Tool no.73 Consensual Parameters

This is the analysis of the Consensual Parameter tool as used at Pines Calyx

See a video of the workshop

Primary Research Question

  • How successful was the tool in terms of prompting synergy?
    • This tool worked well on prompting synergy at the levels of information-sharing and knowledge-sharing.

Workshop documentation

Early "edits" of the two Parameters workshops at Pines Calyx Feb 2008 can be found here

Research Questions

  • How can a multi-disciplinary team foster a common culture for co-designing?
  • How does a shared set of values affect team bonding?


  • This tool was deployed during the second session of the workshop dedicated to uniting team members around common aims and was effective in forging team identity.
  • The tool worked in capturing 'moments of synergy’ through a 'languaging’ process resulting in 'shared moments of understanding' when participants had to clarify the choice of their values.
  • These moments offered insight beyond particular ‘terminologies’ that refer to individual design perspectives/specialisms as well as work ethics.
    • “I don’t think that you can remain in the discourse of your own discipline when you work in a interdisciplinary environment, otherwise no one would end up talking to each other.” (CL, Team 1)
  • Synergy became an emergent trace as the tool encouraged the group to become more than the ‘sum of its parts’ once individual values were transcended and common values emerged beyond predictability.


  • How did the participants experience the tools?
    • The feed-back from the interviews after the event give few direct references to this tool.
    • One participant said: “The ‘words’, (values) which I think for the design process were very important.” (JMP - Team 1)
  • How did we experience working with the tool?
    • Facilitator: This tool was relatively easy to deploy. However keeping time was crucial as particpants tend to like to discuss and to be able to gain momentum it was important to maintain a flow.
    • The assistance from the scribe who kept a tally after each voting round.
    • Scribe:
    • External Consultant?


  • How well did the tool work in practical terms?
    • The resources and time (30-45minutes) allocated for this tool seemed appropriate. (see Consensual Parameter tool.
  • How well did the tool meet its particular brief/s? (I.e. what we say that it can achieve on the wiki)
  • It meets the expectations and is a tool that, albeit was not particularily memorable, worked well to get the team to understand their identity.
  • From a facilitator perspective it was clear that proposing a context for negotiating values set up a space for passionate discussion.
  • In the first round Team 1 asked questions about the context for the values and they were told to focus on their own practice.
  • In the second round Team 1 experienced “some misunderstanding in relation to what some values mean exactly”. Scribe(BD)
  • one participant said he “cannot agree on values in isolation from a project” (JMP).
  • However the facilitator asked them to “Agree to work generically”. Yet referring to a context seemed to be important for T1.
  • The participants seemed keen during the process to explain and expand their contributions when other participants did not understand.
  • From the scribe’s notes (JL) regarding Team 2 it is noted that: "AF was more involved in this session – when she doesn’t understand terms the others explain for her – especially MM."
  • There was a lot of humour and laughing between participants in both teams during the sessions.
  • Team 2 ended up with HUMOUR as the first of their six values.
  • How did the tool operate in terms of divergent and convergent processes?
  • The tool was specifically designed to take the group through a process of divergence and convergence and was successful in getting the participants to move from a personal perspective to a collective one, albeit to get to a collective consensus it was important to emphasise the task at hand - systems of exgange and currencies.
  • Once the negotiation process had taken place the teams seemed satisfied, even surprised, by their abilty to establish a set of shared values that reflected the spirit of the whole group.
  • To what extent was the tool accessible, usable, useful in the context of the work, and applicable externally, portable?
  • The tool is accessible, usable and useful in relation to getting a multi-disciplinary team to foster a common culture for co-designing as well as strengthening the team identity.
  • It is a tool that is transferable to any multi-discplinary work and should be used in the early stages of the team work.

Learning and exchange

  • Which cognitive styles did the tool draw out?
  • This particular tool operates strongly on the level of verbal communication and exchange.
  • It therefore draws out 'languaging’ as a strong cognitive approach and should be considered as a ‘languaging’ tool.
  • It created a platform for making explicit values that affect a professional dialect both on an emotional level as well as a conceptual level.
  • It works well as an interface between different cognitive styles by making the participants make conscious efforts to translate and define specific concepts.
  • The negotiation process helps the team together filter and decide on the relevance of the proposed values in terms of their task ahead.
  • On an interpersonal level the tool brings focus to the balance of give and take, and between the self and the others.
  • This tool helped the team as a whole move towards a set of ‘values’ that guided their envisioning process later on in the scenarios session?
  • What was the level of exchange between the participants? (On a continuum from data to wisdom)
  • Team 1: There were different levels of exchange between the teams. When enouncing individual values the exchange was on a data and information sharing level. However once team members would ask for clarifications there was a level of knowledge sharing.
  • This tool provided each team with a (data carrier) map of their 5- 6 values became visual maps they could refer to later.
    • Team 1 – 6 final values: HOLISTIC, PROPORTION, HONESTY, COMMUNITY, USELFUL, FREETHINKING (the reason for 6 and not five was due to the advisor’s participation.).

