A conversation with Jenny Theolin, Design & Education Consultant and Founder of Studio Theolin, WOW Academy, Toolbox Toolbox, and Design Education.
“My approach on facilitation completely changed because I was really nervous going into a session where we basically had everybody sitting around in a circle and everybody had a chance to share their feedback and their thoughts to this really positive thing that we are doing. I think it wasn’t until I had a more experienced person helping me navigate that. But also when I could connect my actions to what I was aware of that they were going through. So they were going through an experience that I was not part of and what they actually did was give me a window into that to be able to facilitate that and help that going forward. So I think that was like the time where I went from, “I hate my job,” to, “Oh my God, I love my job.” And I’m a facilitator.”Jenny Theolin
In this episode of Control the Room, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jenny Theolin about her journey becoming a facilitator, entrepreneur, and design and education consultant. We talk about her side project curating the best business, design, and organizational change tool boxes built by some of the most influential companies, institutions, and thinkers in the world. We then discuss setting up client briefs for success, how participants should leave a session, and why she’s sick of the word ‘workshop’. Listen in to learn why Jenny wants facilitators to be the energy they’d like to see in the room.
[1:45] What Led Jenny To Become A Facilitator
[11:30] Leaning Into Tension
[25:15] The Benefits Of Working In Public[31:00] Happiness Leads To Success
[40:35] Be A Mirror For The Energy You’d Link To See In The Room
Links | Resources
About the Guest
Experienced designer, learning leader, and educator. With nearly two decades experience working in the design industry, Jenny can now be found working with some of the world’s leading schools, as well as helping corporate companies become learning organisations through co-designing internal processes and programmes.
Through learning design and facilitation, leadership coaching, and designing corporate training programs, her mission is to continue to inspire happiness at work.
She is the founder of Studio Theolin, Toolbox Toolbox, Design Education, and the recently launched WOW Academy – where she, together with an all-star team, help organizations define, build and maintain their happiest ways of working.
About Voltage Control
Voltage Control is a facilitation agency that helps teams work better together with custom-designed meetings and workshops, both in-person and virtual. Our master facilitators offer trusted guidance and custom coaching to companies who want to transform ineffective meetings, reignite stalled projects, and cut through assumptions. Based in Austin, Voltage Control designs and leads public and private workshops that range from small meetings to large conference-style gatherings.
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Douglas: Welcome to the Control The Room podcast, series devoted to the exploration of meeting culture and uncovering cures for the common meeting. Some meetings have tight control, and others are loose. To control the room means achieving outcomes while striking a balance between [inaudible 00:00:21] imposing and removing structure, asserting and distributing power leaning in and leaning out, all in the service of having a truly magical meeting. Thanks for listening. If you’d like to join us live for a session sometime you can join our weekly Control The Room Facilitation Lab. It’s a free event to meet fellow facilitators and explore new techniques so you can apply the things you learn in the podcast in real time with other facilitators. Sign up today at voltagecontrol.com/facilitation-lab.
If you’d like to learn more about my new book, Magical Meetings, you can download the Magical Meetings quick start guide, a free PDF reference with some of the most important pieces of advice from the book. Download a copy today at voltagecontrol.com/magical-meetings-quick-guide. Today, I’m with Jenny Theolin at Studio Theolin, a design studio and creative catalyst currently powering Toolbox Toolbox, design education, and the newly launched WOW Academy, where she together along with an all-star team helped organizations define, build and maintain their happiest ways of working. Welcome to the show, Jenny.
Jenny: Thank you so much. Very happy to be here.
Douglas: I’m excited to talk with you today. So let’s get started by hearing just a little bit of your origin story. Like how did you get your start down this path of becoming founder of the WOW Academy?
