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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.

Rudi Crabbé, director of Eten+Welzijn, came in touch with the online CircleLytics Dialogue in 2020 as a participant. He really liked the way in which opinions are collected, and through dialogue and reflection turned into validated outcomes and emerging perspectives. Due to an assignment from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, to solicit opinions on sustainable nutrition in healthcare, CircleLytics was selected to apply dialogue for this purpose. As far as he is concerned, the dialogue that resulted was an indispensable step to learn a lot, and relatively quickly, with a large group. It drove the speed and quality to make substantiated choices.

Dialogue promotes steering for an integrated approach

The Eten+Welzijn Foundation works on the creation of a more healthy and sustainable way of living, with people and their well-being as a central focus point. She translates knowledge and proven solutions into concrete applications in practice. That means, for example:

  • help administrators with the sustainability issue for healthcare in the field of nutrition,
  • facility managers with nutrition policy and its implementation and with
  • caregivers, chefs in the health care sector, and dieticians: discuss and conclude new regulations regarding nutrition.

The foundation also organizes cooking workshops for people who suffer from a loss of smell and taste. Eten+Welzijn focuses on sharing knowledge about healthy and sustainable food by means of training and education in the workplace, combating food waste and customized food.

Maartje Vervuurt, project support and communication at Eten+Welzijn says: “We have a large number of target groups with whom we want to keep in touch. The integrated approach is important, because the entire chain must move in order to bring about structural improvement in nutrition in healthcare. The first online dialogue was about “The urgency of sustainable and healthy food in healthcare”. With this dialogue we have been able to reach all chain partners who contribute to sustainable food in healthcare, from farm to fork. Within a few weeks, 255 participants provided qualitative insights that we would not have collected otherwise. The response was high at 71% and more than 2,600 opinions were shared. The second round ensures a multitude of online interactions and learning moments from each other. This is structured by CircleLytics’ unique AI. This affects people’s ability to examine and revise their own opinions. The question was broad, precisely to find out where people see opportunities and what possible obstacles are. In this way, many people have been able to give their opinion based on their expertise. Subsequently, in the second (dialogue) round, they jointly determined which opinions they considered valuable and why. You also get a lot of information from the explanations to the opinions. Sometimes we expected these answers, with some we are pleasantly surprised. They also indicate which opinions of others they do not support and why not. This usually doesn’t come easily to the table, but it prevents us from drawing inaccurate conclusions about what they think is important.”

Concrete results from dialogue

Vervuurt continues: “The results of the dialogue held in 2020 have contributed to the content of the Green Deal, in which healthcare organizations and the government make agreements about the contribution that the healthcare sector can make to improving the environment. Concrete conclusions are:

  • that there is still little awareness about sustainable and healthy food.
  • developing a vision, structural knowledge transfer and implementation at all levels are the most important opportunities.
  • sustainable food policy is an integral policy, we have to do it together.

We have taken certain lines of action from the dialogue, which have given us direction in which initiatives we will set up and who will be part of them. Chain partners per action line must continue to talk to each other, work together and come up with solutions from a joint perspective. We shared the results with all participants and indicated which opinions they valued the most as a group. So not “who were mentioned most often” but carry the most weight on behalf of the group. That feedback is important and shows the urgency that we as a chain as a whole must work together to achieve the intended objective.”

Share opinions anonymously and asynchronously

Vervuurt: “Putting this broad question to so many people asynchronously – so at their own time from their own place – is something we simply could never have done in any other way. You cannot physically get these people into a room, offer a limitless freedom to openly express an opinion and have so many reflection and listening to others taking place. After all, they are your colleagues or partners who look at the same issue in a different way, but this takes time to unleash. The dialogue means that we, as a foundation, can better advise and act towards our stakeholders with these supported answers and make choices not about them, but with and through them. We as a foundation do not make final decisions, but contribute to steering via policy and through the activities and initiatives that we develop as a foundation. Because of the dialogue, we know that we meet the most important needs of different parties.


CircleLytics guides us through dialogues according to our needs, such as designing questions and explaining new possibilities to make analyzes fast and clear. The reports and dashboard give us instant clarity and we always feed back the results to the participants. That enriches their insights as well. I always coordinate the question with CircleLytics, because they have a lot of experience with this. By asking the right questions, the dialogue yields more useful answers. As soon as questions are open, challenging and relevant, you achieve the most with the group. The second (dialogue) round is crucial and the outcomes are valuable for our choices. People should feel free to give their honest opinion. We have noticed that this works very well with the dialogue, partly because of the anonymity and the time they have to think about their opinion and that of others. It’s important to make sure you trigger that in participants. That is why we always do a check with the CircleLytics team for the optimal duration.”

Also read what other organizations 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 does so. Unlike surveys, you therefore get high reliability .” Read more here.

Strategic health issue

The Health House program helps hospitals to comply with the National Prevention Agreement: “In 2025, the food supply will be healthy for patients, staff and visitors in 50% of the hospitals. By 2030 at the latest, the food supply in all hospitals will be healthy. In addition, there is a focus on a healthier food supply in other types of healthcare institutions.”

Vervuurt: “Our foundation Eten+Welzijn, for example, helps chefs in health care to put together a full, more plant-based menu. There is often a lack of knowledge about healthy nutrition, which makes it difficult to deviate from routines. Above all, dishes must also be tasty, we help healthcare institutions in all kinds of ways.”

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

Ideas from practice

Vervuurt: “A question we investigated within this program is: how do you get more vegetables, fruit and water on the menu in a hospital? In a dialogue we asked all restaurant and catering staff in three participating hospitals about their ideas on how to consume more fruit, vegetables and water in the hospital restaurants. We were curious about all the ideas of people who deal with nutrition in healthcare on a daily basis, so that they can inspire other colleagues.

Change is slow and many people find it difficult. Nudging (steering attention to choices people make) can have a positive effect on increasing the consumption of healthier food, such as offering sliced ​​fruit or poké bowls rich in vegetables. Always ask yourself: How can you make healthy choices easier for people? Successful examples from the dialogue that work well in practice are: placing healthy products at the front of the shelf, including more healthy products in the range, having toppings put together yourself and adding flavorings such as lemon to water. And free tap water was made available in the restaurant. With the latter promotion, sales did not decline and people did drink more water. This is a good example of how an idea is successfully put into practice. An important signal from the dialogue was: don’t patronize. Let people make the healthier choice themselves by introducing more diversity in the range of healthy food. And we can only confirm that: by making the choice yourself, it is also sustainable and therefore a structural change.”

If you would like to speak with CircleLytics further and see a demo, click here and schedule your appointment.

Salta Group

Salta Group has a clear mission: to make lifelong development possible for everyone. Together with its 26 educational organisations, it forms the largest private training organization in the Benelux and annually provides more than 1 million people with knowledge and skills. Salta Group wants to continue to develop, as their mission also conveys. Alex van der Weide (Director of Communication) and Annemarie Jans (Manager Expertise Center Operations) talk about the intention and impact of conducting research into customer needs and their experiences with the CircleLytics dialogue for qualitative deepening and co-creation and move beyond focus groups and surveys.

