The think Different Test: Lessons Learned

Tuesday, I had arranged a series of frame-stretching sessions.  Eager to test a series of suppositions and committed to experiential learning,  I set out to prove whether immersing a group of professionals in a story could and would:

1. Prove sticky enough to hold people’s focus;

2. Renew some buried faith and belief in possibilities; and

3. Ignite a little passion around solving a different problem.

The session participants validated my questions; and more importantly gave  me additional learning morsels that I plan to share over several posts in the next week.

This post is the cream,not necessarily wows, but certainly the reflections that floated to the top.  I waited 12-14 hours  to let some of the experience simmer before I pulled together my own reflections. I wanted to dream a little, find out what my brain played back. This also bought me a little distance and quiet to re-examine my observations. With full disclosure,  some of the playback  is my synthesis and some insights that came in the course of  followup discussions and input I received from several people later in the day.

This is the first brush and I plan to post further details in the next week, so stay tuned.

What did I learn? 

1. Frames are powerful.  In asking people to share what  they are thinking, an astute listener will also be able to recognize the frame of the speaker, the words used often express deeper beliefs, i.e. about people, the nature of the world, the cause behind actions, and expectations for the future.

2. Having a diverse brain trust, rocks!   My peeps are so valuable,  because they are my eyes and ears when I’m blind and deaf.

3. The story of Christopher Columbus is much more interesting a story than I realized.

4. Openly inviting people to share what they know about anything always produces surprising information, especially if you make them comfortable using an encouraging tone.

5. Working without a deck is fabulous, as long as you have a white board that people can see…so maybe it’s time to go back to acetates and overhead projection of scribbles?  Decide the priority for your audience’s focus, on you or on the projection?   The white board made it easy for people to see and keep track of what had already been shared.

6. The natural “Frame war” or participant’s resistance that will arise requires great poise by the facilitator.  There is an artistry to eliciting input.  How you respond to their input, the valence in your tone and or words, the style of nudging for more requires practice and patience on the part of the facilitator.

7. Keep the agenda very narrow very limited, less is absolutely more when framestretching.

8. When thinking on one’s feet, wise to lose the specific reference to your sources, easier and effective to share a story that is familiar and not to quote another author, theoretician or researcher.

9. Visual, let people go there in their head.  The non-linear nature of the exercise is definitely free when there are NO visual cues other than the shorthand that gets written to confirm what people are contributing.

10. Mind maps are a great tool, I should get more practiced. or consider bringing a scribe, or a visual scribe.

11. In the fist set, because I believed I had the perfect opening, I ended with the story within a story.   How important is it to listen first, let others tell their own story, and not begin with an objective “out there” story?  My take: To realize the benefits of frame stretching your own story and preoccupations need to be suspended.  To suspend your thoughts, conscious or not, injecting another thought or reminding you of a story you know will separate you temporarily from your own story and put you into another frame of mind.  Once your mind shifts, its possible maybe even natural for you to  flip the lens, holding the focal position or posture  to see yourself from this other perspective.

This last point, well that’s the intention that lies in the heart of the frame stretching opportunity set and I promise to share more shortly.

I’m off to stretch into familiar design strategy space. 

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