A conversation with Rob Evans. Transformation Designer, Author, Teacher, Master Coach of Collaboration, Leadership Coach, Consultant at Imaginal Labs.
“Winston Churchill said something like, “We create our buildings, and then our buildings create us.” So we are deeply influenced by our environment. This species didn’t evolve except by paying very careful attention to what’s going on around us. Because we’re not that fast, we don’t have good teeth. We had to be pretty attentive to our environment to even survive. Well, we’re still those creatures. We’re still very attentive to even subtle cues in our environment. Environments tell us how to behave. Others in the environment reinforce the messages given by the physical space.” –Rob Evaquote
In this episode of Control the Room, I had the pleasure of speaking with Rob Evans about his experience designing and leading collaborative workshops to help leaders align and mobilize their teams to tackle complex challenges successfully. He starts with how his background in studying at the Harvard Divinity School led to management counsulting. Later, Rob discusses the importance of where we work and how it influences how we work. We then discuss collaboration at scale. Listen in for more tips on how to teach design collaboration at sIn this episode of Control the Room, I had the pleasure of speaking with Rob Evans about his experience designing and leading collaborative workshops to help leaders align and mobilize their teams to tackle complex challenges successfully. He starts with how his background in studying at the Harvard Divinity School led to management consulting. Later, Rob discusses the importance of where we work and how it influences how we work. We then discuss collaboration at scale. Listen in for more tips on how to teach design collaboration at scale.
[1:40] How Rob Got His Start Leading Collaborative Workshops.
[14:22] How To Create Environments that Invite Curiosity.
[22:40] How To Scale Collaboration.
[28:50] Creating A Global Approach To Sustainability.
[35:30] Connect With People!
Links | Resources
Rob on Linkedin
Imaginal Labs LLC website
About the Guest
Rob Evans is the co-founder of Imaginal Labs LLC. Rob excels at designing and leading collaborative workshops to help leaders align and mobilize their teams to tackle complex challenges successfully.
Rob is one of the world’s leading experts at designing and delivering the innovative DesignShop® Process and other collaborative workshops. He has facilitated hundreds of highly successful sessions with many of the world’s leading organizations, including senior groups in 43 of the 2021 Fortune 100 companies, as well as not-for-profit organizations such as the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Auburn Seminary, the Centers for Disease Control, and other federal and state agencies.
Rob was the CEO of ODI Europe, a consulting and training company, from 1990 to 1995. While at ODI, Fred Smith, the Chairman and CEO of FedEx, recognized Rob’s central contribution in helping FedEx become the first service company to win the coveted Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
He joined Ernst & Young as a partner in 1995 and was the founder of the innovative Accelerated Solutions Environment (ASE). At EY, and later Capgemini, which bought EY’s consulting operation in 2000, Rob pioneered the development of large-scale collaborative projects to dramatically accelerate strategy and organizational transformation. Rob founded and led a network of 28 purpose-built ASE centers for Capgemini that are still in operation to this day. Rob also served as a senior vice president at the consulting arm of United HealthCare.
Rob is the author of the multi-volume Collaboration Code®, a practical guide to designing and leading collaborative work with small, large, and huge groups. He and Carolyn Buck Luce conduct workshops around the world, teaching the Collaboration Code approach.
Rob is an adjunct faculty member at Auburn Theological Seminary and holds graduate degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard University. He has held faculty positions at Harvard University, Harvard Divinity School, Northeastern University, and the Lesley College Graduate School of Management. He is chair of the Stewardship Circle Council for The Pachamama Alliance and a co-founder of the 3S Foundation, which supports Dr. William Ury and other international peacemakers to actively prevent war in many of the world’s most dangerous conflict areas.
About Voltage Control
Voltage Control is a change agency that helps enterprises sustain innovation and 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, a series devoted to the exploration of meeting culture and uncovering cures to the common meeting. Some meetings have tight control and others are loose. To control the room means achieving outcomes while striking a balance between 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 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 magicalmeetings.com.
Today I’m with Rob Evans at Imaginal Labs where he leads large complex solution design sessions called Design Shops and trains others around the world on how to do that as well. He’s also the author of the Collaboration Code series, three core text reference books, and so far three annual casebooks where top practitioners around the world contribute examples of their best work. Welcome to the show Rob.