Jans: “We are interested in the experiences of each student from registration to the moment a course or training is completed. After every course and training, we test standard topics via online surveys in the online learning environment to evaluate whether and how we can improve. Quantitative studies like this give us information, but do not show the underlying reasons for the answer. Then it is difficult to make precise decisions that really matter to them ánd our company. We used to perform annual focus group sessions with students from various study programs to collect qualitative feedback about the entire journey a student takes with us. However, these focus groups are time and labour-intensive and limited in size and therefore, apart from often very expensive not in-the-moment, also lack reliability. We were looking for an additional research method that is less time- and labor-intensive and allows for a larger sample size, hence representativeness. We got in touch with the CircleLytics platform and immediately saw the potential of the dialogue for Salta Group. We started working on this.”

The perfect start

Under the name ‘The perfect start’, the trainers of Salta Group have the ambition to offer students the best possible start to their education. The first dialogue was initiated to find out what the selection of 700 students from different long-term programs with the same starting time think fits a perfect start of a program. Jans: “We received a demonstration from CircleLytics on how the platform works and then started working on the questions ourselves. Together with our team, we determined the right tone of voice, conducted an internal pilot and asked for feedback. We tested the final questions with the CircleLytics team to arrive at the best possible question and that version was sent to the students.

We chose two closed and two open questions. The closed questions were: ‘At what level do you study?’ and ‘What did you think of our perfect start and can you explain that?’ Participants could rate the latter question with a number from 0 to 10 and substantiate it: the why behind it.

The open-ended questions delved deeper into how perfect they thought the start was. “Which things do you think are needed for a perfect start?” and “What suggestions do you have for us to improve the start?”. We were especially curious about the qualitative reactions of course, and they came!

Operation of the dialogue

A dialogue is anonymous, online and consists of two consecutive rounds. In the first round, participants are presented with a number of questions that they can answer. Questions such as: multiple choice questions, closed questions, valuation questions and also open questions. You can also combine closed and open questions, so that you really design and ask a deliberate open-ended question and not just add a text field with ‘comment here’. The number of questions should be carefully determined so as not to overload the participants and to keep focus on the topic. How a question is asked is important in order to receive the right responses, in other words: what answers are you looking for? Can the question be explained in only one way and is the question formulated objectively? Does the question provide enough direction and structure? In the second round, all the answers of the participants from the first round are presented. Participants can now rate and explain or supplement the anonymous answers of the other participants. The smart thing about the algorithm is that participants get to varied answers from others, and they can see as many different answers as possible. This leads to new insights among participants and allows them to think along again. Qualitative answers are rated this way and collect sentiment scores between -3 and +3, expressing to what extent other participants also support or rejection this answer? And why? Learning what they reject is also incredibly valuable: after all, you don’t want to make choices that you know people don’t want. They have a couple of days for each dialogue round, so you don’t have the rush of a focus group, but you dó have the proverbial night’s sleep, which is necessary for reflection. This reflection on our questions and reflection on each other’s answers ensure deepening and validation. They are also allowed to change their closed scale answers, if they want, and on average 60% of participants indeed submit differing final scores. Unlike surveys, you get a high reliability.

High response

Van der Weide: “In our opinion, the response to our first dialogue among the 700 students was high at 30%. We notice that respondents in round two are triggered to respond to ideas of others. That is the power of this system. People are curious about the answers of others and show what is important to them. Participants rated the dialogue at 4+ out of 5 points: also a high score. Of course it has to be fun for them!”

Jans adds: “For us, the big advantage is that everything is weighed in the second round. This makes it a qualitatively weighted study, making it easier and more reliable to create a report with the focal points. We did not see any extremes, but we learned lessons from various themes. We are currently working on implementing those points for improvement in our workflow, so that we have fine-tuned ‘The perfect start’ for the next starting moment. We now have a better understanding of the needs of the students who follow a multi-year course.”

The first day of class

A concrete example that came to the fore was the experience of the first day of a course. Jans: “Despite our communication beforehand, not every student was prepared down to the last detail. We notice a different desired information flow that can differ per education level. We have identified concrete points for improvement from the dialogue, which we are now applying in the next starting moment for students.”

Van der Weide: “We notice that working people, who have had a degree some time ago, sometimes find it difficult to articulate exactly what they expect from a trainer. Quantitative research then provides a too brief picture. Qualitative research is more refined, because in such a focus group you can keep asking questions until you get to the real core. You then use sentences such as: “Other respondents said …” not to direct them, but to give them ideas. However, focus groups are limited in numbers and even then you do not have a complete picture.

The CircleLytics dialogue gives the best of both worlds: The questions and outcomes correspond to qualitative research and the dialogue can be carried out on a large scale. The advantage that everyone can participate at their own time and from their own place is also important. Objectively and without putting words in the mouth, with the CircleLytics dialogue it is faster and with an unlimited number of people to find out exactly what people mean, even on closer inspection after such a second round. Improvements often come in nuances and by knowing them, and knowing what the most important and unimportant points are, you can meet the needs of students. That combination makes the dialogue so interesting to use.”

Would you like to know more about how the dialogue works and how it can strengthen your change processes, research, making, implementing and monitoring plans? Contact us here for an introduction or demonstration. Online or at the office.

Karolien Niederer has extensive knowledge and experience of innovation, communication and strategy in the field of major transitions and complex systems. Previously gained in the field of labor market communication, she is now committed to the food transition at Foodvalley NL. Niederer: “Foodvalley is located in Wageningen. We have been working on the food transition for 20 years and our goal is to have a clear picture by 2050 of how healthy and affordable food will be available for 10 billion people on our planet. We mainly focus on the practice, the people in the field. And that’s a diverse field, but highly involved, each with their own specialisms. Only together can we make great progress. It’s not just the farmer or the supermarket that needs to change, it’s about the entire system: “from farm to fork”. Typical for major transitions is that it takes a long time. Across entire generations, because the real change takes time. One of our roles is to find out what the different experiences and views are, and connect the stakeholders with each other and with each other’s different perspectives. To make sure they start speaking the same language. We do this by asking carefully structured open-ended questions. We want to achieve collective understanding and collective intelligence to realize Foodvalley’s goal. We have used the online dialogue & co-creation of CircleLytics for this.”

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

Determine language via the dialogue

Niederer: “We communicate both offline and online. Offline is slower than online communication, and usually less inclusive, interactive and reflective. For example, we once interviewed 120 individuals to arrive at a shared understanding of a complex issue re food transition. It is hardly possible to do that together in an interactive, learning, adaptive way. So, learning from each other, influencing and enriching each other’s thought formation has been very limited. Due to the complexity of the subject and the diversity of stakeholders, it is valuable to let people talk to each other, so that they learn from each other and knowledge and perspective, and therefore intelligence, evolve. The strength lies in bringing expertise together, interacting and moving forward together. We want to appeal to the collective intelligence of this diverse group, which is usually tens of percent higher than the sum of the intelligence and ideas of the individuals. Everyone sees topics from a specific, own angle and the dialogue brings all those angles together in a process where the group’s collective angles emerge. If we use the online dialogue, we get (mainly) qualitative results that show which angles are widely supported by the group of participants, or are clearly rejected by the group. The time available for the rounds of dialogue and the anonymity make it easier for people to share their opinions and even formulate them more emphatically than in a physical meeting. The second round quickly shows which opinions are widely supported and the explanatory notes explain why. The online dialogue removes barriers for people to let go of their previous opinions and learn from others, and be inspired by the most meaningful opinions.

