Here, There, Everywhere

I’m doing a Gamestorming Expeditions right now, and it is a lot of fun. I’ve been a fan of gamestorming techniques for years, and it is great to be able to do this program with a bunch of other facilitators and have a space to learn. One of the best virtual events I’ve done during the pandemic and I highly recommend it.

One of the great games we’ve learned is a wrap-up, “Here, There and everywhere”

Here something in our time together that caught your attention, piqued your curiosity or, at the very least, you noticed. It might be a game, a comment from a fellow participant, a concept, a visual framework, etc… 

There how you might take that specific example and implement it at work or in your personal life. Bring in as much detail as you can to make for easy implementation; imagine your future self doing it and the outcome it generates

Everywhere would be a generalized interpretation of this thing that would allow for more universal application – an underlying principle absent context 

I love it for the elegance and simplicity and have already used it in my own practice.

Brainstorming and Conflict

Like most facilitators I have strong opinions on brainstorming. And like a lot of the soft side of quality, these facilitation skills can really open themselves to a criticism of the vulnerability of scientific claims and there is a fair amount of justification for criticisms of the pursuit of novelty over truth. Add to it that there is this major pipeline of junk psychological science and there are good reasons for challenging these opinions.

It is for this reason I do less and less brainstorming as a verbal exercise, and rely more on brainwriting as I discussed in the post “Brainstorming usually sinks your ship.”

In the article “Should we allow criticism while brainstorming?” by Dylan Walsh we are exposed to some research from Jared Curhan at MIT that shows when criticism should be leveraged in brainstorming exercises. Well worth the read.

Surviving the Horror of Online Meetings (Book Review)

Surviving the Horror of Online Meetings

Written by Brian Tarallo

Illustrated by Mark Monlux

A fun read this week has been Surviving the Horror of Online Meetings, which brings a great deal of fun to a very pertinent topic in a pretty short page count (70 pages). As a fan of classic monster movies I can’t recommend the art enough.

Tons of good survival tips. Some of my favorite were:

  • Plan five minute sprints – for every 5 minutes of slide presentations or briefings include something that will engage participants – for example a poll or a breakout session.
  • “I Like, I wish, what if” – participants type feedback into chat about idea share
  • Hide self-view – I instantly did this and it makes such a difference

And then each of the silver bullets was worth the price of admission.

We are all fatigued from constant online meetings, and they are not going anywhere. This book is a fun bit of medicine and I definitely recommend giving it a read.

Facilitation Planning for the Unconference

Some thoughts on how the agenda I pulled together for the 29-February-2020 ASQ Team and Workplace Excellence Forum Unconference.

Kick-Off/Introduction

A good session starts with pulling people out of their comfort zone and getting the energy level right. When building the Unconference agenda I planned for there being people I didn’t know (and I’ve been proven right!). As a facilitator I always want to get people on the right track, and for this introduction I want to go fast so I planned two activities:

  • Draw the neighbor and share. Okay I am the worst at drawing. Think of how bad you are, and I am worse – stick figures are hard to get right. But I love drawing icebreakers for the simple reason that they help get us in a fun place and out of day-to-day. The folks who come to the Unconference are giving up their Saturday and I want to let them at once know this will not be business as usual.
  • Ridiculous “How Might  We”: Start with the funny and ridiculous and you prime the pump and let folks know that we are going to be safe and creative today.

Back of the Napkin

Break into teams of 3 people and answer the question “What does Team Excellence look like” and write/draw it up on the back of a napkin. This allows us to introduce ourselves, and do some networking while at the same time starting to grapple with the core question of the day (and of the Team and Workplace Excellence Forum!)

The back of a napkin is already associated with Aha moments and inspiration.  This informal exercise helps combat people’s instincts towards worrying about whether they can draw, have the “perfect” solution to the question, and other worries that can crop up if we were to use something more formal. This game is meant to inspire conversation and ideation – two things I’m really looking forward to.

Open Space Technology

The heart of an Unconference. Harrison Owen described this methodology in his book Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide. This process is a good match, and I’m pretty excited about this as an experiment. Owen set forth five reasons to use Open Spaces:

  1. There is a genuine business issue: I feel a real urgency around the ASQ’s Team and Workplace Excellence Forum (perhaps the ASQ in general). There is a buring platform of building better culture in our organization, and it is coupled with a person feeling that I have about 18 months to make this division relevant.
  2. A great deal of complexity: Workplace excellence and quality culture are not easy; they are not simple. I am fairly sure that any three reasonable people will find a lot of things to disagree on.
  3. Lots of diversity in terms of people and points of view: This was an aspiration when I chose the agenda. I hoped to be able to attract people from beyond my network. I assumed that given Boston’s size and industrial base we would get members from varied industries, and I hoped we would get participants from various points of their careers (students to grizzled veterans).
  4. Real passion – people care! To say that folks care about quality and how we build it in our organizations may just be an understatement. Does everyone care? No. Will 500 people show up? No. Which is a good thing because I didn’t get that large of a room
  5. Genuine urgency: This may be the weakest of the criteria for me. But urgency is subjective and I for me as an organizer there is a great deal of urgency. I need to get more people involved and empowered in the division!

25/10 Crowd Sourcing

I think it’s important to generate and sort the ideas for action so participants hopefully leave ready to get things done! 25/10 Crowd Sourcing is an excellent activity designed to spread innovations “out and up” as everyone notices the patterns in what emerges. Fun, fast, and casual, it is a serious and valid way to generate an uncensored set of bold ideas and then to tap the wisdom of the whole group to identify the top ten. May go lower with a smaller group.

Every participant writes on an index card their bold idea and first step. Then people mill around, and pass cards from person to person. “Mill and Pass only. No reading.” When the bell rings, people stop passing cards and pair up to exchange thoughts on the cards in their hands. Then participants individually rate the idea/step on their card with a score of 1 to 5 (1 for low and 5 for high) and write it on the back of the card. Again, we pass the cards around a second time and then “Read and Score”. This is done for a total of five scoring rounds. At the end of cycle five, participants add the five scores on the back of the last card they are holding. Finally, the ideas with the top scores are shared with the whole group.

From this – action plan! Agree on way to keep momentum and away we go!

Other thoughts

A key requirement is to record discussions as they happen. Hopefully, that is the case and we get a nice raw output from this.

I use Session Lab for most of my facilitation planning these days. The site is a wonderful way to quickly find activities and build blocks, and the agendas it spits out are very clean.

Food is so critical.  There will be a good hot lunch. I will also grab breakfast for folks on my way in.

This is designed to be an experiment. I have kept the price low, and then charged it to the Division for ASQ members as part of the member value. I want to do at least one more this year. It is important to experiment with content building and sharing, and this format is designed to draw on the expertise and perspective of the participants. I am thrilled to be doing this and going in I am very hopeful of the outcome.