. Preferably with as large a group as possible. Inclusive. Diverse. CircleLytics Dialogue can be used as a working method for groups of 10 to 100,000 people. For the participants it is mutually anonymous, so they can speak freely in the absence of hierarchy, and in the absence of social influence. These are preconditions. The book “Over Dialoog” (about dialogue ed.) by physicist and philosopher David Bohm is worth reading. By the way, did you know that in this book, he describes that the minimum number of people needed for a dialogue is 20? This increases the chance that you are with people who fall outside your immediate team/project group and have different opinions from you, which is necessary: only other opinions are different. Sounds logical.

The dialogue is held in two rounds and lasts a few days, so they are free to think, reflect, sleep on it. That means that today you can approach your 3,000 employees from the example with (open-ended) questions that truly matter, challenge them and involve them transparently in difficult topics. They get to work online, anonymously. The first 100s of answers and ideas roll in and the days after that it continues. A few days later, via a unique 2nd round, they reflect on each other’s anonymous answers: they rate them and enrich them with their own words. This arrives in real time bundled within days, and ready to use in order of ‘most favourite and why’ in your dashboard. Ready to walk the talk!

What are the benefits such a dialogue?

Firstly, speed. A (video) meeting, workshop or digital pressure-cooking session delivers fake speed. By slowing down via 2 rounds, as we do, and giving participants a few days’ time, people think better. Those few days of delay deliver unprecedented benefits later in your decision-making, in the knowledge that you have built a strong support base. Because that’s what you do: build support. You gain support by questioning all the people who are relevant to the issue, or vice versa: who is affected by the issue? People feel involved, they actively participate, and say what they really think. This will truly speed up the implementation of decisions, changes and plans.

Secondly, reliability. The technology helps to process all the data quickly and without error, cluster them. This is to register a change of thinking, how they reacted to each other’s opinions. Everything is in real-time. No manual work. No human errors. No subjective processing of data. You can build on the results of the online dialogue and follow up with decisions. Instantly.

Thirdly, diversity. By collecting so many perspectives from people and letting them learn from each other’s perspectives, you will maximize diversity. This demonstrably benefits your result and reduces risk by up to 30%. It is the different ways of thinking that make decisions so good. Thanks to the structured CircleLytics Dialogue in 2 rounds, there is no longer any risk of your or someone else’s prejudices creeping in and causing you to make mistakes.

diversity of thinking

Towards a culture of dialogue

By setting up these kinds of interventions with the relevant, largest possible group for different subjects, you – as an organization –  will become intelligent, self-learning and quick. You will become more successful as a network organization. Employees are not an organizational chart but a living network. Compare it to your brain to which you are constantly asking questions: from “can I cross here” to “how to react to a new situation”. Together, employees are one big brain. Don’t switch off a part, because you don’t know what you are missing. Your brain, your network of employees know whether they can contribute. They work in your organization on a voluntary basis and can find other work today: give them some credit: they know and see so much!

CircleLytics Dialogue can be used for 100s of situations and topics, such as:

– Co-creation: organizing brainstorm sessions and co-create with any group size and get the most creative results together within days to a maximum of 2 weeks.

– Conducting meetings: ask the relevant, largest group questions and then immediately ask for recommendations and the how/why.

– Continuously adjusting the execution of work/decisions: asking for feedback and feedforward on changes, projects, product launches, etc.

– Management or CEO (lunch) meetings or the Works Council: first make sure you know the concerns of the relevant group of employees, opportunities, obstacles and the questions you want to ask them.

– Taking decisions: present dilemmas, bottlenecks and choices and quickly come to well-founded decisions together

If you want to know more about designing solid, open-ended questions, download our White Paper here, containing 18 principles for designing your own questions. It will help you in dialogues, interviews, workshops and maybe even at home…

Do you combine the online dialogue with offline?

Yes, certainly. Many organizations combine online co-creation with offline meetings for decision-making, project design, budget allocation, and many other things. The enrichment is huge. After the offline meeting, the large group can be re-engaged to organize participatory decision-making and later to monitor and adjust change processes, i.e. continuous improvement. We call such a dialogue culture an expression of distributed leadership and benefitting from hybrid intelligence. Co-creation and dialogue makes everyone – individually and collectively – co-leader of a problem, of the solution, of decision making and of successful implementation. Ready for the Future of Work!