Jenny: Well, I’m currently living in Stockholm, Sweden, and prior to that, I’ve been moving around sort of all over the world throughout my childhood, I’ve got parents who are retired diplomats. And my origin story, I guess, started with moving to Tokyo when I was one month. And then, from jumping between different cultures and cities and countries, I think I went to approximately 11 schools in total. I lived in seven countries, and then I landed in London, and I actually spent most of my years there. I was there studying and working for about 14 years. And then I came here to Stockholm seven years ago. I would say that sort of the biggest impact it has had upon me has probably been sort of the joy of meeting a room full of new people. I think that’s one of my most fun things to do and also figuring out how can I integrate in the quickest way possible and how can I make friends. And actually, side note, I think my first words that came out of my mouth were actually good friends, and that’s really stuck with me.
Jenny: So that’s a bit of my origin story on a personal level.
Douglas: That’s great. And it makes me think how appropriate of a body of work to focus on considering that this background of moving from place to place and constantly having to pick up everything and leave friends behind and make new friends and also getting experienced and learning different cultures at a young age and getting a respect for how these different cultures show up and how to understand them and be with them. I could imagine that’s really [inaudible 00:03:45] to you for this work to help make people feel comfortable and be friends with all sorts of people.
Jenny: Yes. Oh my God. Absolutely. And for example, when I was a teenager, I would help at home quite a bit because, at the time, we were living in Istanbul in Turkey and representing Sweden. We would have a lot of receptions and parties and events that were hosted at our house. And I would help my mother with catering and in the kitchen and just being sort of there. And I remember very clearly that she very often, she would come up to me and be like, “Do you know who you spoke to just now? Or do you know who you almost spilled yogurt on just now.” And I’ll be like, “I have no idea, just some old man.” It’s like, “Oh that was the Finnish president.” Or that was some other politician that I’ve never, ever heard of.
And what was so interesting about that in retrospect, was it made me think that there was something sort of secretly awesome about everybody, because I had this like, okay, so that person is apparently special because of these things and that person is special because of these things. So now it is very much like I really try and dip into to what is that story behind that person? And I think definitely that’s rooted in my childhood and my upbringing for sure.
Douglas: That’s so cool. It makes me think how fun of an activity that would be. Everyone always has these ice breakers where it might be like a truth and a lie or whatever and, or like what’s the craziest thing that people don’t about you or whatever. But what if we just like made them up about people instead? What if we just assumed like there’s something secretly awesome about everyone in the room? Like, write it down, because it trains that view of like this potential that yeah, these people could be secretly incredible and they probably are.
Jenny: Exactly. And they probably are. The other fascinating side of it is that for me, I didn’t treat them any differently because A, I didn’t really know that or just been aware of that. I’ve been sort of told stories back from my mum when she goes, “Oh, do you remember when you took the Crown Prince’s Navy crew out on the town nightclubbing?” And I’ll be like, “Was that what? Was that Crown? Was like, I just remember a whole bunch of Saily dudes, and then she’s like, “Yeah, but you came back because you thought it was really boring.” I’m like, “Okay, well that makes sense. That’s probably why I can’t remember it.” But I think now in retrospect it’s extremely privileged what I experienced, but I think that it’s helped shape me a lot better as a facilitator and just generally like team builder. Yeah, I’m just constantly curious what that sort of, that secret thing is behind everyone’s facade.
Douglas: That’s so amazing. So I want to take us back to your first facilitation. Do you remember when you, what did you consider your first actual facilitation? Because I find it fascinating, this journey you went on and I know it’s true for myself and a lot of facilitators I talk to that they find that they were doing it well before they even kind of consider themselves a facilitator because they’re naturally drawn to it in these various different moments. But there’s always at one point where it like really clicked that like, “Oh, I’m facilitating. Oh, I’m going to go do this.” I’m curious what that moment was for you.
Jenny: I definitely have that moment. I think that the sort of unofficial moments have been just the experiences of stewardship and hosting and just being sort of the project manager of, if’s a party or if it’s a meeting. But the time when it was really grounded was a few years ago, I was leading a master’s program at Hyper Island in digital management. And it was my first year, and I had a group of 20 students, all mature students with senior middleweight to senior jobs. It was part-time. So they had to have a job. And everything that we did through this program was designed so that they would actually apply it in the real world, at their workplace, as sort of their sort of experimental ground. So I was a program manager and basically designed all the days where we were together with other guests, and I would be working with a co-facilitator.