Also read what other organizations achieve with CircleLytics Dialogue, such as Hogeschool van Amsterdam: “Thanks to the contribution of The Growth Lab and CircleLytics Dialogue, we as a sub-council gained a better insight into what our teachers think of this complex 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.” Read more.

A good example from one of our dialogues is how people from various disciplines see the word ‘investment’. One talked about a financial thing and another indicated that it is also about time and energy that you put into something. Investments are about trust in each other, a good relationship and yes, also a financial commitment. It would have been more difficult for us to figure that out otherwise. This is also part of my point of ‘speaking the same language’ and learning from each other’s language and interpretations. This, to come to one narrative.”

Collective action

Niederer continues: “We also get the sentiment about an issue from the results of the online dialogue. There are also surprising insights into shared opportunities and obstacles. This is an important start, because everyone must speak the same language in order to arrive at a joint approach, for example. We put the right people in touch with each other, they collect ideas and develop them together. This results in initiatives in which organizations that work closely with the various experts get to work in practice: testing, monitoring and analysis. It is precisely this collective action that follows on and through the dialogue that is important for a successful sustainable solution for the food transition.

The biggest challenge remains to convert collective intelligence into collective action to progress food transition: what is the right dosage for the right solution? And is that in behaviour, technology, training people or a combination of these? A start-up involved in an initiative often has different goals than a corporate or a province. Everyone has to work together, enter into dialogue in order to arrive at a supported solution and steps to take. We therefore continue to involve the entire field, repeatedly: we stay in dialogue. We can only solve these complex issues together. That starts by identifying the real issue and everyone’s role in solving it.”

Partnership with CircleLytics

Foodvalley has used the online dialogue multiple times and plans to continue to use it regularly. Niederer: “We like the method. We continue to need a lot of coordination and input, now and in the future, and the output provides us with valuable information and a valuable dialogue and learning process with the group. The collaboration with CircleLytics is going smoothly. They also keep moving forward and regularly make new additions to the dialogue platform. Innovating together is what we like to see in a collaboration partner.”

If you would like to exchange thoughts with CircleLytics and claim your demo, please click here and schedule your appointment.

working from home

Edith Scholten is programme manager of ‘Working Contemporary’ within the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports. Edith: “Some 1,300 employees work at the core department of VWS and when research is done, everyone receives a survey. Employees did complain that they are a bit survey tired, and I can understand that. Still, as an employer, you want to keep testing certain topics. For instance, during the Covid period last year, we asked about their state of mind via various online employee experience surveys and later also about their experiences of working from home: ‘What do you run into when you work from home and what would it take to solve this?’

Working from home: what can or should be done differently?

These online surveys, the last of which was conducted in September 2021, did show that people were still really struggling with Covid and how it affects their work situation. We asked if employees were willing to answer questions about working from home in an online panel and decided to use CircleLytics’ dialogue for this purpose. In February 2021, the ‘Working Contemporary’ programme was launched.

The CircleLytics dialogue process

Our colleague from HR analytics prepared the dialogue in collaboration with CircleLytics. With a limited number of primarily open-ended questions, you want to get to the heart of the matter. Open-ended questions, limited in number, avoid survey fatigue. In doing so, you have to think carefully in advance about what you want to pick up in the second round. That second round is a necessary step because with a collection of open answers, you still don’t know what is considered important by employees themselves. Besides the online dialogue with employees from our panel, we also started a physical information round along our boards within VWS. We slightly adapted the questions we asked during these visits and used them in the dialogue. The dialogue and information rounds ran simultaneously and the latter are still ongoing.

In total, 72% of the invitees (panel of 130 people) participated in the dialogue. We found that the subject provokes a lot of reactions from people, so it is good to engage in dialogue and to keep it going. After all, all sorts of things may change over time that we cannot yet oversee.

Asking the right questions
We started our dialogue on the advice of Circlelytics with a closed question: What are the two most important elements of Contemporary Working? They could choose two themes from the five options. This immediately gave us insight and guided the energy of the participant; you deliberately choose themes about which you are then asked open-ended questions for in-depth study via 2 rounds. The results showed mainly ‘digital facility’ and ‘attention for each other’.

Evidence for support

In the second round of the online dialogue, minority views may still be given more weight by people themselves. It can also happen that positions that were frequently mentioned in the first round are not supported after the second round (in which sentiment/appreciation is asked). This is exactly why I find CircleLytics so appealing; it also shows what employees do not consider important. More than half of the participants rated more than 15 responses from others per open-ended question. In that second round, we see a huge commitment to the topic. Some even rated more than 30 opinions of others. As a result, participants reveal the themes and opinions that they think matter most.

HR analytics then used the analytics capabilities in the CircleLytics platform to take the results to the next level and present them, including supervised topic modelling on top of the weighted, enriched results from the second round. Regular surveys (i.e. with one round) often give you the same answers or different ones but without weighting, whereas with the CircleLytics dialogue these answers have value because they really come from the employees themselves. I see it as proof of what you may have already thought and to build support. However, the group may also surprise you with what it really wants or means, or rejects. By the way, in our dialogue, that second round yielded almost 4,000 ratings! With a one-round survey, you don’t have these enrichments.

Read here what Spaarne Gasthuis says about co-creation, dialogue, collective intelligence, leadership, engagement.

From results to concrete actions

We compiled the final results in a final report and published them on the intranet. Some ‘tension’ also emerged from the responses and weighting by the group on some themes, which is an interesting and a new insight compared to the regular survey without that 2nd round. A high score on being able to schedule own time, but also a high score for having a team day in the office. Each management team can decide what they will prioritize, or alternate or fill in in a different way; they have the opinions and justifications of each other’s opinions as input.

One of the main results concerned ‘digital facilities’ with most supported views. We are making tool manuals more findable as a result.

Furthermore, we started experimenting because one of our major concerns appears to be social cohesion. If you see each other physically less often, do you still feel connected? And when do you still speak to other – not direct – colleagues if the chat at the coffee machine is no longer there?

We have devised and implemented additional activities and more small promotional activities are planned to improve social cohesion. We are also experimenting with alternative setups. For us, the final report has provided insight into what we need to do first and what we need to focus on vigorously. And most importantly, why we need to do it. Most of it is not rocket science and fortunately we already understand our employees pretty well; it now spurs us into action to actually implement it.

Dialogue is highly deployable

The dialogue can be used for many topics. This was a successful dialogue for us, one that we can use more often for this or other topics. Our cooperation with CircleLytics was very pleasant and they shared their thoughts and acted in an excellent way. I can highly recommend them.”

