Self-Workouts Are Happening!

One of my goals for Changemaker Bootcamp is to spark a movement that shifts people’s mindsets around the importance of practice… and that actually gets people to practice. My priority for now is to create an experience that helps the people who participate in my bootcamps. However, long-term, I’m not going to be satisfied by this alone. I want to see people working out on their own and bootcamps and other things supporting these workouts all over the place.

My way of enabling this is to document everything that I’ve been doing on this website — the workouts as well as what’s worked and what hasn’t. So I’ve been doing that, but I’ve been doing it quietly. I’ve been publishing my working documents and notes without a lot of attention to audience, context, etc. In other words, I’ve been working transparently, but I haven’t spent much time making my work accessible.

So here’s the funny thing. When you make things available, people might start using them, even if you aren’t “ready.” This is a great thing. It keeps you on your toes, and it gives you real “customers” for your work.

My friends at Leadership Learning Community (also known as LLC, on which I’m on the board) have been doing exactly that. Lauren Rodriguez, one of my last bootcampers, works at LLC, and the leaders of the organization — Deborah Meehan and Natalia Castaneda — decided to do the workouts in parallel with her. They blogged about doing the first workout, in which they brainstormed as many questions as possible about their project — rethinking their organizational design.

This was really great to see, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of this. One thing I’d point out about the results of the workout — and something I would note on a more externally-oriented workout guide — is that they didn’t generate that many questions. They generated a total of 11 between the two of them.

When I do this workout in my bootcamp, I have each participant brainstorm as many questions as possible in a five-minute timespan, even if they already know the answer. Then I have them cluster their questions and repeat the exercise. Then I have them do it again. If I had more time, I would have them repeat the exercise a total of five or six times. Doing it over and over again forces you to think comprehensively about questions. Clustering and reflecting on them afterwards helps you identify which of the questions are most important. Practicing this helps you zero in on critical questions faster.

I also look to see how many yes/no questions people come up with. The reason is that I’m trying to encourage people to ask generative questions — questions that encourage deep thought and discussion. A yes/no question does not do that. One thing you’ll notice about Deborah and Natalia’s questions is that there are no yes/no questions, an indication of their skill at asking questions.

Finally, I count the number of “how” questions versus “what” and “why” questions. Most of us tend to focus on “how” questions, and most of us easily lose sight of the “what” and “why.” This leads to two problems. First, we lose sight of our goals and strategy. Second, we operate on assumptions without making sure we have shared understanding about some of our more complex ideas. For example, if you’re going to be doing a project on leadership, you need to make sure that everyone on the same team has a shared understanding of what “leadership” is.

Deborah and Natalia have a decent balance of “what” and “how” questions, but they have zero “why” questions. This is very common, and it’s something that practice can help counteract.

Many thanks to Deborah and Natalia for being the first folks (that I know about) to try these workouts on their own! I hope others do the same, I hope others share what they’re learning the way Deborah and Natalia are doing, and I hope I can spend more job supporting all of you!