Author Archives: Eugene Eric Kim

About Eugene Eric Kim

Eugene helps groups learn how to come alive and collaborate more skillfully together. He spent ten years consulting with companies across different sectors, from Fortune 500 companies to grassroots movements. He’s now focusing his efforts on helping others develop the same skills that he uses to help groups.

Things I Need To Do Better

I believe passionately in the underlying principles and the overarching vision of Changemaker Bootcamp. I know that there’s a huge gap in the need for practice, and I believe that services like this can help fill that gap.

Moreover, my goal for this project and all of my work is impact. I believe strongly in doing work a certain way to maximize impact — the ways embodied by these workouts. I myself need to be modeling those practices.

I’ve been using Lean Startup as the overarching framework for creating Changemaker Bootcamp (rapid iterations focused on validated learning). My twist is that I’m working transparently. I’m sharing the lessons I’m learning — both good and bad — here and as close to real-time as possible. If you watch the exit interviews of past participants, they’re pretty candid about what could be better. I want people to see this, because I want others to learn from my experiences. My goal isn’t merely to build a thriving service. If it were, there would be much easier ways for me to do that. My goal is to improve the ecosystem as a whole.

This past week, I “officially” launched Changemaker Bootcamp. (Apply now! Deadline is August 13.) We’ve moved out of alpha and into perpetual public beta. That means I have an overall service that meets my baseline expectations in quality. But it doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. It’s far from that. There are many things that need to be improved, and I fully expect to be continuing to do that over the next several months.

I’ve had many wonderful friends go out of their way to spread the news and to recommend that people participate in bootcamp. I feel very blessed, and I’m going to work my butt off to surpass their belief in me.

I’ve also had a few wonderful friends share some hard, critical feedback. I love hard, critical feedback. It’s going to take me some time to implement their suggestions, so I thought I’d share what they said now, share my quick thoughts, and open things up to ideas from all of you! Most of the feedback has been around communication.

I hate the name “Changemaker Bootcamp.”

Fair enough. When I originally conceived of this, I called it “Collaboration Bootcamp.” I changed it to “changemaker,” because I wanted to make the goals around making positive change more explicit, and because I believe that collaboration skills are core to doing this. (Plus, the domain name was available!)

However, there are lots of downsides to this name. First, changemakers need more than collaboration skills (although I think this is a high-leverage skill that most people are not investing in). I can address this through partnership or pointers. For example, New Media Ventures has been experimenting with a business skills bootcamp for social entrepreneurs. The Story of Stuff Project is experimenting with a citizen muscles bootcamp. Seb Paquet has been independently developing a peer-support model for social entrepreneurs that embodies a lot of the principles underlying this bootcamp. We need all of these things, and I’m happy to point to the people who are doing them.

Second, for whatever reason, when people think “changemakers,” they think “nonprofit.” I think that is a limited, unfortunate framing, but if it’s too strong for me to overcome, then I may need to change it. I know lots of people who are working in organizations without explicit social missions who should be doing these kinds of workouts, and I want those people in my bootcamp. That diversity makes for a richer experience for my bootcampers, but it also contributes to the bettering of the world.

I’m pondering a name change to “Collective Leadership Bootcamp.” What do you think?

What’s your curriculum?

Ugh. I hate the word, “curriculum.” Changemaker Bootcamp isn’t teaching in any traditional sense. It’s learning-by-doing, with lots of feedback from peers and from me. Watch Amy Luckey’s exit interview to get a better sense of what the experience is like.

That said, I need to be much more clear about what Changemaker Bootcamp is about, but more importantly, why you should participate. I need to be clear about what you’ll get out of it. I’m working on this. It will take time.

That said, I’m holding myself to a much higher standard here than any other training I know of. I’ve published all of my workouts, with notes on what went well and what didn’t. I’m using this blog to talk about the meta-process, as I’m doing right now with this post. And I’m using the most liberal Creative Commons license out there for all of my materials, meaning that people will be able to build on what I’m learning and sharing. Who else is doing this? Seriously, I’d love to know, so I can point to them, applaud them, and learn from them.

It seems kind of expensive.

Good. It should.

I don’t pretend to know that much about pricing, and of course, pricing is intertwined with brand and marketing — two other things I know little about. It’s possible that my pricing is problematic, in which case I need to find ways of correcting that.

Here’s how I went about figuring out my pricing.

First, I started with my twin goals around sustainability and scalability. If this is not financially sustainable, then I can’t keep doing this work. However, if I can’t help the folks who need it, then I’m not achieving my impact goals.

I can address my target market by giving my workouts away and by finding other ways to support an ecosystem of people who can’t participate in my bootcamps. If it’s too expensive, organize your own workout group. I’ll help you. You can offer a competing bootcamp and price it below me. I’ll help you with that too. Seriously. I have tremendous confidence in my abilities, and I’m constantly getting better. If there’s a market for this kind of service, then I belong on the premium side of the market. Competition is validation.

Second, I look at what people are spending right now on personal and professional development. In my changemaker survey, I found that many people spend between $1-5K a year. I wanted to price the bootcamp so that people could potentially enroll in multiple bootcamps throughout the year.

Third, I looked at “competing” services. My bootcamp is on the high-end of that spectrum, but it’s not the highest, and I believe it provides much more value.

Furthermore, while I looked at trainings and leadership development programs, they’re not my primary competitive frame of reference. Organizational consulting is. So many organizations hire consultants (like me in a previous life), when they should actually be doing something like a bootcamp internally. You can read more of my thoughts on this here.

I feel good about the price, and I’m not going to change it. If I’m unable to build a sustainable service, it will be because of my inability to communicate value and reach my target audience, not because of the price.