Intrigued and curious to see how CircleLytics Dialogue works, creates value and can be launched within days? Plan your meeting instantly here.


gemeente burgerparticipatie

According to Harry te Riele of TransitieFocus, if there is one party that will gain ground in complex decision-making in the coming years, it is the citizen. For the Energy Vision for the municipality of Tilburg, he and a team of professionals relied on wisdom of the crowd, or collective intelligence, also known as co-creation. The knowledge and vision of one and a half thousand residents provided food for thought for a select reflective group. In this blog, He explains why the Tilburg municipality decided not to use the citizens’ informal council (focus group of up to 1,000 people, based on a drawing) as originally requested. Some advantages and disadvantages of the hybrid construction, of online and offline dialogue, are discussed. Finally, he advises the public administration to experiment with this new participation-construction.

Involving citizens – betting all chips on focus groups and townhalls?

In the Netherlands, climate debates and environmental discussions have increased the call for the involvement of ordinary citizens in complex decision-making processes. The term citizen consultation is often used in this context. In some cities, this has unlocked the creativity and ownership that decision-makers have been looking for. Certainly, when board members assured the participants that their input weighed heavily in the decision-making, groups started to work seriously. So, should we be betting all chips on the informal citizens’ council or other versions of focus groups and town halls?

No, that’s not a wise thing to do. As we have seen in other transitions, a long period of variation and selection is now beginning for ‘decision-making’, which will probably eventually lead to a transition of public administration. He himself thinks that the next step is the use of the crowd, of a group size without limit, where everyone can share their thoughts, participate, and listen to and learn from each other.

The system is stable as long as it is supported – what about representative democracy?

Let’s go back to the basis. Every social system has disadvantages. If you build a house, someone else cannot walk their dog there. If everyone puts a lock on their bicycle, people lose their keys every day. If a country uses natural gas, it will experience burns, explosions and earthquakes. If you give cars free reign in the city, it will immediately become inaccessible for playing children and the elderly who are suffering from dementia.

Regardless of its scale, a system remains dynamically stable as long as people feel its advantages outweigh its disadvantages. It is reaffirmed every day – repeatedly deployed, repaired and brought up to date with limited modifications. Once, every now-familiar system was an innovation. It fought its way in and became a factor of significance when it scaled up. Society adjusted to it and gradually people became so familiar with it that they no longer realized the disadvantages, nor the doubts and sometimes fierce discussions when it was introduced. They only surface again when the system is changed – sometimes generations later.

For example, as the electric car scales up, many are noticing that it requires 70% less maintenance, can be powered by solar energy, accelerates faster than petrol, is quiet, clean and can be updated remotely. It communicates with other cars and infrastructure, bringing relaxed travel and far fewer deaths within reach. The time-honoured dealer network proves unnecessary. The new construction for remote mobility is no longer a collection of rods, pistons, diesel and V-belts. It is a computer with wheels that, for the first time in a century and a half, does not smell and that you can park in your hallway if necessary. And yes, even the electric variant has its drawbacks, but the advantages outweigh them – at least in the perception of a rapidly growing group of people.

Reading all of this, how is our democracy doing? Which of its drawbacks did we forget long ago? Te Riele has a go at it.

Dialogue with citizens

Read here our blog over “Customer Case: Education: The Results of the Dialogue Truly Feel Like a Victory.”

Emancipation of citizens was also foreseeable in decision-making transitions

It is well known that citizens and residents played a role in the Dutch urban renewal in the 1970s and 1980s and in exposing environmental scandals. However, involving citizens in transitions – major social system changes – was virgin territory when the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (in Dutch: Ministry of VROM) published a research / position paper: Een Wereld en een Wil/NMP4 in 2001. After that publication, the ministry asked Te Riele to link substantive transitions to decision-making itself. The answer was a vision in which they criticize how triple helix networks bring together scientists, entrepreneurs, politicians and civil servants for decision-making on transitions, but not those who are actually at the heart of the matter: ordinary people and their ability to stand up for a nice life. To make the foreseeable systemic changes towards sustainability run smoothly, they proposed 21 years ago to give ordinary people (‘citizens/consumers’) a full place in decision-making on transitions. For them, the question is not if but how.

The ministry of VROM, however, was eliminated. The strategists behind the NEPP4 dispersed to other ministries and the EU and their plea for commitment to system innovations came to a halt. Along other lines, however, visions, experiments and publications on linking ordinary people to governance grew worldwide. Smart Cities were combined with IT. Countries such as Singapore, Spain, Canada, Taiwan and Norway formed the leading group. In the Netherlands, however, IT did not play a special role in the recent deployment of citizens – think of local energy debates and area visions.

Back to the municipality of Tilburg.

