Workout: April 17, 2013

Design Goals and Principles

  • Get concrete and committed to a working definition of collaboration
  • Practice asking generative questions
  • Practice listening and reflecting
  • Practice starting small. Collective processes don’t have to be big.
  • Understand the importance of What and Why questions (vs How)
  • Revisit project frameworks building on insights from today

Workout Plan

What Happened


  • Started and ended on time! Reflected a more streamline design which I still had to scale back slightly on-the-fly. However, design was mostly on point this time.

Listen and Reflect

  • Largely stuck with the design.
  • Quickly converged on a good framework.
  • I was more active in coaching this time than I was last week. Focused on avoiding yes/no questions, updating the artifact to reflect the changing conversation, wrapping up the work by making open questions explicit. My involvement this time raises question about how many more participants I can accommodate if there are going to be multiple simultaneous conversations.
  • Definitely had to restrain myself from participating in the conversation. (E.g. Importance of meaningful, concrete results in effective collaboration? Importance of ground rules?) My role is to create the space for the participants to explore and come to their own answers. Need to explore the balance between holding the space and participating in it.


  • Largely stuck with the design.
  • Updated the name to be gender-neutral!
  • Location was a bit challenging, since it was largely commuter traffic near FiDi — people on the way to work. Participants adapted well and did two solid interviews.
  • Amazing how two additional data points both reinforced and enriched the effective collaboration framework.


  • Homework feels useful, but a little complicated. Seems like it went well and was valuable, though.

Lessons Learned

Went Well Could Be Better
  • Participants showed their natural abilities to listen, ask provocative questions, and be inclusive.
  • Participants walked away understanding the importance of generative questions and got some good practice in surfacing them.
  • Participants seemed to understand the importance of starting: simple steps for answering questions and synthesizing so that you build off previous conversations
  • Design this time was more realistic in terms of timing. Still felt a bit tight to me, but started and ended on time with a comfortable pace.
  • Participants created a solid framework for effective collaboration very quickly. They also got to some of the challenging questions quickly. For as much as people get stalled by this question, it’s amazing how simple it is to get to a clear, useful shared understanding.
  • Participants still finding this useful!
  • Smaller room this time, which was actually fine for our size group. Should have brought my wide angle camera lens. Next week, we move to the Hub.
  • Be clear about hand signals for time so that I’m not interrupting. (This will probably change when there are more than two participants.)
  • Person-on-the-street exercise is challenging for random people without the few minutes of reflective silence, which was designed in for participants. Both of our random people ended up taking that time for themselves.
  • Next time, provide more instructions for framing the person-on-the-street exercise so that it’s less uncomfortable.
  • Framework revision after the person-on-the-street exercise had less time than I would have liked.

I'd love to hear what you think! Please leave your comments below.