Workout: April 10, 2013

Design Goals and Principles

  • Start the work immediately. No “teaching,” just doing.
  • Practice listening.
  • Practice synthesis.
  • Practice asking generative questions.
  • Practice practice.
  • Have participants get clear about their goals for this workshop and their projects.

Workout Plan

What Happened


  • I’m trying to figure out the right balance between explanation / coaching / just doing. I think I mostly erred in the right direction today, although there were a few moments when I could have done more coaching.
  • Was running low on time, so scrapped the scheduled break. People needed to take their own break at around the hour mark. Not sure about scheduling breaks in the future. 90 minutes isn’t very long, I build in lots of iterations and diversity, so people aren’t sitting around the whole time, and I give people permission to take care of themselves.

Listen and Reflect

  • Second iteration served its intended purpose: Participants were much more fluid, and they understood / appreciated the value of the practice. Third iteration may have been too much. Participants started getting self-conscious, and were trying to make sure what they remembered what they had said earlier.
  • The reason for not allowing note-taking while listening were 1. to hone listening skills; 2. to start building the motivation to always take notes. Not sure if this was valuable or necessary.
  • Not sure the validation step passed The Squirm Test 100%. Maybe 95%, but this was a low stakes exercise, and I want to build more rigorous habits from the start. If people have any discomfort about how they are being represented, they need to speak up. If listener detects discomfort, needs to validate again rather than being passive. I did some coaching here, but I could have done more.
  • Both participants were familiar with Google Docs, so that worked well. Plus, I was able to observe both of their screens from my laptop as they wrote.

100 Questions

  • Rather than have people do iterations of 10 questions each as originally planned, timeboxed each iteration: Do as many questions as you can in 5 minutes. This worked out much better, as participants averaged 4-7 questions per iteration, and struggled for more later. This is a hard exercise!
  • Did three regular iterations of five-minutes each. The fourth iteration, had participants look at each other’s clusters and add questions. This was to spur new, broader thinking, leveraging the group’s wisdom. The fifth and final iteration was to do a final reorganization and name the clusters.
  • Did a debrief both before and after the prioritization. It was only scheduled for after. Wanted to give participants a break to be reflective. In retrospect, would have stuck with the one debrief after the prioritization.
  • Lots of overlap with what the participants prioritized.


  • Both participants posted their homework on the following Monday. One participant had difficulty getting WordPress to work correctly.
  • Both blog posts were good!
  • One participant had to get over some anxiety about blogging in public. I expected this, and I’m trying to be supportive. Opportunity here to offer more in this regard.

Lessons Learned

Went Well Could Be Better
  • The participants were great! Timing of their needs and where they are in their development aligned perfectly both with this phase of the experiment as well as their relationship to each other. Plus, they both have great attitudes and good core fundamentals on which to build.
  • Participants walked away feeling greater clarity about their projects and felt like they could use the same tools they experienced here for other projects.
  • Exercises accomplished their goals. Especially happy about the 100 Questions exercise. It’s a great first-day exercise, because it grounds the participants in their own work, it helps them see what’s already in their heads, and it forces them to practice asking questions.
  • Tight iterations are great. Hopefully, participants realize through osmosis that structuring things this way is a tool they can use in their own work.
  • Mid-stream adjustments to the 100 Questions exercises paid off (e.g. timeboxed iterations, naming clusters).
  • Groundrule #1 (“Be nice to yourself”) is a good one. Had to cite it a few times.
  • Some prep failures. Both camera batteries were dead. The S95 is not a viable long-term solution for video. Accidentally brought some bad Post-Its. Test Post-Its on wall beforehand! Didn’t know how to use the stopwatch on my wristwatch!
  • Started late. Need to arrive earlier to handle logistical issues.
  • Space was cavernous for three people. However, it was fine for our purposes, and well worth the tradeoff for now of not having to deal with the logistics of finding a space. When I do this “for real,” will want to find a better, more permanent space.
  • Ended late (beyond the late start time). Need to scale back the lesson plans, but also need to be more disciplined about in-process adjustments. It would have been fine to have done one less 100 Questions iteration.
  • Too many questions in the Listen and Reflect exercise. Could have moved the superpower question to the checkin.
  • Probably would stick to two iterations of the Listen and Reflect exercise rather than three. Would also have saved some time.
  • Don’t be afraid to coach the participants a little bit more. For example, could have provided some commentary on the 100 Questions results.
  • WordPress is not that user-friendly. Need to post tutorials / screencasts for logging in and posting.

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