Workout: May 1, 2013

Design Goals and Principles

  • Map out project goal / strategy for May
  • Practice asking generative questions
  • Practice designing conversations
  • Practice being intentional, holding it lightly

Workout Plan

What Happened


  • Started 15 minutes late, because one of the participants got pulled aside for work. This is the downside of holding these at people’s workplaces. If I’m going to do this for real, need to get neutral space.
  • Was able to adapt the design on-the-fly and end on time.
  • Both participants had a lot on their minds in the checkin. Design opened with silent reflection, which was great for getting them into the space.
  • Ending felt good. Definitely want to do this again.

Project Goal

  • Once again, saw nice facilitative moments from both participants. They’re both active listeners, and they both asked strong questions.
  • If we had more time for discussion, I might encourage participants to push each other more — not just question, but criticize. For the amount of time that we had, I think what they did was appropriate.

Five Key Questions

  • They both had trouble getting five questions in five minutes. (I gave them an extra few minutes.)
  • When I frame this exercise, I was sure to emphasize that questions where they knew the answers were valid. Need to underline this in my notes so that future participants are clear about this with future exercises.

Action Plans

  • Sometimes, my instructions can be quite long. This was one of those times. It would have helped if I had put the instructions in the Google Docs I created for them (which one of the participants asked about). For other exercises, should actually create handouts.
  • Again, participants asked great, challenging questions. Again, if had more time, would have pushed participants to criticize more.
  • When constructing action plans, participants shied away from the meaty stuff that emerged from previous exercises. Tendency was to add more goals then necessary and to keep action plans abstract. Provocative is good and more meaningful! Coached them into not shying away from this.

Lessons Learned

  • Finished on time even though started late.
  • Participants got more practice applying what they’re learning to their own projects, resulting in something concrete that they can use moving forward (before I do another iteration).
  • Surfaced issue around over-abstracting when it came down to planning / execution. Was able to provide space for them to practice not doing this.
  • Obviously, starting 15 minutes late is bad. With only two participants, couldn’t just start. Next time, do these at neutral spaces to prevent people from getting pulled away. Also need to just start on time, regardless of whether or not people are there.

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