10 remixable social techniques for better organizing & decision-making!

How do you take democratic decisions in large groups? How do you solve problems together with many people you don’t know? In several workshops we fine tuned principles of decentralized and collaborative organization and decision-making.

10 of our favourite social techniques — from A like ‘Appreciation’ to Z like ‘ze time is up’!

Open State uses a growing collection of social tools to help us organize. In the spirit of Open Source we‘ve adopted and remixed hand signals from social movements like Occupy, meeting structures from Agile Software companies, and even been inspired by natural systems. The goals of these social tools are to help us develop shared understanding, make sure quiet voices are heard, and share our collective progress as we learn.

In this little how-to we show you how it works: after reading this you will have learned ten remixable social techniques as a fun and effective alternative to never-ending discussions without results.


The HUMS is great and unobtrusive way to quieten a room

Noticing: yelling or banging an object to get the attention of the crowd causes stress
Solution: when you see someone raise their hand, copy them and stop talking — silence quickly spreads through the group


A facilitator is a neutral person that helps a group of people understand their common objectives and assists them to plan how to achieve these objectives

Noticing: when no one is guiding the meeting it’s easy to get off topic and sometimes difficult to get clear outcomes
Solution: have a person whose only role is to guide the meeting helps the conversation develop more productively


Clearing the roles creates an environment where every participant has the opportunity to collaborate

Noticing: taking a role, e.g. that of the facilitator, without having the group’s support/acceptance might cause dissatisfaction and trouble on both sides
Solution: clearly identify the role you would like for yourself and get the group’s affirmation to act on it


“I thought we were going to discuss if we get an office dog, no!?” — “No, dawg!”

Noticing: starting a meeting with different expectations on what the meeting is about leads to frustration
Solution: ask the question ‘What’s the purpose of this meeting?’ — and get a clear agreement before starting


Clarity may come from unexpected sources

Noticing: in everyday life we tend to put people and what they say into categories and act on assumptions that simply don’t hold true
Solution: try to hear everyone in the group and use the wisdom of your crowd. Listen attentively and try to keep an open mind and heart about what is being said


Ze Germans excel at this part

Noticing: discussions can take forever and you don’t manage to discuss all the points on your agenda
Solution: identify a timekeeper, set an end time and allocate times to your discussion points accordingly to make sure you cover all important things


“Who is for voting?”

Noticing: there are many topics to discuss, but there isn’t enough time to tackle them in one session
Solution: list all the topics, vote which three are the most important ones, process them, and record what needs discussion later on


“Now they give shows of their own. Thumbs up! Thumbs down! And the killers, spare or slay, and then go back to concessions for private privies” from Juvenal’s Against the City of Rome (ca. 110–127 C.E.)

Noticing: in large groups it’s difficult to sense how individuals are feeling or assessing a situation
Solution: ask for a mood feedback with thumbs up/down to express support or dissent. Also, doing a round of single words to capture feedback might be a fast and helpful way to get the big picture


Life isn’t as serious as the mind makes it out to be

Noticing: in meetings it’s easy to spend all your time discussing problems
Solution: invite everyone to thank one other person for something they did that was helpful


Clap and it’s done

Noticing: whole group update meetings can last forever, which can make people unhappy
Solution: invite everyone to agree to close the meeting by doing something together — this clearly ends the meeting

Now you’re set to plan and run through a meeting that gets things done without losing people on the way.

Please feel free to use, remix and adapt any technique learned to your purpose and share your ideas, learnings and feedback.