Everything speaks

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Relates To

Energy Field of Consciousness and Integrity



Humans have evolved to be highly sensitive to context-based cues. From our environment we derive information about what is expected, how we should behave, what relationship this experience has to other experiences. The work environment is generally not designed for collaborative, creative knowledge work, however. “Typical” work environments give the subliminal message that what happens will be “business as usual”.

The environment of the ASE is more than just a background to work within. It informs the participants about the way their work can be done.


Participants respond to the environment. Everything we do, to the tiniest detail, affects behavior, attitude, and mood. Chaos, discomfort, and disconnect happens when we get sloppy with details. A broken toy is a symbol of other disorder that may be in the space. Dry pens are frustrating. On the other hand, a crisp and clean look populated by helpful knowledgeworkers is inviting and productive.

“Create an institution where people aren’t allowed to be curious, and people won’t be curious.” --Tom Peters, Liberating Management



Details matter. The ASE environment must be one which is designed to support the need to work collaboratively and intelligently and to flex as group needs change. Every aspect of an ASE must be aligned to support this aim. Environmental features that are inconsistent with the whole will subtly undermine the effectiveness of the space.


To that end:

- Ninja stealth KWs. When the environment changes during a report (particularly if the change is silent), a group discussing an issue suddenly receives an article about that issues unasked, or they have artistic help to make their ideas turn that much more real, they are being facilitated by the environment.

- Pens that all face a consistent way in the trays conveys a sense of order, like a clean and orderly woodworking shop.

- The space is magically clean when participants return.

- Disorder spawns disordered thinking.

- Add your own ideas – fresh flowers? Scent? Exercise?

- Added to it is all magic—or perhaps the magic is in the addition of all these things.



Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building

Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language

Wilson & Kelling, “Making Neighborhoods Safe”, The Atlantic, February 1989

Irving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

Edward T. Hall, The Hidden Dimension

Design and facilitate as a team. Do not draw the boundaries between teams so clearly that all we can see is our own part. We all own the environment and the facilitation process.

Refresh the space regularly. Don’t allow broken toys. Move the books around. Keep the kitchen mess behind the scenes. Don’t let stuff pile up. Make it a neat, clean, open space to design. Sloppiness in any form (physical or process) communicates itself to participants.

See the space from the client’s eyes. Every time you walk in, see it for the first time and note what effect it has.

Hear your words as if for the first time. Watch yourself on video as if you were looking at a stranger. Watch others on video.

Iterate, ask for input. Collectively, the krew often has 10 times the facilitator’s experience. Listen to what they have to say.