Is dit wat je bedoelt met presenteren ‘op’ de resultaten van de 2e ronde?

Vreemde zin: met meest gedragen standpunten van mensen ter onderbouwing?

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.

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.



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).


Royal HaskoningDHV has 5,700 employees worldwide, spread over 30 countries; about half of these employees work in or from the Netherlands. We provide services in the fields of aviation, buildings, energy, industry, infrastructure, maritime, mining, transport, urban and rural development and water.

A works council consisting of 13 members has been established for Royal HaskoningDHV Nederland. Specific committees have been established for each of the Business Lines and for the joint Corporate Groups.

Motive: good advice

We were not specifically looking for new ways to talk to our employees. During a training course on professionalizing the Works Council, Winfried Bouts of the WissemaGroup drew our attention to the CircleLytics tool (at the time still under the name CouncilWise). We are continuously working on the further professionalization of the Works Council and contacts with colleagues are an important part of this. The CircleLytics online dialogues enable us to improve our effectiveness in contacting and soliciting colleagues.

Anonymous, broadly applicable and based on equality

In addition to the online dialogues, we send out a Works Council news flash every 6 weeks in which we report on the subjects that the Works Council has been working on. We also have intranet pages with all kinds of information about the Works Council. In addition, we publish the reports of the Works Council meetings and the advice and consent letters on this page. And, we regularly organize on-site constituency meetings and attend advisory group meetings. The committees are also an important link in our contact with the constituents; they collect input from the workplace for their consultations with the Business Line management. The online dialogues are, however, anonymous, everyone from the relevant target group can participate on an equal basis, and they also listen to each other in the 2nd round. This is another level of communication and interaction with the constituency.

How do you apply CircleLytics’ online dialogue?

We try to use the online dialogues once a month to discuss a current theme or a spearhead of the Works Council. Or we choose a theme that has been suggested by employees in previous online dialogues. In other words, with each online dialogue they can draw our attention to subjects that may have a broader impact. We set up this monthly online dialogue among employees in the Netherlands. Or, where necessary or convenient, we launch a specific topic among a certain group of employees (for example, per Business Line). You can also set up online dialogues among all employees and then make all kinds of breakdowns. Because not all employees in the Netherlands speak Dutch, the online dialogues are bilingual: in Dutch and in English.

Royal Haskoningdhv

We share the top five results of the online dialogues in the Works Council Newsflash. We discuss these top five with our management and the relevant persons/units (for ex., the Corporate Group Communications & Brand or Human Resources Management).  The content and timing of the online dialogues is also coordinated in advance with Communications & Brand; we all have our own responsibilities and want to keep each other informed, also because the company conducts surveys among employees.

The results of the online dialogues are discussed during Works Council meetings and consultation meetings with the Executive Board and – if relevant – in the consultation with the Supervisory Board.


What do the online dialogues get you?

These online dialogues:

  • will give the Works Council much greater legitimacy in bringing issues to the attention of management and will ensure that there is greater support for the Works Council’s views. The results will help us to have an (even) better discussion with management about the choices we need to make regarding the future of Royal HaskoningDHV.
  • will ensure that the Works Council is better informed of what is going on in the organization.
  • increase employee engagement, both with the organization and the participation process. It also increases inclusiveness within the organization
  • will lead to informed, good conversations with management and HR.

High appreciation of employees

In general, the employees appreciate the tool. This is evident from the high level of participation and the high rating of the tool, which is asked at the end.

We also receive reactions as a result of the online dialogues, which show that topics are being discussed and are starting to become (even) more alive in the organization.

The organization’s potential is surfacing

The results of these online dialogues make the Works Council a fully-fledged discussion partner because we know very well what is going on in the organization. The results also underpin and strengthen our views, giving management a clear idea of what is going on. Furthermore, by using CircleLytics, the potential knowledge present in the organization is much better utilized. Based on the results of the online dialogues, management and the works council can better assess the impact of the choices that are made and, as a result, the decision-making process of the management and works council is strengthened.

And besides: it’s just fun to do!!!

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SpaarneGasthuis health care dialogue

Spaarne Gasthuis uses regular dialogues to create a culture in which collaboration, co-creation, engagement and better decision-making go hand in hand. With the CircleLytics Dialogue online platform, managers take decisions that are broadly supported by their colleagues, and which come about in a smarter way. Colleagues feel – and above all: truly become – involved and use the brainpower of the group. Moreover, they feel heard and valued because their opinions matter and the solution that is thought up is actually used. Concrete questions, concrete solutions, concrete actions.

How did Germanic tribes do that long ago? Well, the leaders of the group would stand together and discuss plans for the future. People sat down and listened to the leaders. There would be a swelling hissing, rejecting sound, which meant that the listeners did not like the plans. The leaders heard it and knew that there was no support for their plan and that they had to change it. If the people liked the plans, they would make an approving sound, so that the leaders knew where they were at. Leaders or managers within a company or organisation need support for their policies and decisions. Whether they are nurses, doctors and managers or, like in this example, long before the turn of the century, the principle nothing about us without us, is the same. Good leadership understands that employees are the ears and eyes of the organization, and their behaviour and actions determine the organization’s performance.

Creating support through online co-creation

CircleLytics: “The principle of creating support within the group seems to have been lost several decades ago. Instead, companies and organizations are using a different, technical way of decision-making in which time clocks, individual assessment, KPIs and performance packages are central. A more individualistic, hierarchical view of people: “we determine top-down about you, measure individual performance, assess and settle individually and lead on the basis of productivity”. And with that, the connection between people within an organization has disappeared and the mutual learning capacity is lost. That is a pity, because you know more as a group than individually, even as many individuals together.”


Employee survey does not work

Spaarne Gasthuis: “Another important fact is that employees want to feel heard. So, filling in an employee survey with multiple choice answers, where you cannot express your opinion and never hear from again, does not work and people are fed up with it. CircleLytics is based on the insights into how we learn and want to be heard. This helps to develop the online dialogue that gives all employees the opportunity to contribute their opinion, knowledge and experience in a structured way. The platform ensures that employees can respond to each other’s opinions and learn from each other, reflect and even come to new insights and make them visible. So they hear from each other immediately and together they influence the mindset. Collaboration. Co-creation.”

Read here also what Philips says re faster manager action and how dialogue goes beyond surveys.

Asking for opinions, co-creation and resolving

Spaarne Gasthuis: “As manager of a department in Spaarne Gasthuis, why not ask the nurses in your team how they think they can spend less time looking for medical equipment? Why would you make that up yourself? The nurses are doing the work and they probably have good ideas. Working together not only gives you the brainpower and creativity of the group; it also ensures engagement, that people feel heard because their opinion matters. They see that something is actually done when you implement the solutions”.

