Workout: June 12, 2013

Design Goals and Principles

  • Practice listening
  • Practice synthesis
  • Practice asking generative questions
  • Practice practice
  • Have participants get clear about goals for their projects and this workshop

Workout Plan

What Happened


  • Started 15 minutes late, because of BART delays. I want to get to a place where we start on time even if folks are late, but need a larger critical mass for that to happen. As it was, people were able to stay later, so we were okay.
  • Had double the participants (4) from last time, with two who couldn’t be there this week. Process scaled nicely for the most part and was able to leverage the extra people. Today’s exercises can easily scale to 8. The constraint is the debriefs, which are full group.
  • Unlike last time, I knew all of the participants in the room. Take “success” with a grain of salt, as there’s already a lot of trust in the room.
  • This was largely the same design as the first session from the last bootcamp (April 10, 2013), with some tweaks. The tweaks overall seemed to work.

Ground Rules

  • One participant asked about confidentiality. Need to incorporate this into the ground rules, but also make it clear that this is meant to be an open process in the applications process, so that people are clear from the start.

Listen and Reflect

  • My questions were more focused than last time, and I gave people an extra minute. Some participants completed this with ease in the time allotted; others had difficulty.
  • Need to timebox the validation. One group spent a lot of time clarifying their goals in the validation process, which is great — that’s part of the intent — but it was also taking a lot of time. Other group simply had a conversation while they waited, which is good.
  • Last time, I had a third iteration. In my design for this time, I eliminated it, because I thought it was too much. On-the-fly, I decided to add it back, but do a rotation, so people were talking to different partners. That gave them the opportunity to practice yet again without being self-conscious about practicing with the same partner. It also gave people a chance to get to know others. This is one of the advantages of having more people — you can do more things with your design.

100 Questions

  • Saw much more variation this time in the number of questions people were able to generate in five minutes. Varied from 4-12 (versus last time, where it varied from 4-7).
  • Did 4 iterations (vs 5 last time). Much prefer five from a rigor / workout perspective, but this worked out well from a timing perspective. A fifth iteration would allow you to have more of an in-depth conversation about generative questions. However, can do this as part of the homework.
  • Several people expressed self-consciousness about generating lots of questions. Need to assure them that this is not a test! Sometimes, questions will flow, sometimes not. Neither is right or wrong; just is. This is practice!
  • Did more details counts of questions and question types as they were going up, which enabled us to have a richer debrief. I noticed that the overall number of generative questions as very high, which was great. Also noticed that How questions far outnumbered all others, which I expected. Also, zero Why questions!!! All of these stats served as great coaching moments.
  • One participant complained about the Sharpies smelling strong. Use Mr. Scent markers instead of Sharpies.
  • Bad set of Post-Its somehow found its way into my collection. Wasn’t a problem this time, because wall had good surface, but need to test all of them in advance.
  • No tables meant people were writing on their laps. Provide clipboards next time.
  • One participant misunderstood instructions about adding questions to other people’s clusters. Need to pay more attention to what the participants are doing and coach in the moment, even if it means going drill sergeant on them.


  • Simplified instructions from last time.
  • First post went up quickly, which is fantastic.
  • More to come.

Lessons Learned

  • Great participants! They were committed, and they dived right in. It’s also an interesting mix of demographics (except no men).
  • One participant noted in her checkout the value of the debrief at the end of each exercise. This is something I should highlight as an important part of the process (and part of the value of doing these workouts as part of a bootcamp versus on your own).
  • For the first time, we had a location that was close to optimal. Specifically, lots of open space, no tables, movable chairs. Unfortunately, it’s a temporary location!
  • Tweaks from last time seemed to work well overall, even with more participants and greater diversity of skillsets.
  • Started and ended late. See above.
  • Didn’t have a location until the last minute. Still don’t have one for next week. These are the vagaries of doing things lean. Acceptable tradeoff while this is an experiment, but something I have difficulty being okay with.
  • Didn’t have website transferred until after the first session. See above on tradeoffs. Would like stock tutorials prepared on using website.
  • More rigor on equipment checks. See above on Post-Its, Sharpies.
  • Talked more than I wanted to. Need to practice more!

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