Group dynamics

  • How well did the tool engage all participants?
  • Team1: the team in general was focused and willing to engage with the process. However the level of participation varied as some participants were more outspoken, whilst others engaged in a more quiet and observational manner. (EW and HY)
  • Some tended to chuckle and laugh quite often. (JMP, NW and CL).
  • JMP seemed to take on the role of the ‘joker’ several times throughout the workshop making the rest of the team laugh. This may have been a way to divert attention from JM as some antagonism between him and a few participants (CL, JMP, NW) emerged at times.
  • The sharing of values allowed different professional perspectives and lingo to be addressed by asking for further explanation, e.g. terms such as: satisfaction, community, equity and beauty.
  • Team2:
  • What were the similarities and differences in how the tool worked between the two teams?
  • The tool worked fairly similar with both teams, however as Team 1 did it first the team spent a bit longer on this tool. This may have been due to the facilitator being more precise in the briefing stage for team 2.
  • What were the reasons behind the similarities and differences respectively?
  • One of the main differences between the teams was that the advisor Jae Mather joined team 1 as a participant during this workshop. Due to his particular position he was never fully integrated within the team – sometimes taking an advisor role whilst other times commenting on the other participants’ values. Despite this creating moments of awkwardness within in the team it contributed to some of the team members to bond more. Synergy?
  • Another observation was that perhaps since team 2 did the storytelling workshop before, and had already started to develop a team.


  • What did the tool bring to meta-design?
  • The tool worked well as a primer for bonding and as a means to exchange perspectives. It helped bring a group of individual designers to negotiate a team identity through a set of collective values, which furthermore informs the meta-design process.
  • To what extent did the tool embody, promote, bring out the values implied by sustainability (e.g. environmental and ethical soundness)?
  • Both teams chose values that imply sustainability:
  • Team 1 had: “’’Holistic’’ and ‘’community’’ as two of their six values.
  • Team 2 had: ‘’Lifespan’’ and “Navigating the larger context” as 2 of their final five values.
  • Besides many of the participants possessing a high level of awareness of sustainability, this tool was designed to help make these explicit, and the theme ‘systems of exchange’ will also have influenced the values chosen because the need for taking a ‘systemic perspective’.

Emerging themes:

  • What other insights did the evaluation of the tool generate?
  • The tool became seamless in the sequence of the different workshops and did not give seem to be ‘memorable’ post workshop (in the feedback from the participants) in comparison to other more unconventional tools such as the ‘Return-beat’ and the ‘positioning tool’. However, the tool did play a significant role in helping the teams remind themselves of their values and for team 2 ‘’humor’’ was their first consensual value which was embodied throughout the process and in their final presentation.
  • After the voting of individual values, when the teams had to negotiate and gain consensus for their choice of values bearing the task in mind (systems of exchange) several participants changed their stance on certain terms that they had earlier in the workshop either disagreed with on or rated as not important. E.g.:
    • T1: CL was against ‘’useful’’ yet ended up proposing it as one of the final values.)
    • T2: ME did not rate ‘’Trust’’ when rating from an individual perspective but agreed at the end that it should be included as a value. Also, WW was questioning ‘’Bricolage’’ when first proposed by NH but proposed it later as a value, which was omitted in the end.
  • One of the main observations that we can learn from this workshop is that as individuals we may prioritise certain values above others yet when given a context, with a task and a team certain values take on a different significance and become priorites for a given context.
  • One conclusion may be that by taking a group of individuals through a process where they first have the chance to voice their individual values before shifting focus to a thinking collectively with a task, proves that this tool encourages the developing team to shift from one state of mind to another: from 'Me-ness' to 'We-ness' and can be complimentary to the collective story-telling tool.
  • It also illustrates how important it is to make tacit knowledge explicit by to help avoid assupmtions later in the work process.

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