Fishbowl - a powerful tool for team discussions

In the world of design, where innovation intersects with aesthetics, the distinction between good and great often depends on the willingness to embrace a culture of feedback. Recently, I had a delightful conversation with Lars Baumann, our Senior Strategic Designer and the facilitator of our Fishbowl sessions at PHOENIX. Since assuming this role , he has had the opportunity to immerse himself in the Fishbowl format, closely observe its nuances, and enhance the way we conduct these sessions. In this article, I will talk about the outcomes of our conversation.

To start, Fishbowl is a discussion format that we employ with 35-40 participants at our PHOENIX Stuttgart office. There is a smaller discussion group of five, while the remainder of the attendees forms an audience encircling the group. When explaining, Lars emphasised that we have a "fantastic room setup," allowing us to face one another while seated. Another advantage of this setup is that the initial five participants initiate the discussion, and when members of the audience wish to participate, they select someone from the circle and invite that person to join the conversation. Therefore, it provides a dynamic environment for discussion.

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The operation of Fishbowl is straightforward. We maintain a backlog of topics, and anyone can contribute to it. Our board selects a topic from the backlog that is most relevant to the company's agenda currently. On the day of the Fishbowl, Lars introduces the chosen topic, and we are ready to commence the discussion.

Fishbowl is an application that empowers every member of the company. In this setup, there is no hierarchy. Everyone has the right to express their thoughts and be part of the discussion on matters significant to the company. Furthermore, having a moderator can enhance the event. In Lars' words, "It is up to the moderator how much interaction or guidance you want to provide during the discussion." Depending on the flow of the conversations, one can either remain in the background or offer more guidance to ensure that the discussion remains focused on the topic.

Another valuable addition Lars introduced to our Fishbowl events is regular wrap-up sessions. Thanks to these wrap-up sessions, we can retrospectively assess what we should retain or exclude from our topics. Just as every brushstroke matters in a painting, similarly, in a design environment, each piece of constructive criticism holds significance in enhancing creativity, fostering growth, and continuously improving the quality of design. In the end, there are no absolutes; it can be conducted differently in other organisations. However, for us, it serves as an excellent tool to disseminate information to every single member of PHOENIX and achieve alignment.

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