Ask deliberate open-ended question

What does that look like in practice? Because how do you consult and include all 120 colleagues in your department? Or the more than 4,000 employees of the hospital? Managers have no time for dozens (or hundreds…) of personal discussions about a particular problem, but they do want to pay real attention to employees and their ideas so that they learn from each other, seek cooperation and work out what is best. CircleLytics: “Our platform simulates such a conversation online. You start by coming up with a good, stimulating question that challenges the target group to give their input. This could be a current problem, but also questions about why people value the organization, so that more attention can be paid to this. It is important that the manager actually does something with the input that is given and because of the short lead times of the online dialogue ánd clear-cut outcomes of the co-creation this can be done very quickly. In days even.”

Spaarne Gasthuis: “If you identify a problem but do not want to solve it, you should not ask that question. This stimulating open-ended question is given to the employees in a first round. In the second round, the employees can see each other’s answers, learn from them and enrich them by scores and explanations. This is done anonymously so that hierarchy is not an obstacle. The outcome of this second round is an overview of the contributions that are most supported by the employees. You get the sentiment from the people themselves about what others are saying.” CircleLytics: “A nice side effect is that everyone gets the chance to read other solutions or perspectives as well, making the use of dialogue an intervention in itself.”

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

Marvel superheroes

CircleLytics: “Actually, online dialogue is a lot like Marvel’s superheroes. You use an attribute, in this case technology, to get more out of yourself. To learn more, to be inspired and to see more perspectives. Managers achieve more by harnessing the brainpower of their people. Scientific research shows that thinking about a problem together produces up to 60% more brainpower than thinking about it individually”. Spaarne Gasthuis: “Within a week, the platform has already produced 800 suggestions for solving a problem, with the most supported at the top and why. This is how managers find out what their people know and what they do not understand on their own”.


CircleLytics used for Patient safety

Spaarne Gasthuis: “In a certain department of Spaarne Gasthuis, the alarm of a monitor was missed several times within a short period of time. Fortunately, patient safety was not compromised. A measure was immediately taken to reduce this risk. A second screen was placed above the current one in order to display the data in a larger format. A number of other technical solutions turned out not to be feasible in the short term and therefore the colleagues of the department were asked to share their thoughts. What are suggestions that were not thought of before? The question asked in round 1: What is the very first action we need to take to ensure that we don’t miss an alarm on the monitor in a month’s time? And in round 2, the question was: If you agree with the suggestion then give it a positive rating, and if you disagree or do not recognize the suggestion, give it a negative rating. Please explain your answer. The outcome was that the most frequently mentioned solution from round 1 was voted down in round 2. Another solution emerged. This was put forward by a minority, but it could count on broad support among colleagues in the end. For the team leaders the first intervention to solve the problem is now clear, which is a different solution than they initially had in mind“. “By using the online dialogue, they now know which solution has the greatest chance of success”, says Saskia Haasnoot, Strategic Business Partner at Spaarne Gasthuis who uses CircleLytics in cooperation with Spaarne Labs. Together they were curious about the tool and wanted to experiment with it to learn from it. Haasnoot notices the enthusiasm of colleagues for this online dialogue: the platform offers opportunities for employees to give their input and managers have quick insight into what the colleagues support most and why. That is exactly what the Future of Work means: better cooperation, more engagement and better decisions! That’s co-creation.

More information about co-creation and dialogue

If you want to know more about using the CircleLytics online tool, please contact us or contact Spaarne Labs.


We are regularly asked this question. We ask HR leadership why they are curious about the CircleLytics employee dialogue. What is missing when HR limits itself to the method of an employee survey? We are quite surprised by their reactions. These are discussed in this blog. It comes down to what we wrote in a recent post: your survey is only the start, at most 10% of the EX/EE challenge. After that, you want to engage in dialogue to find out together what is hidden behind the figures, how things can be improved. In co-creation with the employees, as Ben Whitter, founder of the World Employee Experience Institute, indicates in his much-praised book “Human Experience at Work“. The question he poses is answered by our clients with the power of dialogue: “How can you co-create at a deeper level with people? “. Did you know that through our dialogue, the collective intelligence you gain, and your qualitative insight, increases by 20-60%? And do you know that people are the main reason why every change project in your organization succeeds … or fails? A survey alone will not make an impact. Engagement is a daily action (perhaps the most wonderful!) but certainly not a periodic list of closed questions. People are worth so much more.


Some of the things we hear…

“Employees are tired of surveys and want their opinions to be heard”
“Follow-up is so difficult if you haven’t asked real open questions”
“What’s the use if the questions are general and not specific”
“Unfortunately, benchmarking is more important in the organization than asking questions that are relevant now”
“After the survey, we struggle for months with the ‘why’ and ‘how’ and all those meetings give us a headache”.

Yet also:

“We got used to surveys and the reports render numbers we depend on”
“The respons is under pressure but with a bit of help, it’s sufficient, so we’re ok”
“We use pulse surveys so it’s very short and easy, and we try to – at least – track trends this way”
“The reporting and dashboard of our survey platform are easy to produce power points”
“Survey fatigue is really an issue, but benchmarking makes it hard to stop”.

These kinds of remarks… Recognize them? So, are surveys here to stay? Do integrations and reporting functionalities of incumbent survey platforms block your innovation in employee listening? Do you agree that listening requires deliberate open-ended questions about specific matters, other or in addition to generic, closed-end questions? How to follow up on surveys? Do we need to engage people in dialogues to understand what’s really going on and co-create improvements?


Case. Government organization.

This organization uses a traditional employee survey because of a government-wide procurement procedure. Management indicates that employees do not feel like taking ‘another survey’. For this reason, management does not want to pose general questions, but specific questions for specific subjects that are topical at the moment. They select 4 questions from the survey and add to each question: “what is your main reason for this score”. They design 3 additional open questions. They use these 7 with the CircleLytics Dialog, because of the unique 2nd round. In this round, employees give a kind of sentimental score and enrich the (many) answers of others. This provides a wealth of additional insights and management immediately learns what is most important, what is not, and especially why. Employees greatly appreciated the dialogue and felt involved and taken seriously.

The difference between the survey question using CircleLytics Dialogue is:

-> survey: How has the working relationship with colleagues in the last year affected your happiness at work? (1=negative, 10=positive; with text field if necessary)

-> dialogue: First round: How does the working relationship with colleagues currently influence your happiness at work (1=negative, 10=positive) and what is your main reason for this? And the second round, the dialogue round: How do you value the reasons of others and what is your explanation? What does that mean for your final score on the question about happiness at work?

Can you imagine the difference? Looking back a year is rather long while feedback is only useful and reliable when it takes place close to the moment (our reading tip: the book Job Feedback by Manuel London). The focused explanation in response to the open-ended question section is unprecedentedly rich. And did you know that in the dialogue variant with open answers and a 2nd round, more than 70% of the employees go through more than 20 answers from others and appreciate them? They understand the context, semantics, use of language, tone and read between the lines. Their scores are more meaningful than algorithms. Their sentiments are more reliable than an algorithm that adds up negative or positive words. Language is human work.

Back to our story.

Why only 10%?