Rob: Douglas. Thank you. I’m really happy to be here.
Douglas: So great to have you. Let’s get our start, as usual, by hearing a little bit about how you got your start. How did you get into this work of running design shops?
Rob: Man oh man. Well it goes back to when I was in grad school, in divinity school of all things, at Harvard and I was doing a lot of work in prisons and then drug programs. A full time student, I had a full-time job running a drug and alcohol detox program in a local hospital where I saw something that I couldn’t not see. I saw one of my best buddies get in such trouble with drugs working in another part of that program, that one thing led to another, he ended up in a coma for the rest of his life. That led me to the conclusion that how you manage a place really matters, the environment you create for humans to work in. If it’s a good human environment, you can work with a really tough population like drug addicts, and sometimes they get better. But if you don’t manage it humanely, what happens is quite often the counselors get sick because the work is just so hard. I saw that in drug programs and I saw that in jails.
And so I got interested in management. First of all, how you manage drug programs and then how you manage anything. I decided that graduate work and religion was fun, but not as practical and not as change the world as I wanted to be so I ended up going into management, management training. I led the European branch of a US management company, helping managers figure out how to run things more humanely. In other words, how to facilitate. That word was brand new back then. What’s that mean? Well, it means you’re not the boss. It means you’re not the leader. It’s not, you’re trying to push things at people. You’re trying to create an environment where people contribute and contribute their full humanity because it’s safe to do that.
I got really interested in that and one thing led to another and joined Ernst and Young as a partner, moved back from Europe as a partner in Ernst and Young, because I was the big change leadership guy. I could sell multimillion dollar projects to things like FedEx and British Airways and Lufthansa and Volkswagen and Phillips and blah, blah, blah. And my facilitation experience took a real jump there. So I’m the new partner, that’s a good deal financially and in every other way. I didn’t love what I was doing, where I was doing it but I got invited to this thing called a Design Shop run by Matt and Gail Taylor. Matt Taylor is still around and is still a good friend. We speak regularly and work together regularly.
Matt is an architect designer who as a young man, was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. He met his wife, Gail, who was a brilliant educator who could take throw away kids, the kids, “Now you got to write these kids off, they’re not good. They’re not going to make it,” and she would prove they could excel. They could exceed the so-called high performers if they’re in the right environment.
So I get invited to this thing called a Design Shop and I come prepared to hate it. What I was told was, “It’s three intense days, 12 hour days. You don’t get any break. Matt’s kind of a guru and you just go for us, go. Will you do this thing?” So I’m a good troop, I go, “Yeah, I’ll do that.” Going prepared to hate it.
I walked in the room. It was like Dorothy opening the door to Oz. All of a sudden things were in color. What does that mean? Well, it means I was, in my own mind, I was one of the best facilitators around. Give me a flip chart, some overheads, back in the day of overheads, and a group and I could do anything. But I walked into this environment with acres of rolling whiteboards, plants, music, hundreds of books, artists capturing ideas on whiteboards back when nobody was doing that. And I went, “Whoa, what is going on here?” And before it was done, I had an encounter with Matt where, he remembers it this way.
He said, “Do you remember when you came up to me and asked me, do you really know what you’re doing here? And I said, “Yeah, I think I do.” And I said, “Well, yeah, I think you do too and you’re the only one I’ve ever met who understands things about group energy that I believe I understand. Except I’ve been painting things in black and white. I’ve been using charcoal. You’ve got a full palette of colors here to work with to change group energy. And I would like to be a part of this.”
So it turned out Ernst and Young was thinking of bringing this process into the firm. An accounting firm, really? This wild environment of art and creativity and real discipline and getting stuff done and mobilizing people. I said, “I want to be a part of this.” I called my then wife that night and warned her I was about to sell the cow for magic beans. She said, “What does that mean?” I said, “Look, I’ve just spent three days here and I’m different. This is an amazing experience. And Ernst and Young thinks they may want to do this. And if they do, I want to be in on it. Now the odds that it will succeed within Ernst and Young, maybe not so great. That’s the selling the cow for magic beans part. But on the other hand, this looks like so much fun and I would learn so much that I’m going to do it.”