For this specific thing, it was around halfway through the program and I had received a letter from the class, basically laying it into me. Like we want this, that wasn’t good enough. This speaker was boring. It was very well written feedback. I do have to say, I’m exaggerating, but to me, like it was just tearing me. I was like, “Oh, I cannot take this personally. What am I doing? I don’t want to do this job anymore. I’ve suddenly got these like people coming after me, it’s like vultures.” And when this letter then circulated and I spoke to my co-facilitator, he was just smiling. And I was like, “Why are you smiling about this?” And he said, “Jenny, remember everything about group dynamics.” I’m like, yeah. He’s like, well, they’re in stage two now. They’re comfortable enough to share their own voices.
And they’re basically going, what’s in it for me and they’re in their sort of conflict stage and we’re the buddies because we’re the system, right? So all we got to do is just push them over the ledge. This is a great thing. And after that, my approach on facilitation completely changed because I was really nervous going into a session where we basically had everybody sitting around in a circle and everybody had a chance to share their feedback and their thoughts to actually this a really positive thing that we are doing. I think it wasn’t until I had a more experienced person helping me navigate that. But also when I could connect my actions to what I was aware of that they were going through.
So they were going through an experience that I was not part of and what they actually did was give me a window into that to be able to facilitate that and help that going forward. So I think that was like the time where I went from, “I hate my job,” to, “Oh my God, I love my job.” And I’m a facilitator. So I think, yeah, that was the biggest one.
Douglas: That certainly resonates. I think most facilitators have had that moment where we’re always curious and listening. And so we ask for the feedback and we get the feedback and it’s just devastating. Even if it’s during the session, it’s not always, we had to wait for the feedback. It’s like, ooh, people are unhappy. It could sometimes be very obvious in the moment and we kind of have two choices. There’s great of course, but ultimately it falls on two ends of a spectrum. One is we can be defeated and the other one is we can say, “Well, what’s really going on here.” is it really that I’ve done a horrible job, or is it that there’s something deeper at play and it’s fascinating that what you found was that they were comfortable and ready to push and ready to really just wrap their arms around what’s in it from me.
I think another thing that’s really common is when people don’t understand even why they’re there or there’s something else that the team is upset about. There’s like unresolved tension. And so that stuff’s just manifesting in any which way it can. It’s just like steam, just trying to find its way out of every crevice. So it’s like has nothing to do with you as a facilitator and everything about that team needing to work through some issues. Yeah. So what have you found to be… I think the generic silver bullet is just to be flexible. It’s like if that’s happening, let’s lean into that and throw the agenda out the door because they need to solve that first.
Jenny: Absolutely. And also I’ve spent quite a few years now teaching nonviolent communication and feedback culture. And I think every time I hit one of those hurdles, I try and sort of armor myself with, “Okay, well, what can I do to become this flexible situation-based type leader or facilitator? Like what is the role that I have to pivot to?” And what’s really fascinating if I go back to the sessions that I had on the master’s program. Again, we’re sitting with a group of people who are extremely experienced, there might be different experiences. And my role it’s really difficult when you’re confronted with something and then you haven’t designed in the time to be able to dive into it. So yeah, it’s an interesting place to be, that’s for sure.
Douglas: Yes. 100%. I’m kind of curious as well around your inception moment for the Toolbox Toolbox, because I was happy to find that I don’t know, when I first stumbled upon it. I got reminded about it fairly recently actually. And that’s what led me to kind of reach out and connect with you, but because my team and friends and whatnot, I always kind of told me, you really need create a database or a library of methods and things. And I’m like, “Well, there’s so many of those things out there, like do we really need to create another one?” And finally what I decided was like, oh, I just need to do a roundup article. And just like literally just create a place where everyone can find all the things.
