Category Archives: Learnings

Exit Interview: Marie Haller

Yesterday, we completed the last bootcamp of 2013! Many thanks to Dana, Jess, Marie, Brooking, and Eugene for being such great bootcampers. You can see them above assuming their power poses.

I have lots of learning to synthesize and share, as well as announcements to make about the future. In the meantime, here’s Marie’s exit interview. Like Anna before her, Marie is a repeat bootcamper, so she brings an interesting perspective to the whole experience.

Lessons Learned from the June Pilot

I’ve posted all of the workouts from the June-July 2013 bootcamp pilot. As is evident from the “official” launch last week, I’m feeling good about the model overall, although there are still plenty of things to improve. Here’s what I learned from this pilot:

Group Physics: Resilience vs Intimacy

The increased size (four people from two) and length (two hours instead of 90 minutes, six weeks instead of four) improved the overall experience. I was able to cover more ground without rushing, and I was able to incorporate more powerful workouts. (Watch Anna’s video for her take on this.) Six participants (the original size before the two dropouts) would have been better still.

In order for the process to be more resilient toward dropouts and absences, I need to accept more people. I’m going to increase the limit from eight to 12. The question then will be how to maintain the same level of intimacy that all of the participants liked from the past two bootcamps. (Amy discusses this in her exit video.)

A few participants said that the weekly pace is challenging and suggested something biweekly. I’m open, but I’m not prepared to test that. There are a lot of downsides, and I feel like the pace is more beneficial than problematic. I would like to test an eight-week cycle, but again, I’m not ready to do that yet.


Between the pilots, I’ve been able to test workouts designed for all of the competencies, and I feel confident about most of them. In this past pilot, I ran into issues with my designing meetings workout in week 4, but I was able to refine it over the subsequent two weeks. The bottom line is that I need to be more incremental with it. I think I’ll be able to do more things with a larger group.

There are some workouts that I haven’t stress tested as much as I would like. I have some harder core listening workouts, but I didn’t use them, because the participants were so skilled at listening both times. It will be interesting to see what the dynamic is like when I have participants who are less skilled at this.

I also didn’t do as many real-time synthesis workouts as I would have liked, and this is an area where the participants would have benefitted. It’s a trade-off — again, this is why I’m curious about an eight-week cycle — and I just have to be smart, bold, and flexible about figuring out what’s needed.

Content vs Practice

One of the ongoing tensions with bootcamp is how much of it is about content vs practice. My bias is toward practice, and I wrote earlier about how this manifests itself in my workouts. My participants pushed back on occasion, especially after my week 4 debacle, asking for more frameworks to help guide them through the exercises. I responded in week 5 by providing a very high-level framework for designing meetings, and this seemed to help.

I’m going to explore putting together very high-level frameworks for some of the more challenging competencies, but for the most part, I’m going to stick with erring heavily away from content-delivery toward experiential learning. It’s working overall (see Natalie’s comments on this). At minimum, I want to see how this need evolves when participants have a chance to go through multiple cycles of bootcamp.

Assessment and Feedback

I consider assessment to be a hugely important part of bootcamp, and it’s the nut I haven’t cracked yet. (Read my higher-level thoughts on why it’s so important.)

I did some very lightweight testing of assessment mechanisms by having participants do a self-assessment in their applications at the beginning of bootcamp, then having them do another one midway through. The scores didn’t resemble anything objective, but they encouraged participants to be thoughtful, and they provoked useful conversation, which surfaced more nuanced feedback. I also incorporated peer feedback, which worked well. One change I would make would be to move the assessment to the end and allocate more time, so that people have more time for discussion. With 12 people, I might make it the entire week six workout.

The biggest shift I want to make is to incorporate Kangaroo Court-like micro-feedback throughout, and to track it using a visible scorecard. I think it will be fun, and I think it will be useful.

The Future

Now it begins “for real”! I still have lots of questions, including things I haven’t tested yet. One of the most prominent content-oriented question is about how I’m going to deal with a greater diversity of skill levels among participants. Everyone in my pilots came from similar backgrounds — partially by design, partially by accident — and it simplified things. Furthermore, everyone was a good listener, which made a huge difference in the dynamic. That’s going to change. I’m expecting it, and I know how I’ll deal with it, but you never know what will happen until it’s happened!

One question in my mind is whether or not to offer different bootcamps for people with different skill levels. (Renee brought this up in her exit interview.) I’ve played with a bunch of scenarios, and I’ll have a much better sense of what’s needed after the next bootcamp.

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.