So I did and I built a global service for Capgemini. I really kind of took Matt and Gail to Hollywood here. We had 28, 10,000 foot centers around the world and we sold our consulting operation to a French company, Capgemini and people dispersed. There was a diaspora of people out of the ASC into other organizations. And now most of the main large consulting companies, Capgemini, E & Y, had to be out of the business for a while, they got back in the business. PWC, Deloitte, everybody has some version of this and they often draw on the MG Taylor methodology that I did my best to capture in the Collaboration Code.
Big ones and hundreds of small operations apply this method to helping groups come up with solutions that nobody may have in their head when they walk in the room. Sorry Doug, that was a long story, but that’s where I come from and that’s why I care about this stuff. I care about it because it works. It’s fun and it meets the criteria for being a fully humane environment like the one I was looking for back then when my friend Doug ended up in a coma. I’m like, “Somebody’s got to do this better than we did then.” And I’ve been looking for ways ever since on how to do that and I think I may not have the full answer, but I got big chunks of the answer.
Douglas: It’s not uncommon to hear these early formative moments or these threads that persist throughout someone’s career, especially facilitators. I picked up on that early in your story, this kind of connection to humans. Early on there was a focus on the study of faith and no one does prison work unless they’re really interested in a human experience. And then of course, drug detox and experiencing that with your colleague. I mean, these are some very formative things that kind of thrust you into the affinity of this work, it seems like.
Rob: Absolutely. I was setting out to be a diplomat and then I just found that was just so much bull pucky. It was people playing political games as if humans were pieces on a chess board and I went, “You know what? They can’t be that way. It can’t be that way. It’s got to be a different way.” And then in divinity school, I realized that, that’s important, but for so many people, even when people went to church, that was an hour of their week. But what happens at work 40, 50, 60 more hours of their week is much more determinative of who they show up as, as human beings. That if you want to make the world a better place for humans, where are you going to work, except in work?
Douglas: Wow. Yeah. I want to also make sure to underscore for our listeners, the Matt and Gail you were talking about are the creators of the MG Taylor Framework, which I bet a lot of facilitators listening know, but quite a few probably have never heard of. That’s the content of the collaboration code series that you wrote and in fact, I think you said Matt, co-wrote this stuff with you?
Rob: Yeah, he wrote … Well, a lot of it’s based on his work and working with him for, well, let’s see it’s 27 years now and working very closely. And working sometimes means like this and sometimes means like this. So it’s not as if it’s all been singing different parts of the same song. We’ve really butted heads a ton and I love them both. I love them both dearly and they’ve contributed so much to how we understand human behavior in groups. And what’s necessary to design things that don’t exist today and then move to actual action. Not just design like, “Well, let’s come up with a better pencil.” Well, yeah, that’s important, but let’s come up with a better way to do this or do that important thing. And all I’ve been able to do is been augment at times, a challenge at other times, document in a way that we can put books out there, put courses out there.
My aim is to train the next generation so that they don’t have to make up all this stuff, we would make up in the middle of the night in a design shop going, “What are we going to do tomorrow with these people?” And we would tell our knowledge worker teams, “You can sleep, next week. We have work to do here. So we have to commit ourselves fully to getting our clients to whatever promised land they came here to get. And they don’t know how to do that. We have a process. We don’t know what the answer is, but we know how to help them come up with an answer they can commit to and act on.” And that’s what Matt and Gail are just geniuses at.
So I was writing this stuff down over years. We all learned to take good notes, to keep documentation. “If it ain’t documented, it ain’t science,” says Arthur C. Clark, or maybe Heinlein, one of the great science fiction guys. If it ain’t documented, it ain’t science so document your work so you can go back and learn from it. And that’s what I drew from to write these books. And that’s what, particularly Matt, who’s a great journalist, you should see his journals. They look like DaVinci’s journals. They’re amazing.
Douglas: Oh wow.