HR and leadership are realizing that listening to employees has little to do with asking closed, general (scoring) questions. Often from the ‘established order’ such as CultureAmp, QuestBack, Qualtrics, Effectory, Integron, SurveySparrow and 100s of other providers. In 2019, Josh Bersin already mentioned the trend that employee engagement has moved up from doing surveys to action-driven feedback that actually comes up with recommendations for managers on ‘what to do next’. Gallup has been researching and demonstrating for years that employees are more motivated and productive when their opinions visibly matter. After all, that’s also how you listen to your partner, family and friends: closed-end questions do not ignite people’s thinking nor dialogue. However, deliberate open-ended questions, focused mostly on feeding forward, understanding and improving matters, are not included in standard employee surveys, with the exception of a few open text fields. HR and leadership are therefore wrestling with a number of challenges:

  • employees are no longer fans of surveys; it affects reliability
  • a report based on open text fields is not reliable (read our blog “Survey or dialogue“)
  • it takes weeks or months before results and actions are clear and make an impact
  • confidence decreases and the risk that your (pulse) survey will score lower increases.

The tricky thing is that surveys expose issues with weak scores and/or declining trends, but not the why behind them, nor ‘how to improve’. The good news is that HR and employees and leadership share the dissatisfaction with surveys. Together they are looking for depth to make employee listening a reality. To realize co-creation and to take significant steps regarding involvement, enthusiasm and trust. The survey reveals figures, but no direction for decisions, no actions. The 90% only starts now.


So why do we still do surveys?

HR mentions a number of reasons that may be valid from the point of view of ‘not wanting to change too much’. They also want to talk to us about the complex work after the survey. The reasons they mention for doing surveys are:

  • they want to benchmark (compare) figures with the industry; we therefore use generic questions and closed scales
  • figures from surveys are used in all kinds of management reports and everyone is used to them
  • assessment and remuneration (of e.g. management/MTs) are also based on figures from surveys
  • the HR team is used to this, and does not want any change themselves
  • employees suffer from survey fatigue and we don’t dare to introduce something new
  • we are waiting for instructions from management/CEO.

We also often hear: we have a contract for our employee survey for several years so we will just have to wait it out first. To the latter argument, we usually respond with the question of what you do when you bought tight shoes, but they are not worn out yet. Do you keep wearing them with pain, blisters and discomfort? We’ve noticed this in terms of benchmarking brands. If you score 7.4 on a certain subject and the industry scores 7.2, what do you do? What do you know? You’re comparing apples with oranges. Are you going for that 10, for continuous improvement, for excellence for employees and their experience? You have asked employees for feedback, but you let this point rest because management is already satisfied with ‘we score better than others’?

Survey fatigue is quite an issue. Why do something for years that is not satisfying, and employees reject as a method? Fatigue, not completing the survey, not having confidence in the follow-up are all things that HR should not want. If the methodology doesn’t motivate employees, how can the results? New technology to question groups takes some getting used to and requires vision, ambition and backbone. Modern leadership requires organizations and HR to see and embrace the power of open questions. MIT has even set up a complete course on ‘open questioning’ by Hal Gregersen, as “Breakthrough Approach to Creative Problem Solving, Innovation, and Change”.

Does your organization, your team, and do you have the innovative drive to listen to employee dissatisfaction, and to co-create improvement by means of asking deliberate open-ended questions?  To harness the power embrace collective intelligence (also see video by Stanford PhD Lorenzo Barberis) and learn from as many perspectives as possible?

We realize that the above reasons for HR to stick to surveys, can seriously undermine the urgency to step up their listening capabilities and co-creation skills. At the same time, there are many organizations that do not conduct any employee survey right now, or are very dissatisfied, or have an expiring contract and switch completely and exclusively to the employee dialogue. This way, in one go, they capture quantitative data, and qualitative insights. Others are put on the track of employee dialogue, crowd sourcing and collective intelligence based on vision and leadership and a managers’ requirement to offer tools that move people and performance forward.

Case. A medium-sized, industrial service organization.

The new management wants to do ‘something’ with their employees, but not a survey. They have never used them. They just haven’t got around to it. Management wants employees to experience more that they work together for one organization. They call it purpose and culture. They want to do something with that. A consultant who works with our dialogue tooling at a customer has set up “Engaging Dialogues”; three questions on a monthly basis. A combination of the open and closed scale. Questions that directly steer and listen to what “they see”, “they experience”, “they know”. It made management very nervous. What will come out of this? How will they react? Are they going to write that open answer? They applied questions that were/are directly linked to the management’s agenda, via a series of bi-weekly dialogues during a number of months. They called the results and subsequent actions a “veritable gold mine”.

Let’s continue

So we’re talking about organizations where, for whatever reason, HR currently uses the methodology of a survey as part of EX / EE and employee listening. In another blog we will discuss the differences between dialogue and survey and why open questions require a new methodology and technology.


What does HR do after the (pulse) survey?

HR now mentions the following three approaches most often:

  • do nothing
  • decentralized interviews by managers, sometimes with the assistance of an HR employee
  • focus group(s), EX/EE labs, interviews, etc.

Do nothing (yes, it happens a lot)

Research by LeadershipIQ and others shows that ‘doing nothing’ and ‘decentralized interviews’ are common reasons why survey results deteriorate. Yes, deteriorate. Doing nothing is explained by things like: busyness, no skills to interpret figures, or absence of a follow-up process. The report is delivered and then it stays quiet. That is a major flaw in HR. It’s not so surprising that organizations still have to contend with low levels of commitment and/or significant employee departures.

Decentralized interviews?

Often, survey results are broken down into business units. Individual management teams then ‘have to’ work with the results. HR supports this in various ways. What HR often mentions as a challenge is:

  • managers are not suited to having those interviews
  • privacy is violated by the loss of anonymity (see more here)
  • interviews are difficult, postponed, not completed, not followed up on
  • weak, central overview by HR and management of actions and visible follow-up
  • due to lack of inclusion and of real dialogue, bias creeps into the content and does not bring out what should and can be done.

Managers are not always trained or competent to conduct interviews. Certainly not because it is often about the quality of their own work and the associated poor scores. These bad scores from the employee survey have their possible repercussions on the same managers. This creates an unsafe situation: one in which, moreover, anonymity is no longer guaranteed. This is very strange, because the survey is (by default) anonymous. So why not have interviews? As soon as privacy is violated, employees drop out and the organization loses the power of multi-perspective decision making. No matter how ‘inspiring’ the meeting was in the eyes of the manager and (paid, often external) moderator. You don’t know what you’ve missed and that is a considerable risk for EX/EE and for trust.

The lead time is also considerable. We are told that it usually takes 2 to 7 months before all interviews have been conducted. The power of feedback is that the recipient is able to do something with it visibly, in the short term. In weeks, not months. And finally, you run the risk that, as a central leadership, you do not know exactly what has taken place decentrally, what was said, what was agreed and whether this really represents what is going on and what is needed. You achieve the opposite of what you are aiming for; no higher involvement or enthusiasm.

How about focus groups?