Tilburg’s Energy Vision: “We are thinking of a citizens’ council”.

When, in the spring of 2021, the Tilburg city council asks the Municipal Executive for more involvement of homeowners in their Energy Vision, organizing a citizens’ council is in the cards. The municipality is thinking of about twenty selected residents who will give their opinion on the Energy Vision and stay on until it is adopted in December.

With the (recent) “Malieveld protest”, the tractors on the highways, the occupied national institute RIVM and the threats on the internet still fresh in their minds, Te Riele and his colleague Esther van der Valk propose a different construction. They support a select reflection group with wisdom of the crowd, i.e. collective intelligence. Below are their arguments and how it worked out in practice.

  1. When things get grim, it is ethically irresponsible to have ordinary citizens deal with it. In the vision phase of the heat transition, our first argument against a citizens’ council alone is that there is hardly any social friction. This can change as soon as homeowners are obliged to invest. In the awkward situation that then arises, it is ethically irresponsible to have a small group of citizens deal with it, not to mention the political risk for the Municipal executive. They suggested that the municipality set up a – what was soon called – TilburgerTafel (Tilburg Table ed.) of twenty people to back them up with online dialogues based on open-ended questions and many citizens.

Per dialogue, many Tilburg citizens (they write: “preferably thousands”) anonymously answered questions about the Energy Vision. Their anonymized answers are passed on by CircleLytics Dialogue in small portions to other homeowners, with the request to rank them and provide comments.

No sooner said than done. After six weeks, the team was able to feed the TilburgerTafel with anonymized, ranked and supported responses from the first 700 Udenhouters, Berkel-Enschotters, Biezemortelers and Tilburg citizens, with top and bottom lists of most embraced and most rejected responses, as well as arguments for and against. This gives the TilburgerTafel a flying start and a fundamentally different one. In four months’ time, the group will meet six times to reflect on intermediate results, follow-up questions and fragments for the citizens’ advice. During the seventh, they will address specific dilemmas together with councillors. Members of the Tafel handed over their citizens’ advice on the spot in 56 large-format slides (see photo). A journalist from the Brabants Dagblad observes the strong group cohesion with amazement.

Meanwhile, fed by thousands of ranked answers and comments, the TilburgerTafel is much stronger in its advice. A high level of satisfaction among the participants in the online dialogue (8.5 on a scale of 10) further strengthens this position. When council members frequently quote statements and recommendations from the citizens’ advice in their debates, explicitly compliment the TilburgerTafel and unanimously adopt the Heat Vision, the participants will feel that they have participated in something worthwhile!

  1. Twenty people do not cover 70,000 households. Besides the ethical consideration, there is a second reason to use digital tools and collective and artificial intelligence. A citizens’ council cannot cover the diversity of 70,000 households, let alone in combination with the investment space per family, the basic attitude of the homeowner towards the entire heat transition and other peculiarities. With collective intelligence and CircleLytics Dialogue, this becomes easier. Diversity, majorities, minorities, clusters, deviating opinions, aversion to change in general; when using deliberately, open-ended questions you can get them to surface relatively easily. By larding the citizens’ advice with hundreds of literal answers, every subgroup feels seen, even if it is a minority and the council chooses a different route than it advocates. Decision-makers on their side get authentic material on their tablet or computer, with quality regarding process and content including a lot of spelling and stylistic errors. From now on, the policy can differentiate more precisely: by neighbourhood, income situation, house type, year of construction, psychological attitude, claimed autonomy and other key issues.

In order to get a feel for the deviation of the TilburgerTafel from the average homeowner, both responded to a few questions about the weighting of values. The TilburgerTafel turned out to be slightly greener than the average online participant and incorporated this awareness into its advice. From the very first Tafel meeting, a coordinator derived fragments for the citizens’ advice from the discussions. In the four months that followed, these became more complete, broader and deeper. The process progressed along three tracks: knowledge and trust between the members of the TilburgerTafel, regarding depth, breadth and design of the citizen advice and a growing relation between the municipality and eventually more than one and a half thousand participating Tilburg citizens, spread over the neighbourhoods of the city. Upon completion, the officials also have a list of residents who say they will become active in their neighbourhood for the Neighbourhood Implementation Plan.

  1. Draw does not automatically produce a group that solves complex problems. Those interested in the TilburgerTafel registered after calls in old and new media. From the sixty candidates, they chose twenty. Why did they refuse a draw? To reduce the risk that this group of 20 members is ill-equipped for complex problem solving. Whereas transition thinking at the turn of the century focused on frontrunners, it gradually became clear to Esther van der Valk and Te Riele that the dynamics of growth are strongly influenced by those who naturally feel at home in the upper half of the S-curve (growth curve). In other words: a transition goes as fast as those who do not want to grow. Smooth transitions require cooperation between people who are divided along the growth curve. This will result in better quality decisions. A decision that is supported by more people.