I’d love to hear what others think about all of this. Feel free to leave a comment below!

Exit Interview: Anna Castro

Just like a regular fitness bootcamp, Changemaker Bootcamp is designed for people to repeat as many times as they feel valuable. Anna Castro was the very first person to sign up for Changemaker Bootcamp, and she is also the first to do it twice in a row. Here are her thoughts on bootcamp from her unique perspective:

You can watch what she thought of bootcamp the first time around.

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!

Amy Luckey’s Exit Interview

I ran into my friend, Amy Luckey, shortly before this last bootcamp. We were catching up over coffee, and she asked me what I was up to, so I told her all about bootcamp. She seemed really interested and asked if she could observe. I said, “Of course!”

Amy sat in on several sessions, and she shared her observations and insights during and afterward. It helped me quite a bit to have a pair of fresh eyes watching, and the many conversations we had served as my own practice. Even though she wasn’t a participant, I asked her to do an exit interview anyway, and she shared many wonderful nuggets.

You can see all of the exit interviews here.

Tools vs Practice

Today is the last workout of this iteration of my bootcamp. Over the past three workouts, we’ve navigated an interesting tension between learning-by-teaching and learning-by-doing.

I’m trying to design workouts that are not reliant on my “expertise” to facilitate. This is partially because of my practical desire to see these workouts scale beyond these bootcamps, but it’s also very much philosophical. I think that changemakers are conditioned to seek external knowledge rather than foster experiential knowledge. I think that consultants (my former profession) feed into this vicious cycle in a less than healthy way. I think this balance is all wrong.

For example, our third workout was about power dynamics. Rather than provide a framework for understanding group dynamics, I had participants simply tap into what they already understood. I was rewarded for my trust. They were insightful and thoughtful, and they complemented each other’s knowledge. Practicing what they already knew, but maybe didn’t realize, created deeper learning than would have resulted if I had tried to teach them a framework up-front.

Our fourth workout was about designing group engagements. This time, my approach failed. Participants felt lost, and they didn’t quite understand what I was asking them to do. (You can read Renee and Lauren’s thoughts on our new Water Cooler, which is where we’re now doing our homework exercises.) My design was too ambitious, and it didn’t give participants ample opportunities to tap into their own knowledge.

Last week’s workout was about difficult conversations, and I managed to recover from the previous week. Once again, I didn’t provide a framework, but it didn’t seem to matter. A big reason for that was that this group collectively already has quite a bit of experience with communication strategies. What they needed was practice.

My participants are finding the practice valuable, but they seem to be wanting more content to balance the practice. I’m listening, but I’m not ready to make drastic changes. I think there are some lightweight opportunities — providing a handbook, crowdsourcing tools, etc. — and I’m anxious to see how they feel after they’ve had a chance to run through these exercises two or three times. My theory is that they’re conditioned to want external tools more than they actually need them. However, I’m open to be wrong, and I’ll keep watching and listening.

Observations on Power Dynamics

Last week’s workout was about group dynamics and about power. I was particularly excited about this workout because, to me, the essence of group work is about 1. being intentional about the work you’re trying to accomplish; and 2. finding ways to maximize the power of the group as a whole. Shifting groups requires understanding the existing power dynamics (many of which are invisible), and skillfully finding ways to guide them.

How do you learn to do that? You guessed it — practice. It’s the only way. Power dynamics are complex and multilayered, with many potential touchpoints. Most of us are already attuned to certain kinds of power dynamics. However, broadening that frame and finding ways to guide those dynamics in the moment can only happen with practice.

We started the workout by reflecting on times when we ourselves felt powerful. I wanted participants to understand their own relationship to power, both to find practices for enhancing their own sense of power and also to understand the biases of their lenses.

Coincidentally, my friend, Amy Wu, shared Amy Cuddy’s TED talk with me yesterday. It’s a simple yet insightful explanation of how our physical posture biologically affects how powerful we feel:

One other interesting observation from last week’s workout were my bootcampers’ reactions to a scene from 12 Angry Men, the classic Henry Fonda movie about a jury deliberating on the guilt of a teenager on trial for murdering his father. I asked them a number of questions about the dynamics they saw in the scene, then I asked if the dynamic was healthy. The response was unilaterally no.

I disagreed with that assessment. There were definitely some unhealthy micro-dynamics in that scene, but as a whole, it amounted to a healthy, if delicate balance. (Of course, that’s the point of the movie, which masterfully, yet subtly celebrates this country’s tradition of our right to be judged by a jury of our peers.)

I thought it was interesting that my bootcampers — all of whom are women — reacted so negatively to this scene of 12, well, angry men interacting, whereas I — a man — saw something very different. It once again speaks to the importance of understanding your own lens in how you interpret the dynamics in a room, and the difficulty of knowing what’s healthy and valuable for any particular group.

Progress Report on the Changemaker Bootcamp Experiment

I wrote a detailed post on my personal blog yesterday about Changemaker Bootcamp. In it, I detail my motivations for starting Changemaker Bootcamp, my process for carrying out this experiment, and finally, how things have progressed.

In my post, I make a concerted point about doing this experiment out in the open before it’s “ready.” I love being able to point people to this website to give them a flavor of what’s happening, and I’m surprised by how many people have been staying engaged with this experiment via this openness. I especially appreciate all of my bootcampers, who have been great about blogging as part of their experience. It adds a richness to the learning-in-open, and it helps build valuable muscle around working transparently.

We’re already a third of the way through this second bootcamp. The first two sessions were largely a repeat of the first two I did at the first bootcamp, with different participants, a larger group, and some tweaks here and there. The next three weeks will look markedly different from the last bootcamp, as I’ll be experimenting with different workouts and taking advantage of the larger group. Looking forward to sharing!