So I started creating this blog post that would just literally just a bunch of links to like, “Hey, here’s where you can go find this stuff.” And then I found the Toolbox Toolbox and I was like, “Oh, how cool is that?” The name of it is actually like here’s a toolbox where you can find all the toolboxes. I was just curious about what was your moment of inspiration and how did you get there to kind of launch that project?
Jenny: Toolbox Toolbox came about because very similarly to your experience, I was just leaving Hyper Island and the MA at the time. Hyper Island is a school very, extremely good at getting together their methodology and curating their tools and methods. And they have a fantastic toolbox. And I had been using that every single day for you years. But when I left, it was very much one of those, well, oh my God, this cannot be the only one. And also when you work for a company very specifically for a longer period of time, you kind of become snow blind, and also you don’t really get the perspective from what else was out there. So I just been using that one. So when I came out, I was like, okay. So I started looking and it actually started off a little bit as a kind of like an art project.
It was like a slightly cynical art project. It’s like how many companies and individuals are creating toolboxes just for marketing or just to be seen as we know what we are doing so we are going to share some of our how to guides and some of our canvases and tools. I was quite cynical at the time and I was thinking like a lot of it is bullshit, like it is just bullshit. It’s just regurgitated bullshit. So that’s when it started. And then I made this list of what then I sort of curated and found were sort of the decent ones were the ones that I could see a good use for bearing in mind, a lot of the new toolboxes and the new sort methods and stuff that I hadn’t used them so I couldn’t account for the experience of them. I could only account for how well it was put together or how that company or institution or school, how trustworthy are they?
So I made a list and then that blog post, got a lot of traction and I was on Twitter and I wrote just Willy-nilly. I went, does anybody want to turn this into a website because it seems like it’s been getting a lot of attention. And Steve Thomas from Studio Moko put his hand up and said, “I’d love to help you put this website together.” So he created the website really quick and dirty website. And then another friend of mine, Jim rally, who’s a learning designer based in the UK. He said, “Well, I can see that you just basically copy and pasting the copy from the toolboxes for your list. And I was like, “Yeah, I couldn’t be bothered.” And he’s like, “Do you want me to come in and help you write the actual little blurbs?” And I was like, “Hell yeah, come on over.” And then since then the team has fluctuated.
There’s been people coming and going. The website, we started doing a YouTube series called Unbox, where we spoke to toolbox creators. We spoke to IDEO and we spoke to Impossible and a few other places. And we also started just doing medium interviews and just for the love of ways of doing things and ways of working. And since then, it’s become this rabbit hole. It’s a pure pro bono passion project. And I’ve got a list, meet along at least of suggestions of how to improve it. But at the moment, it is what it is and we kind of dip in and out updating it. And hopefully, maybe in the future, I’ll get a chance to put some finances towards it and actually create a good way to search and a better user experience. Because at the moment it is just, it’s a rabbit hole.
One of the functions that actually makes it a rabbit hole is that every time you visit it, it refreshes a new list. So that it’s not a new list, but a new order of that list because I thought I want this to be a place of discovery, not a place of I’m looking for an energizer, I’m going to go into Toolbox Toolbox. It’s a little bit different thing.
Douglas: Wow. That’s cool. That echoes my experience with it. Somehow, I hadn’t made that connection to my head that it’s like actually random. So that’s really cool. I’m going to use that from now on. I’ll go there and just hit refresh a few times and see what bubbles up. That’ll be fun.
Jenny: Exactly. And I’ve used it. I’ve actually done a Toolbox Toolbox workshop with students working sort of young and more junior students where they in teams get to dive in, they each get pick a toolbox or even something within a toolbox that they really enjoy or like the look of or want to test and then present it back to the team. Then the team presents back to the class and what’s been really fascinating about that is you would then start to see sort of the trends of what people want to be facilitating. So for example, we might have some really sort of heavy tool boxes on there, by the likes of IDEO or we have a small independent, for example the Comedy Tool Sack, which is this small little toolbox about how to bring comedy into the workplace. That became really popular in one workshop.