Many employee survey providers promote setting up focus groups, or variants, on their website. In this way, “HR can deepen their understanding of the results and understand why they are there, and how to improve”. The intention is good, the solution is not good in our opinion. The reasons are as follows:

– lack of inclusiveness; if you ignore 90-99% of employees, you run the risk of making decisions that are simply not going to be supported; statistically, your information and any decision you make is just unnecessarily weak

– in terms of content, you are missing something but you don’t know what; what does the rest of the organization say? their collective intelligence and ideas remain untapped.

Do keep in mind the intention: “to deepen the numerical results, and to understand why, and how to improve“. We will work on that in the next case!


Case. Philips.

After completing the global, quarterly employee survey, the leadership of one of their continents wants to understand why and how to improve. They want to do this by setting up co-creation with a number of consecutive CircleLytics Dialogues. Philips then selects weak scoring items, which are very important for success. The questions from the survey are now repeated, supplemented with “… Please elaborate on your scores to clarify how to improve.” Employees participate in big numbers and share their thoughts about improvements.

Philips was able to take immediate action after the dialogue had ended. This is because the textual analysis was done directly by the employees themselves. They assign value, meaning and sentiment to the answers of others by scoring and explaining them. The artificial intelligence and other text analyses in CircleLytics complete this work seamlessly and in real time. The dialogue starts on Monday and by Friday afternoon, the results are displayed in slides and actions have been agreed upon. Philips can use the dialogue to quickly uncover direction and improvement potential. Without having to change their worldwide survey process every quarter, because that survey has to stay for the time being.


So the dialogue is an extension of the survey?

Yes, you can see it that way. If, for whatever reason, you cannot renew the old employee survey (the survey methodology), then at least ensure that you enter into a dialogue with employees afterwards. The advantages and necessity of the CircleLytics dialogue are the following:

  • online, anonymous, fast and very attractive because they can give open answers
  • scalable so inclusive: everyone relevant to the topic is asked
  • you increase trust and the employees’ direct involvement in the organization
  • they learn from each other’s open answers, score them, and say what is really important.

The dialogue compensates for all the disadvantages of the survey and is the perfect complement. To each their own. The survey collects figures, the dialogue collects interpretation. The survey indicates possible problems, the dialogue puts the potential for improvement concretely on the table. On a silver platter, as one customer recently told us.

Finally, should you ever consider not using a survey method in the future, let the following case inspire you.

Case: Temporary employment agency.

This organization decided to stop using the old method of general employee surveys in the Netherlands. They chose and deployed the CircleLytics Dialogue exclusively to approach all employees with 8 essential questions. They used the same questions as they had used before, but with the addition of “a clear explanation of why you currently see things this way”. The 2nd round of the dialogue yielded towards 1,000,000 additional thought processes with almost 3,000 employees, as they were able to read and assess each other’s anonymous answers. They did so in great numbers. Simply because, according to them, it was “informative”, “surprising” and “just plain fun”.

They could also explain why they scored the answers of others (anonymously) up or down. In their view, it was a rich, motivating way to “help the organization improve”, CHRO told us. Leadership received the ‘normal’ report with numbers, breakdowns, etc., but now also received the qualitative analyses with what the employees considered most and least important. They were able to quickly break down all results to subsidiary organizations so that they could take action. Actions that were put on the table collectively by employees themselves. Actions that come about in co-creation.

One big brain

Collectively, employees are the brain of your organization. Alone, they are just ‘neurons’, but through their cooperation, their openness to each other’s opinions (the ‘synapses’ of your brain), they form that one big brain.

“How can you co-create at a deeper level with people?” is the question posed by Ben Whitter to make human experience at work successful.

Entering into dialogue with your employees is our answer to deepening your current follow-up and increasing and sustaining commitment in the short term. If you are already doing surveys and employee research but want to enter into dialogue afterwards in order to achieve fast, reliable, concrete improvements, or if you just want to stop doing surveys or don’t have any yet. Remember that employees are just like people: they want to contribute and if you take them seriously, they are willing to solve things and improve together.

Contact us today to get started tomorrow.


After becoming a Works Council member, you still want to be able to easily consult your constituents, ie. your colleagues. A tool that is based on data provides a solid foundation for advice from the Works Council to senior management.

We talk to Rachid Adbaili, chairman of the Central Works Council of Unilever and Jacqueline Lafranca, official secretary of the Central Works Council Unilever. Unilever has a Central Works Council in the Netherlands and also a local Works Council at each location in the Netherlands.

“We deploy CircleLytics’ dialogue on a regular basis. Employees elect the members of the (Central) Works Council and we represent them, yet we also find it very important to be able to easily consult them. The results of the dialogue also enable us to substantiate our advice to senior management on the basis of data.”

See the entire interview here, or just read on.

Rapid deployment to reach decisions based on facts

A great example of how quickly you can arrive at data-driven decisions is when our European organization was divided into clusters. We were asked for advice and within two weeks, a dialogue was initiated via CircleLytics with the employees involved. Not only did we ask for their advice anonymously; we also explicitly invited them to write down their comments. And obviously we asked for what the dialogue is known for: weighing and responding to each other’s input in the 2nd round.

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We presented the data collected from the dialogues to management. Management then used this in its internal communication towards the employees. The results were also shared with the management team as input for the renewed organizational structure. In this way, the Supervisory Board also immediately had a good picture of what was really going on in the organization.

Underlying concerns and demonstrable support also emerge

The dialogue not only shows people’s thoughts; it also shows which thoughts are supported and reveals people’s concerns. For example, people who wonder what change will mean for them. This is extremely valuable information for us, and we pass it on to management who can then respond to this.

Practical applicability

We can indicate parameters in CircleLytics and after the second round the results are clearly displayed. For example, you can immediately extract a Top 5 and Bottom 5 and, based on the data, clear graphs and additional substantiation are generated. You can also show certain quotes from people – anonymously – for example to senior management. This measurement will provide a solid foundation for a conversation or advice.

We are very satisfied with the support from the CircleLytics team. Especially in the beginning, you’re still searching for answers and it’s great if you can get help in formulating good questions. We always look at how we can formulate questions in a way that is as neutral as possible and really gets people thinking, without influencing them.

The additional characteristics of the participants, which you build into the dialogue, are also very useful. Once you filter the results by these characteristics (such as department, years of service, age category, region) and distil a top 5, you can be more precise in the advice. We now also include these in the advice.

We chose to do this in our own branding with our own logo, completely separate from Unilever, and with an external tool. We have a high response rate, and our employees really appreciate that we ask for their opinion.

Our advice to colleagues in participation bodies

In an ever-changing environment, CircleLytics is an ideal tool for us to consult our colleagues remotely. We can reach a large group of people online and give quick feedback to HR and management based on data. Previously, consulting consisted of many meetings and you only had a fraction of the input you now have.

The speed and the advice that is proven to be supported by the majority is also a major advantage of the online dialogue. You can expect participation bodies to use such tools more often in order to provide faster feedback with correct data.

Should you be interested in a demo for your management, HR and / or participation body, please contact us.

