In our networking session, last Thursday, December 1st at OEB 2016 we have experienced a two-hour structured process of learning through dialogue called the world cafe method.  The purpose of this world cafe session was to activate the collective intelligence of the OEB participants that were interested in exploring the question: “How to become a true learning organization?”. The session was designed to experience learning together in the room, to expand horizons and think beyond our normal train of thought, and not to find a right or wrong answer.

We focused our conversations around three other questions related to the main question:

  1. In what ways does learning happen in the organizations you are involved in?
  2. In your perception, what accelerates learning and what hinders it?
  3. In your perception, how could technology enhance learning?

Throughout the process, participants shared their ideas and experiences in three groups of four to five people following the world cafe etiquette. In each round everybody – except for the table host – moved to other tables in order to meet and talk to other participants and learn different perspectives. This interaction among participants entailed a rich exchange of ideas and viewpoints, connecting them together and finding patterns, insights, discoveries and new questions.

In the first round the answers were manifold, such as the wish to narrow the first question down, wondering what is needed so that learning can happen and the insight that “learning happens”. Participants agreed that learning is a continuous process and that there are more commonalities than differences in the way students and employees learn. For both project-oriented learning and the need to learn skills are important issues. Moreover in both settings people need to learn strategies for trouble-shooting and how to tackle an unknown problem. We were reminded that usually 70% of learning is gained in daily work, 20% comes from coaching, mentoring or teaching and 10% from peers.  These facts brought an inherent question about the differences between coaching, training and facilitating. Last but not less important, participants agreed on the need of having a purpose for learning. “What do you learn for?”

In the second round there were many shared ideas about what accelerates learning such as motivation, autonomy, need, relevance, meaning, diversity, time, certification or creating the conditions for it to happen. Learning is understood as a process strongly connected to our human attitude and dependent on trust in order to flourish. “No trust, no learning”. Furthermore, new questions arose regarding how to build trust and connect with other people as well as what may happen in the learning field as Artificial Intelligence evolves.

In the third round, participants discussed the age factor when using technology in learning. They perceived technology as an enabler. For it to be successful, one has to know how to use it. It can play a role in creating alignment, in connecting people, but it cannot replace social learning. What enhances or hinders learning is how people engage with a subject. One size does not fit all; therefore if we use technology we have to be aware about what, where, how and when we apply it.

After the third round we did a brief breathing exercise to slow down and reflect. Then each table host shared their most important highlights on the three questions. It is hard to capture the atmosphere in words, but the main success of this session was that participants felt engaged and started thinking for real. It was not an exchange of predefined knowledge, but a genuine  inquiry with the aim to discover fresh thoughts.

For further information about collaborative social technologies including the world cafe toolkit you can visit art of hosting website and if you want to experience a virtual world cafe join the Online Community next Wednesday, December 14th.

This session was co-designed and co-facilitated by a team of Somos Más (Ursel Biester and Sole Pons), CEDDET Foundation (Irene Zurborn) and Estúdio Pira (Felipe Duarte).

At Somos Más, we host and facilitate processes where we harness collective intelligence to enhance social ecosystems. We support organizations with projects, support teams to align their work and support groups to be creative together. Please find more information on

At CEDDET Foundation, we design and facilitate virtual learning processes and support online professional communities with special focus on collaboration and knowledge-sharing as a means for promoting economic and social development. Please find more information at

At Estúdio Pira we create and implement design projects in several media, from animation and video to visual identities – often created in cooperation with clients utilizing strategies to harness collective intelligence and aiming for deep transformational insight. Enjoy these creations at  

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