And I get an email from the folks who have that one, they’re like, “Jenny, I just got like 50 downloads of our toolbox. Like how did that happen?” It’s like, “Oh, we’re doing a workshop. And the kids want more fun.” So there’s a lot of interesting things in it on the toolbox, the progression is that we are now… When the pandemic hit, we had a lot of internal discussions around, of course it all bubbled up with Black Lives Matter and systemic racism. And it’s something that plays on my mind a lot. And that is if you look at how many toolboxes there are produced, like if you would look through that list how many of them are from privileged, big, sexy design agencies, predominantly white, are we essentially part of the problem? Are toolboxes part of the problem?
How can we address that? And what we’ve done so far is we’ve curated a little bit more sort of in terms of diverse content. So for example, with the latest, the hybrid work curation, which we did, so we do them internally from time to time. That piece of work or research it wasn’t about finding a toolbox specifically for hybrid working. It could just as well be a toolkit from a hospital talking about psychological safety. Or it could be about reporting, like people returning to work regardless of a pandemic, what are some things in place, where is [inaudible 00:21:17] psychology? What are some things that we can use? And trying to open that up a bit more because it got a little bit very savvy. So now we’re inviting guests, curators and creators as well to sort of be more part of the conversation.
Douglas: Nice. I think that’s really important work and I love that you’re looking at more diverse creators and I think it’s fascinating to look at, in addition to diverse creators, people who we’re creating toolboxes, that support folks in need because then we can have ripple effects. That’s something we look at when we’re doing our scholarship programs. It’s not only like are you in need or also, are you helping people in need? Because if I can help someone, then it’s going to go help 20 people then that’s really great too.
Jenny: Absolutely. So we’re hoping that it will sort of breath out a little bit more and also this team, the current team, everybody who’s on it are here because they enjoy what we are doing and that goes for future collaborators as well. So like I always listen in, if there’s anybody who wants to get involved in any way, just like, wow, go team. I’m not that fussy, but yeah, it’s an exciting side project for sure.
Jenny: We did spend some time looking to see how we could monetize it and create sort of a business around it, but that’s been put pause purely because it kind of sucked a little bit of the passion out of it.
Douglas: So you called out the Comedy Tool Sack, and I’m curious if there are any other kind of big highlights, like either specifically ones that you noticed have gotten a lot of attention over the last six to eight months, 12 months, whatever. Or if they’re just general patterns you’re seeing as far as like what’s coming through, as far as submissions and around curation. Is there anything about the zeitgeist that’s like kind of coming up as far as like, oh, there’s a lot more of these kinds of things coming up or whatnot.
Jenny: It’s extremely mixed. We don’t track a lot of the data, but I would say that most of the submissions and the views, and the visitors are UK, US, and Sweden based. I mean, because there is no marketing with Toolbox Toolbox at all. So everything is just word of mouth and through our sort of organic networks, which is something we should probably be looking at, but the Comedy Tool Sack is a great example. And also we have things like with the conversations that we get with the creators, we can understand it a little bit more because we actually push back a lot on submissions that they’re just not a toolbox like in our sort of definition. It’s an opinion piece or it’s a blog post about how something should be done.
It’s not actionable. There aren’t actionable sort of tools in there that can be implemented. And from my perspective, I still use a lot that comes out of the Hyper Island toolbox. I also tend to dip into the session labs toolbox. They’ve been part of our bouncing board a little bit. We had a workshop where one of them came to help us out a little bit, but it’s definitely, there aren’t any specific ones. The ones that have just, it’s just very clear and actionable. And when I asked Noble Academy about their toolbox in a YouTube interview, we said, “How’s this come about? Back to the question of, is this just marketing? Like how has this come about?” And Lauren who I spoke to, she said, “Well actually by us creating our toolbox publicly, it has made us better at our job. It’s made us really evaluate the ways we do things and how the sort of the instructional design plays a big part and how understandable it is.” So I think you just have to go through and see what feels relevant to you for sure.
