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The 8 Types of Participation

We classify participations into 8 success categories:

The success of participation depends strongly on the type of participation and the participation management:


Fake participation:

Information events disguised as participation. Unfortunately, fake participation is the most used form of participation today. More than 35 years ago, a group led by a former Siemens employee developed the moderation method. The moderation method was a “live response” to generate the good ideas among the people concerned and also to anchor them in the implementation. Group facilitation was the golden road to enthusiasm and participation. Today it is called co-creation. Unfortunately, the techniques were also used for presentation. This worked initially because the event was veiled with the aura of participation. Ten years after the invention of the method, it was almost dead again because no one wanted to participate in pin board battles anymore, where the ideas delivered were not considered after all. Employees’ experience with fake participation is the biggest threat to the success of real participation.

Employee surveys:

Surveys that come across as participation and serve consumer research or employee management and evaluation. Today, countless employee surveys serve immeasurable feedback loops. Every leader is assessed and judged by constantly questioning those he or she leads. Since the anonymous feedback usually does not serve the development of leadership skills, the interviewees are increasingly annoyed – The most fatal surveys of employees are those on managers, of whose results no one ever learns. Since we humans are information creatures, we have to hallucinate withheld information about survey results as a substitute. This then leads to moods that can be more than counterproductive..

Electoral systems:

Participation systems (in a representative democracy) that no longer meet needs and can be influenced at will by social psychological manipulation. The presidential election in the USA influenced by Facebook and Russian hackers is an example for this kind of participation: systems that elect representatives for a limited period of time are no longer up to date. Democracies are on the decline in the world. Autocracy is gaining more and more power. These electoral systems are not given much consideration in the corporate world because of their inefficiency and are hardly considered in this article.

Shares for employees:

Economic participations in which employees are drawn into the risk with shareholder programmes. Yet they cannot directly influence the economic success of the company in any way. For managers, programmes that distribute shares for certain behaviour have led to disastrous management behaviour. This behaviour was only oriented towards the short-term profit maximisation of the stock market listing. In the medium and long term, it has rather harmed companies. Why shares should have a different effect for employees is unclear. We see another danger, which is that employees disappointed by the share price can take far more revenge than the ordinary shareholder. If my company annoys me economically because of management failure, I can annoy it much more as an employee than just as a shareholder. Here lies a danger of shareholder programmes among employees that has hardly been considered so far.
Dilettantishly organised shareholdings: Well-intentioned but amateurishly organised shareholdings, as with the Hamburg school reform or the Olympic bid in Hamburg:
The well-intentioned participation of parents in the introduction of the school reform in Hamburg by the Greens only led to resistance being formed against it. Arrogance and incompetence on the part of the actors created the resistance that then led to the failure of the reforms, which in themselves made sense. The same can be said for Hamburg’s failed Olympic bid. Here, too, the arrogant attitude of the organisers was the cause of the revenge of those who were not considered. After attempts were made to exclude them, marginalise them and portray them as ‘uncool’, they were once again able to show the political establishment where the hammer hangs when it comes to citizens.

Citizen participation:

Citizen participations which are legally required in public planning, such as Stuttgart 21 and the deepening of the Elbe. Three decades ago, as a manager in the environmental movement, I fought hard to make § 29 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act for the participation of associations in environmentally relevant public measures a reality. Unfortunately, the hoped-for effect of genuine participation did not materialise. Since here, too, the planning authorities first develop an opinion, there is no real participation in the sense of a dialogue. This leads to courts deciding what can happen in the future. Thus, the deepening of the Elbe became a dispute over rare plants and birds worthy of protection, which was ultimately lost for the nature conservationists. Alternative perspectives for modern freight transport (hyperloop networking of German seaports), environmentally friendly maritime shipping and sustainable logistics concepts are no longer even an issue. The threat posed to Hamburg by the deepening of the Elbe and the associated flooding is no longer considered.


Corporate optimisation through employee participation to improve management ideas like 22 years ago at Volksfürsorge in the RUMS project of 1995 or currently the Augenhöhe projects 2015/16. Genuine employee participation is the core of success for the coming revolution of manufacturing value-added goods through Cyber-Physical Production Systems (CyProS). Silicon Valley’s disruptive innovations in consumer goods such as taxi companies without taxis, hotel chains without a single house, bookstores without books and communication platforms without meaning (other than siphoning off personal behavioural data), all have one thing in common: they siphon off value that is earned by people without giving those people sustainable value in return. The Uber taxi driver in Los Angeles can only live off his taxi if he drives it 20 hours a day. He will not be able to replace his car from the earnings he receives in five years. No Airbnb landlord will be able to replace the furniture in his rented rooms after five years or even finance a house from it. All this will not work for long if those who skim off the values only create post-feudalistic realities for themselves and a select few. The Industry 4.0 revolution will bring many times more benefits if it succeeds in making the values that are created labour-free benefit those who generate them. It is not enough for individual companies / entrepreneurs to ignite and utilise performance and creativity in employees through honest participation. The good experiences generated by small SMEs and start-ups must be made available to the vast majority of the millions of employees. Without participation in the development of the production revolution through Industry 4.0 and sharing in the economic benefits through a self-determined welfare community, the change through Industry 4.0 will lead to resistance far beyond what we are experiencing today.

Internet of Things:

A new kind of participation concept: The concepts of Cyber Physical Systems are essentially the expansion of the “participation concept” of the internet through a network of mostly technical subcomponents that communicate with each other via an internet-based data infrastructure. Participants are no longer exclusively people, but also things such as the sensors of a car, climate data stations, process data computers in production technology and other systems that carry information or interact directly with their environment. Cyber physical systems, the internet of things and the consumer internet form two views of the same phenomenon: on the one hand, the view of humans, possibly aggregated by machine algorithms of the consumer internet; on the other hand, the view of machines with logically linked measurement data from environmental observations in the background. According to forecasts, 50 billion devices will be connected to each other this year – as well as to six billion people.

Info Graphics: Types of Participation
Dynamics and chances of success of types of participation
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