So, about facilitation. I've got a hunch that the way we've been working for ages is bonkers. If we want to get serious, we're going to have to scrap hierarchy where it squashes collaboration, screw authority where it dulls vision, and toss processes that stunt performance.
What I want to be and do is experiential, intuitive, and integral. What that means in some cases is a lot of talking. But in better cases, we get conscious improvisation, deep listening, and embodied learning. Think workshops over lectures. Hands-on over written reports. Showing, not telling. Below are a few of my attempts.
DIY PLAYBOOK: A VERY STRUCTURED ANARCHY
Following a workshop win with a Kansas City innovation team, collaborator Jon Kohrs and I received an amazing challenge: bring the learnings of our 3-hour, 30-person experience to almost 900 people... in one hour. Reluctantly accepting that we could not, in fact, clone ourselves 30x, we put each participant in the driver's seat with a DIY Facilitation Playbook for breakout groups to walk through with no leader, no prep and no sticky notes. Our custom manual guided groups through Design Thinking tools round-robin style, giving each person an active role while ensuring that every voice was heard.
bcbs of kansas city
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City asked the Moonshot Innovation Lab to help them reimagine what the health care experience might be. I designed and executed an ethnography with local health care users, but rather than hand off the knowledge in a deck of slides, we wanted the Blue team to feel what we felt in the field. So Experience Design Director, Cady Bean-Smith and I led a co-creation workshop so that we might build the new brand together. In the first half of the day, we handed out biography booklets of our research subjects so the client team could get to know their stories. They filled out Empathy Maps to clarify what they were learning (more on those here), and then each team design a health care plan specifically for the person whose story they studied. After lunch, we surprised the Blue team by bringing in the real live research participants, and having them offer authentic, actionable input on the ideas. A few very full months later, Spira Care was born. Check it out on the Projects page.
MCC: design thinking for educators
In collaboration with Jon Kohrs and Kari Keefe, this interactive experience was one of several paradigm-shifting workshops for Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City. A series of rapid empathy-based exercises allowed faculty to quickly reshape their ideas while orienting to the students' needs through storyboarding. When obstacles surfaced, we were able to find the learnings joyfully, and prevent fear from blocking their forward movement.
Chapman University Design Symposium
About 250 design students gathered for this TED-style event on Designing for Emotion in Orange, California. I was ultra-super-honored to be the opening act, sharing the stage with color guru Jim Krause and design giant David Turner. This one was more speaking than facilitating, for sure, but in typical form, I managed to turn "a few tips on observational research" into a mindfulness meditation workshop by the Q&A.
sxsw: self-hacking workshop
Collaborator and near-perfect inverse, Ricky Catto and I delivered a 2 hour workshop for innovation-minded folk at SXSW Interactive in Austin, TX. Combining learnings from empathy practice, cognitive psychology and design thinking, the experience included a series of exercises that stretched comfort zones of all sizes. We listened with earplugs in, confronted our inner and outer critics, and solved problems by making them worse.
AAf-kc gas can creative conference
For the 2017 American Advertising Federation of Kansas City Gas Can Creative Conference, Innovator and co-conspirator, Ricky Catto and I created and facilitated a 90 minute workshop on designing for emotion. Armed with dozens of writing notebooks, a handful of fake briefs, and a heap of enthusiasm, we got emo with about 80 local creatives in a design session on experiential marketing. Weird ideas were had by all, and only one of us cried.
nelson-atkins museum of art
Following a multi-faceted research initiative on the museum experience, my favorite deviser, Cady Bean-Smith and I led a collaborative workshop with our team and our client's team. Curators, researchers, and museum professionals got in the zone with Barkley's writers, designers, strategists and creative leaders for a full day of thinking and making. A few catering carts, loads of sharpies and a dozen hand made posters later, we'd conceived of more art experiences than we could handle.
EMPATHY TRAINING FOR THE FED
In this top-secret project for a federal organization that shall forever remain nameless, I had the honor and delight of guiding 4 teams of IT managers through a 3 hour empathy practice experience that included deep listening, contextualizing and reframing, challenging assumptions, empathy mapping, prototyping custom designs, and also, generating extremely silly pseudonyms for ourselves. While I was unable to take photos of humans, I snapped a pic of the feedback stickies, my favorite of which is on the bottom left: “explored how empathy is not just emotions.” BINGO!