Douglas: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Certainly. And that resonates with me, that story around kind of upping equality game, or just being more aware of these things that we’re using internally. As soon as you make them publicly available, you have to think a little bit more about how polished they are and how understandable they are rather [inaudible 00:26:05]. And it’s like, I feel like oftentimes people or companies will consider their employees, I don’t know, saying they take them for granted is not fair. It’s kind of a harsh way to say it, but on the spectrum, it’s tending toward that starting to take people for granted because they’re employees and like, oh, they don’t need quite as much like explanation or whatnot because they already have the context. But wouldn’t it be helpful if we were to create that employee experience?
Jenny: It would be extremely helpful. On the flip side, I have seen, so for example with my consultancy clients, I would never go through my agenda for a workshop or a meeting in detail because it’s like reading the credits from a movie you haven’t seen. Yeah. And a lot of the toolboxes that are online, they are good, but there’s so much under the surface that unless you’re an experienced facilitator, you wouldn’t know how to actually deliver on that method or on that canvas. So some toolbox creators are really good at sort of giving you enough of the sort of stuff around. But I think just sort of handing a step-by-step guide to someone is meaningless, unless you know what to do with it.
Douglas: Yeah. I think to me, it’s like these different levels of altitude, right. I think it’s really important to dial in that first approach, when you see a toolbox or a new recipe, the altitude be low enough. Or maybe sorry to use the analogy properly, probably the altitude needs to be high enough so that it’s abstracted enough to where you can like get the general gist and wrap your head around it and go, “Do I even want to do this?” Because if you got to get so into the weeds around each little move part for it to click to go, “Oh, this is what this is.” Then you’ve already invested a ton of time to even understand it. So getting that overview, but then once you committed to it, being able to dig into the details so you can run it. Then all of a sudden, the nice thing about having the overview is then like you said, you can share that with your client. So like here’s what we’re going to do, I’ll take care of the details.
Jenny: Exactly. We give a bit of a trailer.
Douglas: Yeah, exactly.
Jenny: A bit of a trailer, and then every client interaction that we have is designed as well. So they get the metal level of the experience, how it is to be in a meeting facilitated by me or by my partners. So it’s kind of like we’ve been doing this together. Just think of that on steroids or think of that with more props or think of that with this piece of theory. But I think there’s only been a few who have been so sort of nervous and fearful that they’ve asked for sort of the detailed schedules and planning. I’m more than happy to share them within the right context. And there’s been a couple of people that I was designing a course for a Swedish independence, an online school, and my program manager, as I was course designer consulting, he was a little bit, I think he was just really worried because he didn’t really understand my philosophy or my methodologies.
So in that instance, it was a little bit kill him with kindness. It’s like, here’s everything. Like this is everything, and we’ll have a meeting, we’ll go through it and I’ll talk you through any bits that you’re worried about. And just by spending that hour, that fear was gone, it was just vanished. And then I could just go off and do my thing. So I think it’s very different with whom you’re collaborating with and what their fears are in terms of, “Ooh, I’ve just invited 30 middle managers to this workshop. I have no idea what’s actually going to be happening. I probably should.” You have a lot of internal thoughts that you need to help with.
Douglas: Yeah, in a lot of ways that’s facilitation as well, right?
Jenny: For sure.
Douglas: Like not only are we facilitating our room, but we’re facilitating leading up because the person who is our prominent point of contact or in charge of the program, we’re having to understand their needs and unpack that stuff and make sure they’re comfortable. And this idea of kind of not giving them too much information, but if it’s clear that they’re concerned or something’s not resonating, then providing more information makes a lot of sense to me. And I think that’s something that is really interesting to dial in from, well, where do people get hung up most of the time? And can I change something about the way I do it next time?