A second reason for not drawing lots is that people and matter are both important in a transition. A TilburgerTafel consisting of both people-attached and matter-attached characters covers the content of the problem as a group, as well as the social processes required to find a new direction. Here too, a small group runs the risk of missing this balance. In online dialogues in which 1500 Tilburg residents participate, these balances are not a problem and, looking back, we see this confirmed in the distribution of types of answers and comments.

Finally, Te Riele indicates that it makes a difference whether a group member is a specialist on a part of the growth curve or naturally has an overview of the whole, i.e. from creation through growth, exploitation and decline to dismantling. In a transition, all these processes occur simultaneously. As far as TransitieFocus is concerned, the TilburgerTafel should therefore have a variety of characters: 1) explorers and perpetuators, 2) people- and content-oriented characters and 3) specialists on the growth curve and generalists. Literature on complex problem-solving suggests that such a cognitively diverse group will produce faster and better results. From sixty applications, we formed a citywide group of twenty. Using playful introductory questions, we checked them at the outset for cognitive diversity. Years of experience with transition assessments are an advantage at such times, says TransitieFocus.

  1. The importance of open dialogues. So, a cognitively diverse group, strengthened by thousands of answers from three online dialogues with the city. Why did they ask open-ended questions in those dialogues instead of the more common polls and surveys? The answer lies first of all in the concept of dialogue. Dialogue is about learning from other people’s points of view and then rethinking your own. Dialogue is therefore about change. The Tilburg answers indeed show how large groups sometimes shift their opinions after reading 20, 40 or even more answers from others. By asking open-ended questions and allowing others to assess their answers, the city increases cohesion among thousands of people. In this way, decision-making progresses at this early stage. Polls and surveys do not do this. The literature on participation also points out that asking questions conveys an open attitude and trust – an essential feature of transitions in which various parties have to face the future together.
  2. Polarization is lurking. Back to the summer of 2021. As the TilburgerTafel progresses, it turns out that extreme answers – positive and negative – are judged by other homeowners as being of little use. As a result, the process did not become bogged down in deadlocks caused by flanking positions. The discussion runs through a nuanced midfield. Because of the absence of one moment and one place where ‘IT’ should happen (a meeting / workshop), the explosion of contagious enthusiasm that may characterize a citizens’ council may be lacking. Tilburg is more characterized by anonymity, tranquillity and time for reflection. Notifying the police, for instance, is not necessary. Officials, the council committee and boards are gradually warmed up with intermediate results.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

Extreme answers do of course come in. The coordinator includes them in the advice as an illustration, but these extreme views do not hijack the discussion. Moreover, by making the thousands of answers and comments on them available to all Tilburg residents in one Excel file, everyone can check the choices of the coordinator afterwards. For dyslexics, a Word version is online.

Successful? Drawbacks? Ready? Future?

Was the test of Model Tilburg successful? Many think so. Is the construction without disadvantages? Of course not. It was a hell of a job. Everything had to be invented, the team made mistakes. Some of them could not go on holiday and because of the Corona pandemic almost everything had to be put online. Some members never met each other live.

Is this scalable? Yes, it is. However, in Tilburg, politicians and officials gave the team exceptional freedom and trust. I’m extremely curious to see whether Model T will work with other teams, in other cities and on other transition issues.

Is Tilburg ready now? No. The team saw the trust between parties grow. With a heat transition that will take decades, it is unwise to abandon the dialogue structure now that the global vision has been established. A long-term relationship of trust between the municipality and entering and remaining in dialogue with thousands of residents and the parties around them could prove crucial as soon as the transition lands on doorsteps. The future? If this innovation scales up, sooner or later it will rub off on the usual routines. If Model T succeeds in solving forgotten and new problems that our traditional representative democracy can barely cope with, the latter will be painfully curtailed. The outcome of that struggle depends on the wisdom of those who decide. Te Riele would personally recommend Model Tilburg to them.

Contact Harry te Riele or Esther van der Valk from TransitieFocus here or contact the CircleLytics team here.

(This is an adaptation of an article that appeared in the Dutch magazine Ruimte + Wonen, nr 1, 2022, published by Aeneas).