Since 1 January 2018, Aventurijn, Palier and de Kijvelanden have formed one new organization: Fivoor. Fivoor provides a regional offer of forensic and intensive psychiatric care.

Jeroen Gast, board member at Fivoor: “We chose and are choosing modern, participative leadership and want a top-down and bottom-up approach. In a continuous dialogue we keep in touch with employees regarding various topics in order to maintain a broad support base within the organization. With this goal in mind, we set to work.”

Pieter de Man, HR director explains, “After the merger, the organization was large, geographically dispersed and three different cultures came together. That was a challenge. Yet the ambition was immediately clear: we don’t just want underlying works councils, we want a broad support base and broad participation throughout the organization. Our employees are well-trained professionals, very articulate and they like to share their thoughts, we like to make use of that.”

Based on this ambition, Fivoor started looking for a solution and approach that could support them in the continuous dialogue and connection with their employees. After comparing various participation solutions, they ended up with CircleLytics, because this online dialogue is the only solution with 2 rounds, taking up a few days each time. This ensures that not only dialogue with employees takes place, but also dialogue between employees. Maurik Dippel, CircleLytics Director: “CircleLytics dialogues provide participants with 3 steps: giving your opinion, valuing other opinions, and being allowed to adjust your opinion. It turns out that participants are very open to the opinions of others and learn a lot from them. Of course, they then think more deeply about your question and usually adjust their opinion. Reflection, in other words. Really think and listen better. And because it’s anonymous, hierarchy, time pressure, weird looks, impatience, extra/introversion, working at home or in the office, or who you are just don’t play a role anymore.”

Now, some two years later after commissioning the online dialogue as a tool and strengthening our participatory organizational culture, we look back at the experiences and results for support and employee engagement within Fivoor.

Reina Schot, Works Council chair: “We have set up various digital dialogues within Fivoor. For example, we gather ideas about safety in the workplace from within the organization and then we test them against the employees to find the best possible solutions. But we also use the dialogue to draw our employees’ attention to subjects such as vitality and schedules for New Year’s Eve. This is how we create greater involvement in our decision-making, so that employee participation really takes place together.”

When the topic in the dialogue is close to the employees and they are dealing with it on a daily basis, we see that there is more response, greater involvement and a better substantive dialogue. We can only applaud that. It is then up to us to give proper feedback to the employees and show that their feedback or idea is actually implemented. That way, they feel heard.

Of course, it’s not always a success story. One dialogue was, in retrospect, too broadly formulated in terms of questions; we received less response. We learned from that. How do you design the question? How much space do you give, how much guidance? Do you also add a quantitative scale? Do you repeat the dialogue after a few months? Who do you ask as participants, a team, a department, everyone?

Gast: “We see the digital dialogue as an indispensable fulfilment of our corporate culture and being a good employer. The importance of asking the right questions and properly feeding back results and decisions to employees is a learning process that is still part of our growth.”

Partly because we value our managers and professionals and use this dialogue, we experience high engagement among employees. We ask for feedback, let them choose and together they come up with an explosion of creativity. Schot: “You just don’t get that with a traditional survey anymore. We value their opinion. After all, they know a lot about it and have to deal with all the challenges on a daily basis. We use that response to get to work.”

Gast: “For us, having dialogues are inseparable from modern leadership. Because of the distance and the large number of locations, the content of the dialogue is guaranteed in this digital way. We can now continue to build our organization in a qualitative, engaged way.” Interested in a demonstration of the online dialogue? For example, to follow up on an employee survey and really zoom in? Or to get and keep employees involved in organizational change, and many other applications? As a Works Council, HR, management or jointly?  Then get in touch with Maurik Dippel.

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We use the dialogue to collect the opinion of our constituents

“The dialogue helps us to get the opinions of our constituents and place them where they belong in our organization; with the director, with the teams.”

A Central Works Council wants to talk to its constituents. The challenge within our organization Politie Nederland is that we wanted a representative group within all disciplines to have their say. However, in a large organization with over 65,000 employees, many of whom also work on the street, that’s quite an effort.

Until we deployed the dialogue. The response rate for this tool is high, giving us a representative picture of what is going on within the organization. At the same time, it is also possible to start a dialogue within a certain discipline about subjects that are specifically intended for them.

Ground-breaking success
The dialogue we put out within our organization shortly after New Year’s 2018 brought us immediate success. We felt that much more violence had been used against our employees than the figures showed that had been publicly disclosed. We asked our employees in the dialogue about their experiences and found that many colleagues had not reported the situations involving violence. When we asked why, we received various reasons: from administratively cumbersome to, well, it’s part of the job. We immediately started working on this.

Based on the dialogue, we were able to make a good case for why the numbers were wrong. The results did not remain internal. The influence of the results of the dialogue reached far, even the Lower House. The result is that fireworks bans and tackling violence against emergency service workers are now higher on the priority list and have led to measures.

Giving your opinion safely
The dialogue is fully anonymized, secure and in line with the GDPR and privacy laws. This is a prerequisite if you want to receive honest answers. Employees answer one or a few challenging, focused questions in the first round. In the second round, they respond to statements and ideas from their colleagues, which initiates a conversation. This subsequently result in a ranking of what gets the most support and why, which provides qualitative insights, as the reasoning behind how and why is also addressed.

We get to see the results at group level. Based on predefined criteria such as age group, units and functions, we can filter more insights from the results. This provides interesting and specific information for us, for administrators and for teams. The dialogue can be used by multiple parties.

Not common
It is not common to purchase software. Yet there was no doubt about the need. We first presented it to our own ICT department to keep it in-house, but it turned out to take much more time and money than expected to realize something comparable. The CircleLytics instrument had already proven its strength and the CircleLytics team is a partner who shares ideas and helps refine smart questions.

The dialogue helps us to pick up the opinions of our constituents and put them where they belong in our organization, with the director, with the teams.

Full video with Rob den Besten:

Contact our team if you would like to learn how your employees and organization can benefit from CircleLytics’ online dialogue. You can find more information on the employee participation page.


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The works council of Reclassering NL has been working with CircleLytics’ dialogue solution for works councils and employee participation for some time.

  1. What does employee engagement accomplish for you?

More diversity and spread of respondents and their responses. It also supports the dialogue with both the director and the constituents.

  1. Mention a theme or themes as an example of how you deployed CircleLytics, and the resulting benefits.

Fast and direct feedback on the progress of setting up casuistry and intervision for specific groups of employees. This made it possible to quickly identify the regions in which this had not yet got off the ground sufficiently. After 6 months, almost the same repeat question showed that the interventions had delivered results.

  1. Are there other areas imaginable where employee engagement can be used?

Yes, in various domains within and outside the direct role of participation, perception and judgement of management takes place. This is now filtered and takes place almost without details. We would also find this form of dialogue interesting via feedback panels on fixed topics, regular monitoring or in real time during meetings. This is more in line with the ‘bottom-up’ approach promoted.

  1. Why should other organizations work with CircleLytics?

It is a simple but effective way to quickly and concretely collect feedback from (groups of) employees. It is very important to form good perceptions and judgments that result in decision making that is better supported.

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