Jenny: Yes. And, or what’s interesting about that is a lot of, depending on the subject. So a lot of the facilitation I do now is very much around team building or helping design a culture, whether it’s a feedback culture or whatever, sort of the niche area is. But they very often, the hangups that we see is content-related. And like we were talking before about going to an amusement park. It’s an experience. Every meeting is an experience. And also that whole idea of connection over content, which you spoke about in one of the other podcast episodes, it is exactly that.
It’s trying to have them understand that if it’s not for this workshop, this group of people will probably never meet and never discuss these things that we need to discuss, or they never have a chance to have a facilitated conversation around a certain subject matter. And I think when they get that, when they see the benefit of the meeting itself, and they’re not so worried about the outcome of the meeting, or they’re not so worried about what will people think of the meeting, then it’s easier.
Douglas: Yeah. That’s beautiful. And also we like to take that to you the framing of the outcome, if we can make that about the people. So how do we want them to be different when they walk out of the door? And I think I might have shared the workshop design canvas with you. That might have been one of the things we submitted for the toolbox. And that’s the whole idea is like let’s focus on how the people are leaving and how they’re showing up. And then that should be, okay, what’s the difference between those two? What’s that delta because that’s what needs to happen when we’re in the session.
Jenny: Exactly. And this morning I was reading an article [inaudible 00:32:53] of things, Harvard Business Review talking about intentional happiness, like designing, like optimizing for the happy and fun experience. And if I remember correctly, the punchline of it was that happiness kind of precedes success. Like if you walk out of a session with your colleagues or a fellow student or whatever the group is, and you feel this joy of what you’ve achieved together. That kind of precedes how successful it was in a way. I quite like that thought. If we can design our meetings in a way that when you walk out of them, you hopefully will feel a certain way.
And we set it up by basically going through our [inaudible 00:33:49] having that as part of our desired outcomes for that session and saying like, these are desired outcomes, you are the ones responsible for this as much as we are. This is what we would like. And just to see then their sort of self-leadership and bringing the energy or doing things that they may not have if they’re just slowly thinking about their KPIs or whatever else that’s on their mind, it really helps.
Douglas: Yeah. That resonates big time. I often tell people that it’s important to be metrics-driven and focus on how we want to move the needle as a company, yet when we are in a room with humans and especially in this age of more and more automation and things, we need to lean into our humanity because yeah, if we all just like, basically boil each other down to numbers and stats, like we’re not going to do creative work, or we’re not going to find out who we are and where we can go.
Jenny: Exactly. And there’s heaps of research on how joy supports collaboration as well. So if this is a chance of finding that ignition of just enjoying your colleague’s company, that is part of my success as a facilitator. That they walk away not only achieving something specific, something actionable, a draft of something or a prototype or something, but that they also walk away feeling like really proud and happy from that experience. I think that’s really important. And then also the humane aspect. We get really tired from being social. We actually get really, really tired and designing this intentionally and having,for example, we do a lot of silent reflections and silent workshops as well. And from a planet centric perspective, we do a lot of blind workshops too. So just being really intentional with that experience. And then if they’re happy and enjoying it, they’ll do great work, I’m sure.
Jenny: We hope
Douglas: Amazing. So we’re kind of quickly running out of time, but I want to just like hear about before we end with our final thought and whatnot. I want to hear a little bit about, because we’re kind of heading in this direction of what I feel was your passion around why you started the WOW Academy and at least what I basically know at this point. So I’m really curious if I’m tracking correctly and is it really about creating fun and unlocking these moments with teams and where do you hope that can go?
Jenny: Oh, wow. Well, first of all, the entire company is just one massive pun. We’ve got your WOW diplomas at the end of courses and we use it very frivolously. No, it really came about because, so I was doing a lot of work in terms of ways of working and process and facilitating everything from sprints to predominantly learning experiences. And from my background as a learning designer and working with trying to help organizations become learning organizations, I saw that that specifically, that was a little bit of a missing ingredients. And when the pandemic hit that kind of propelled that because suddenly everybody was in a learning experience and a new way of working. It was like, “Finally, you’ve come to my house. This is what I do.”