Stimulating curiosity and being open to other points of view

Cutting, pasting and making decisions. In a nutshell, this is what Mark Nijssen and his company De organisatieontwerpers do for organizations in the public and semi-public sector. Especially organizations such as municipalities, health and safety institutions, health and safety service providers, participation companies, etc. When the organizational structure changes, a lot changes in other areas such as teams, decision trees and processes within organizations. During this process, he uses CircleLytics Dialogue to collect the opinions of various stakeholders and to make people aware of the need to ‘look outside’, literally outside the organization, as well as outside their team, their department. In other words, different perspectives. It also shows whether a plan devised by the management team is in line with what the employees want or need: interaction between and balancing of top-down and bottom-up. With this information, he continues the process of organizational change. The accumulated involvement of employees and especially their valuable input is a wonderful starting point and increases agility.

Focus on participation and agility

Mark: “I like a participative approach. That is why I invite people within organizations to be curious about the outside world. This includes the principle of deliberately asking open-ended questions and inviting them to share experiences with colleagues. What do you see, what do you think, what moves you? I try to get organizations to take a conscious, broad look. That takes guts, because it asks for information inside and outside the organization and calls for action. The dialogue will give you the most appreciated answers (top 5) and the least appreciated (bottom 5). I share both, because you can also get valuable information from the bottom 5. This way, you can immediately see whether a well-thought-out idea is indeed well received within the organization. You can test and sharpen top-down ideas, but I also use open-ended questions to collect bottom-up ideas or images. CircleLytics Dialogue measures the sentiment on ideas and opinions of others. Everyone learns from this, and everything is ranked in order of importance, support.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

I regularly receive requests from organizations that have implemented a change in strategy, or that have issues regarding cooperation. Of course, a management team already has a certain idea, but it is important to test whether this also fits with the needs of the organization and its employees. As management team, having tunnel vision is a pitfall, so it’s important to stimulate curiosity and gain knowledge from your own employees.


Dialogue is not just about gaining support for a decision. In the context of remaining curious, it makes sense to ask the employees based on their expertise: How do you see this situation? They have built up a lot of know-how. People who have been working for the organization for a long time can tell you a lot, but the fresh view of new people is also important. Talk to people who seem to be in resistance. Because often they are not – and sometimes they are – but they have valuable experiences and insights anyway. Ask them how they view the issue and listen carefully to their solutions. Through the online dialogue, you see a positive influence from groups that are willing to participate, to groups that are resisting. This is how you increase the agility of their thinking: by letting them learn from the opinions of others. It really is a waste not to use built-up knowledge and experience within an organization. And it’s better to do it now than later when it’s too late, for example during the implementation, and they turn out to be right after all, or want to be…

Read here also our blog “The next step in employee listening is called dialogue!”

Agile organization

Wendbaarheid Organisatieontwerp

Another aspect you need as an organization is agility. I recently published a book about this: ‘Organiseren op je Voorvoeten’ (organizing on your toes, ed.), in which I used the metaphor of a tennis player. You’re on your toes with an inquisitive gaze, curious about what is coming.  This is how you prepare for unexpected situations, which is what an agile organization does. I also mentioned dialogue in this book, precisely because it fits in with my vision of allowing everyone to participate. You don’t have to rely on assumptions; it’s even risky to ‘fill in the blanks’. With the dialogue, you can ask people directly. You can do so in a way that arouses curiosity and allows you to reach everyone at the same time.

By asking one or a few appropriate, open-ended questions, you will receive the right answers, with which you can continue the process. To get to that one question, I always use a design team. What do we really want to know? It’s important that we stay away from management language and that the question can only be explained in one way. In the context of agility, we often use the question ‘what do you see happening in the outside world that all your colleagues should also know? ‘. We then come to an open-ended and also concrete question in which they get a maximum of 220 characters to answer this question in the 1st round. This is how you can ‘force’ employees to answer only the most important things. In the second round, they can ‘go wild’ and score and appreciate the many answers from others.

Results as substantiated advice

The outcomes of dialogues are always input for physical meetings with the design team and management team. I use several dialogues within an organizational design process and the further along we are in the process, the more concrete we can ask about certain situations. The results do not stand alone, they are valuable within a larger and broader process that often leads to a plan for the organization. In addition, the results of the dialogue give us a well-founded advice, because we have given everyone the opportunity to provide input. This results in better-quality conversations, which in turn lead to a better-fitting end result. And more agility. That is why I have been using dialogue in my services for years and why I can recommend it wholeheartedly.”

Contact Mark Nijssen of the Organisatieontwerpers (The Netherlands).

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