In 2014, a former colleague and his wife started a wellness business creating custom music and meditation tracks to help regular people do life better. They had the passion to see it through, but needed help clarifying their core values as a new company. So the two of them, and their tiny dog, came over and hashed it all out via post-it and whiteboard. We identified the essence of their offering and some guidelines for growth that gave them the confidence and clarity to move forward.
how to be an inventor
As a part of Barkley's annual Bring Your Kid To Work Day, innovator, Ricky Catto and I created an invention workshop for little ones. They conducted user interviews, identified a problem to solve, brainstormed solutions, got peer-reviews and reiterated their designs, then went bananas with some pipe-cleaner prototyping.
SNACK HACK DAY
When new research began to show that Millennials were eating differently, we noticed that the market hadn't yet caught up to those new behaviors. So we designed a hack day around snacking, to devise and develop ideas that might propel us forward. We briefed a team of digital creatives on new behaviors, assigned each team an insight to work with, gave them heaps of prototyping materials, and watched magic happen. At the end of the day, they presented their work to one another in a very tasty show and tell.
the mantra workshop
At Barkley's Annual Meeting in June of 2017, I led a mantra writing workshop. Having prototyped the exercise with a small group of testers, I led nearly 400 people in a 45 min experience of reflection and writing, resulting in heaps of personal mantras to inspire their work for the coming year.
experiential marketing for creatives
When Barkley got excited to explore the "ideas worth advertising" initiative, Moonshot jumped in to help the creative team think through creating brand experiences for emotional impact. This workshop was designed to give creatives practical tools to address the challenges in a brief by first identifying a desired emotional outcome and crafting an experience that might inspire it. We took our time with this one, thinking through each movement at a time (entice, enter, engage, exit, extend), then storyboarded our happenings and shared them over beers. It was a blast, so we did a few encores of this one, offering it to other departments as well (like PR and Social).
When a recent client asked if I could lead an innovation exercise for their marketing team's annual meeting, I was all about it. (What they didn't mention was that it would take place in 120 degree Phoenix, but nevermind that.) We looked at inspiring experiential marketing work, then tackled some fake briefs with real tools. As a bonus, we made each participant a deck of cards as a leave behind, so they could keep their learnings in use.
Black Rocket Salon
In 2016, my team hosted Black Rocket Salon, a monthly talk on "ideas worth advertising" - noteworthy actions brands take that generate buzz of their own. When it was my turn to host, I spoke on Rocket Gardening, or, how to identify and cultivate great thinking. In order to make this memorable, we planted seeds in tiny pots, and wrote anonymous letters of encouragement that were distributed a year later to attendees.
SMG creating memorable experiences
I created a workshop on frictionless customer experiences for the SMG conference in Dallas in early 2017. Marketing professionals came from all over to learn how to design experiences from emotion, and our session booked up so tight we had to do it twice. I was going to facilitate it myself, but I fainted and hit my head and so Cady Bean-Smith filled in for me, which was very, very nice of her. And hey, now there's this cool workshop I can do with other folks.
high performance interaction
When I arrived in Munich to conduct an empathy training for a former colleague's new team, I had no idea he'd made it a public event. About 40 people from over a dozen countries came together on a Saturday to get real about intention and attention. Suffice to say that what began with coffee and pretzels ended with Weißbier and dirty slang. Afterward, a participant messaged, "total strangers hugged each other after one day. That is not normal for Germany." <3
EMPATHY & FACILITATION TRAINING
For this day-long workshop with an insurance client in Omaha, collaborator Jon Kohrs and I developed a series of interactive experiences to help empower UX researchers to get more potent and actionable insights from their work. We taught them to identify communication distortions, place perspectives in context, and choose guiding words wisely. But the most fun was giving them each the opportunity to paddle the rapids of group dynamics. Once they were armed with good tools, we, hilariously, staged common problems and watched them turn chaos into creativity.