And I was getting a lot of these kind of requests coming through learning experience, but also, “Jenny, we know that you do a lot of sessions around feedback. Jenny, we know that you do a lot of sessions around group dynamics. Is there a way that you can help us either build on what we have a fantastic culture, or we’re really struggling with psychological safety because we’re not together anymore.” Those kinds of things. And then as they were kind of building up, I kind of went, oh, I’m just…. this sounds really lame, but I am so sick of the word workshop. Can we just not call it something else? So it became WOW Shop. And I was like, “Okay, that’s great.” And then two days later, I got an email from a big corporate client going, “Hi, Jenny, we’re looking for, we heard that you were doing this feedback thing.”
And I just on a whim, I say, “You know what? Thank you so much for emailing me. This is the perfect time because I’m just about to start WOW Academy.” Just came up with it. And then over the weekend, I built the website, and then I asked my collaborator and friend Yuric who’s based in Amsterdam. I said, “Do you want to do this with me?” Because we’d been doing quite a bit of that kind of work together. And he’s just like, “Of course.” And then suddenly we were off. And then since, it’s very early days with WOW Academy but the plan is that… It’s B2B only. So it’s working with organizations and companies and whoever else needs the help. Organization in terms of a group of people who are organized to do something. So it doesn’t really matter who it is from that respect.
But yeah, I’m really interested to see where it’s going to go. We are currently looking at recruiting our Wowers, instead of facilitators they’re called Wowers. Right. I know it’s great. To see how we can build and shape it. But it’s a lot of the requests coming through now are around hybrid ways of working. I think we’re looking a little bit deeper into ways of working on a more emotional team, human level than just providing them with the dos and dos. We could provide them with, this is how you set up a home studio for the best meeting possible. This is more what do you actually do with what you have and the people that you work with. But yeah, we’ll see who knows. Like all my projects, just go for it.
Douglas: Nice. Awesome. Well, I wish you the best of luck and it’s always exciting to see entrepreneurs launching new programs, new projects. And WOW Academy is resonating with things that I’ve seen as far as what teams need and excited to see where you take it. So I want to just wrap here with my last question, which is to give you an opportunity to leave our listeners with a final thought.
Jenny: I would probably say one of my favorite philosophies or mantras, as it were, is this the idea of being a mirror of the energy you want to see in the room. This is something that I’ve been working a lot within terms of trying to feel and listen in to what the room sort of requires for me. But it’s so interesting how in virtual meetings, people really forget their face or their bodies. And I’d really encourage everyone to just think about that. Like how can I spread the right amount of energy? Is this a very sort of serious topic or do I need to get my crazy hat and my smiley basketball out to create excitement? So be a mirror of the energy you want to see in the room.
Douglas: That’s such a beautiful concept. And to me, that’s in a way an extension of active listening.
Douglas: Because we can’t be a mirror of the energy that needs to be in the room unless we’re really, really listening. Yet, you’ve taken it a step further. It’s not just the active, but it’s like, can we adjust our methodology, our toolbox, our approach based on what we think is needed based on what’s happening? That’s so cool.
Jenny: Exactly. I’m happy that you said that, made that connection between active listening, because it really is. And from a facilitator’s perspective, you can do so much with your energy, like incredibly, and everybody’s got a different facilitator style and a different type of energy, but I would say also online, over-exaggerate it. When I’m in a room, they will probably get it from everything from my shoelaces to my lipstick. But online you have a lot less to work with, but just be intentional with how can you support the energy in the room through your superpowers.
Douglas: Wow. So, great. Well, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you today, Jenny and I can’t wait to the next time we get a chance to talk.
Jenny: Yeah, definitely. It’s so much fun. Thank you for having me.
Douglas: Thanks for joining me for another episode of Control The Room. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates when new episodes are released. And if you want more head over to our blog, where I post weekly articles and resources about working better together, voltagecontrol.com.