Embedding inclusion in strategic thinking processes

Axis Workshops is rethinking the way teams work together, particularly in virtual or hybrid settings, and putting inclusion at the centre of the process.

Image of people at work in the background with technology overlay indicating techposter syndrome


How do you embed greater diversity and inclusion into an organisation? Changing everyday processes such as meetings and strategic thinking processes are key. One organisation which aims to shake things up when it comes to strategic thinking workshops is Axis Workshops.

Axis is a digital collaboration tool developed by a team of consultants, technologists and designers which aims to re-think how teams work together. 

Workshops – structured and facilitated meetings – are used by organisations to address difficult questions. The Axis team have facilitated, attended and written up over a thousand workshops. Their experience is that workshops often don’t work very well. They say the content produced can be superficial and generic and a subset of people in the room tend to dominate discussions and decision-making to the detriment of others having their voice heard. 

They add that workshops also take an enormous amount of time to prepare and write-up and require a skilled facilitator to work well. They are therefore used infrequently, despite their potential to help teams whenever they get together to collaborate.

These observations led the team to re-think how digital could transform how teams collaborate using workshop techniques. Axis was born from that discussion. Four years down the road, with their product being used to run all sorts of different workshops, Covid-19 happened and the world of work went virtual.

Virtual collaboration

Given it looks as if virtual and hybrid working are here to stay and the world needs the means to collaborate effectively whilst working from home, it seems that Axis can help organisations to move forward through the pandemic and tackle concerns that virtual working might exacerbate inclusion issues, making it harder for many people to speak up and be heard.

In this context, Axis has recently won UK Government Innovation funding to define how virtual collaboration can support sustainability – by reducing carbon emissions associated with travel to attend face-to-face meetings and workshops – and inclusion – by ensuring that everyone can have their voice heard.

Rob Hopkin, one of Axis’s co-founders, says the company is looking to collaborate with individuals and organisations to understand the current barriers to more sustainable and inclusive ways of working and to trial new approaches defined by the project. The ambition is to rethink how collaboration works, particularly in a virtual or hybrid environment. 

Axis is already working with Unida Consulting to develop a freely available Axis workshop template to help organisations collaborate around driving gender parity.

The project will build on Axis’ existing approach to supporting increased inclusion. Rob says: “Anonymity makes it easier for everyone to contribute and for people to challenge prevailing orthodoxies”. 

Contributions, whether ideas or votes, are made via smartphones, with predictive text making it quick and easy to digitally capture ideas.

Rob adds: “We are trying to overcome the perception that innovation is about one individual generating a break-through idea. Innovation is a team sport. And Axis’ mission is to make it simple and easy to help teams harness the power of diversity with a focus on concrete and actionable ideas. Great collaboration is about empowerment and bringing people in. Often the person who speaks the loudest is seen as the innovator, but they could be crowding out other people’s ideas.”

*If you would like to get involved and collaborate with Axis on its D & I work, contact Rob at [email protected]


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