Rob: He’s documented a lifetime of work and what I really hope to do in the rest of our lives, mine and his, is help capture and put in a form that other people can see that documentation so that people don’t have to make that up again. Let’s make up new stuff based on that. Let’s stand on those books and reach higher. That’s the point.
Douglas: Amazing. So for folks that maybe have dabbled in MG Taylor, or haven’t even heard of it before, how would you define some of the key tenants of what makes it so powerful?
Rob: Well, Matt was and is an architect and would design these collaboration environments, Winston Churchill said something like, “We create our buildings and then our buildings create us.” So we are deeply influenced by our environment. This species didn’t evolve except by paying very careful attention to what’s going on around us. Because we’re not that fast, we don’t have good teeth, we had to be pretty attentive to our environment to even survive. Well, we’re still those creatures. We’re still very attentive to even subtle cues in our environment. Environments tell us how to behave. Others in the environment, reinforce the messages given by the physical space.
Okay. What are the kind of environments that invite us to be curious and take some risks because it might be okay here to try some things out, to reveal who we are to other people in that environment, even though we’re going to have to see them back at work on Monday. How do we make that okay? And okay enough that we strengthen the ties of an organization on their relationships and in what they can do together. So the most salient piece of an environment … And when you walk in an MG Taylor environment, and many of them have now been influenced by that, IDEO in Palo Alto, learned a lot from the space Matt created in Palo Alto. And so this idea that environments aren’t about cubicles and stupid little meeting rooms where everybody sits around a table and there’s that one white board or the monitor down at the end. And “Oh, come on, just shoot me.”
The way we work together is influenced by the place where we work. Okay, so that’s the first piece. Second piece is there’s a process that involves both creativity and discipline. So it’s a bit of a paradox. You think about wild [inaudible 00:16:32] boom, brainstorm. Cool. All right, great. And then how do we winnow down what we brainstormed, to what we can actually commit to do? So there are models that describe any creative process models, Matt and Gail developed, that describe how you need to understand how the system you’re in is creating the thing you want to change. Okay. And when you understand that, then you can have an idea of what could be different. Okay. And then you share that so other people may have a similar idea and you still don’t have the solution. And if you jump to solution right there, it’s what you already know.
There’s a period of building insight that involves ambiguity and not knowing and frustration and all these things that a normal meeting would try to avoid. That’s an important part of this process, because without that, you don’t break through in your own head or in your work with other people to something that’s possibly useful and still new. And so this idea of a creative process that involves frustration and being bored and sometimes conflict and all of that, that takes time, and that’s the other piece of this. Can’t do it in a three hour meeting. Can’t do it in a two hour Zoom call. Can’t do it in an artificially abbreviated space and time. Some stuff just takes time. Some stuff has to stretch out over time.
One of our rules was sleep on it twice. What does that mean? It means if you want to get people to commit to doing something that they didn’t have in their head when they started this process, if they don’t sleep on it, at least twice, they don’t trust it. It hasn’t been worked by their subconscious mind. Their unconscious mind working out the, “I don’t think so. Well maybe. Well, what about this?” Without that engagement in the full consciousness, like when we sleep, like we take a shower, like when we take a run or a hike, that alteration between periods of intense work and periods of something else is necessary to both come up with a new solution and come up with one that people can go, “You know what? I would’ve thought that was crazy two days ago, but I think that’s what we got. I think that’s our solution.”
Now, how do we do that? How would we test that? Because, we’re not smart enough to get everything right here. How do we build a test so that when we go out in the world, we can further, the design word is, iterate. We can take it again and again and again and make it better.
So what’s unique about Matt and Gail, a long-winded answer to a very clear, simple question, sorry about that. It’s the environment. It’s the process of design with a real understanding, deep understanding of how people work together to design, commit to and implement new things. It may be unique and it’s not as if it’s closed. So it’s not, “The MG Taylor people have a way of doing things.” Well, they do because they’ve experimented with what works, but it’s an open system, not a closed system. So you’ve got a better idea, make me an offer. What could we do? How do you see it? Let’s try that. Let’s learn from that. Let’s get feedback. Cool. All right. On the basis of that feedback, now what do we do? That’s the process.
