Much of what we do at the ASE is reusable. However, the toys, books, metaphors, drawings, knowledge wall material and even the facilitator’s shtick can quickly fall into the trap of becoming rote and over-familiar. The toys get dirty or broken, the assignments generic, the space untidy and office-like and everything the client says we have heard before a hundred times.
The client must often traverse what seems to be roads common to all our clients, but they must travel them to reach unique solutions for them. At the same time, they may be following unique roads and converging on solutions common to many organizations. Remember Tolstoy’s comment in Anna Karenina that “All happy families are the same. Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own unique way.” Frequently both things (common roads to unique solutions and unique roads to common solutions) are in operation simultaneously in an ASE session.
Make everything we do fresh. Always ask yourself how to make it interesting to you this time around. When you are fresh and on the edge of creativity, that will communicate itself to the participants, just as they will get the message to just ‘go though the motions’ if you are.
· By all means use templated assignments, but freshen them each time. Ask if the questions you ask apply in this specific context, or if there are new ones that could be asked.
· Walk into the space each day and see it as if for the first time. What are your impressions? You will immediately see the disorder or wrong signals conveyed by the environment. It may be as simple as moving all the books and toys to new places.
· Bring your own experience to bear on anything you say in the front of the room. Reach into your past to find examples, or resolve to do the axioms with totally new stories. Read everything mindful of how it could apply to your very next event. Doing a session with a Health Care firm? What was your last trip to the hospital like?
· Put constraints on yourself that promote creativity. Do the entire introduction without using five words that the knowledgeworkers choose for you (and hand you a minute before you start!) How could we run a session with just 10 krew? Choose a theme that informs the entire event and build every supporting theme from it (The Lion King or Discovery or whatever). Figure out how to have a succinct report from 150 participants who were in 20 groups in under an hour (and captures all the key learning). Remember one of the almost-axioms: Accepting limitations is liberating!
· Create a new metaphor for each DesignShop you do. Write a new module. Challenge yourself to improve what you do each time. Figure out how to do something in half the time, cost or with half the people. Remember the Mars Pathfinder lesson: Faster, Better Cheaper!