Douglas: The commitment piece I think is really critical and where I see a lot of people that try to do these things, even if they’re trying to pull the MG Taylor methods off the shelf or design thinking or whatever it is, if we don’t have that follow through with the commitment, it’s really difficult to actually see change manifest. We believe that commitment has to happen through practice, through ongoing integration into the work. And it points back to your thing about sleeping on it twice, taking the time with it, so it’s emergent. We’re not just going to try to make it just happen and say, “Okay, we’re going to commit to this. Yeah, check a box. Okay, we’re good.”
Rob: Oh, absolutely. And how often do we accept that in a large group setting. You go, “All right, everybody with this? Okay. We’re going to do a vote. We’re going to do an up-down vote.” We don’t vote. This is what we call decision by design. What does that mean? It means you avoid a vote and losers. It means if someone would vote against it, try to understand what they’re voting against. And to the extent you can build those interests into the solution that then you ask people to commit to. I’ve been just lucky enough to not only work with Matt and Gail, but work with another fellow who was the co-author of Getting to Yes, a fellow named William Ury, where we got the idea of getting to yes and win, win, and all of that. And I worked with William on high stakes, usually below the radar efforts to work for peace around the world. And when there’s a war, there’s a winner and the loser, but the losers generally don’t go away.
And so to what extent can we construct a peace that’s acceptable to everyone by building enough of what people not just say they want, but what they’re really moved by, into that solution. That’s win-win. That’s win-win. And so to take that stuff really seriously takes a lot of creativity and a lot of imagination and a lot of getting it wrong and being in conversation with the people who, when you get it wrong, you roll over their feet and they go, “Ow.” And they say, “That’s not, you’re done yet. Look what you just did here.” So the other piece to the MG Taylor approach is large scale collaboration of all the stakeholders, not just the ones without power that we can pretend don’t matter.
Douglas: It’s making me think about just some of the pillars or beliefs in negotiation. We don’t want to just say, is it a or B. We don’t want to just meet in the middle. What is some integrated approach when we take all the concerns in mind and think about what is some net new thing we can create that might make everyone happy. Even if it’s the most paradoxical thing you could imagine, there could be a solution there.
Rob: And if there’s a solution, it’s probably there, right?
Rob: It’s probably something that looks like a paradox, but might be one of those dynamic tensions between being global and local. Well, which is it? We know that you can’t be local without having global impact anymore, nor can you just think globally and ignore what’s happening on the ground with various people. So which is it, global or local? Well, it’s yes and so how do we work a way to take that into account?
Douglas: And I think it’s interesting to maybe stitch into that a little bit, because in the pre-show chat, you were talking about your work around just going big and the importance of the moment we are in right now.
Rob: Well, I just got done doing a session with the guy who wrote this book, 10 Years to Midnight, Blair Sheppard. It’s a great book, not that I’m flogging books. And I know that these are Evergreen recordings, but I think I can say with some confidence that 10 years to midnight, and he wrote it two years ago. So we’re on the clock. What does that mean? He’s not the only really big brain, deep thinker who’s saying this could be one of the most critical decades in human history. Why? Because, there are systemic processes running out of control and if they keep running out of control and we keep pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and we don’t listen to this guy, Paul Hawken, I’m looking at the book Regeneration, we have a chance of not just dying more slowly, we have a chance of regenerating the planet, but we better get going or the planet we start to regenerate will be in much worse shape than the one is today.
So I don’t think we have a choice, but to go big. We’ve already gone big and that’s how we ended up. We’ve gone big unconsciously and we’ve ended up by putting stuff into the atmosphere and imagining that there is some place called, “away” where you can throw things away. Where exactly would that be? Where exactly on a planet that’s a spaceship hurtling through space and it’s the only one that’s got light that we know of so far, where do you put things away, such that you don’t have to deal with them? So we’ve already gone big. We’re already operating on a planetary scale. They call this the Anthropocene. What does that mean? Well, it means human activity is now changing the very climate and the conditions for life on earth. So we’ve gone big. We just need to take responsibility for being big in a way that allows subsequent generations of all species to have a planet worth possible to live on.
So, I mean, I don’t want to be apocalyptic, but goodness, you don’t have to think too far, too long, to go, “If we don’t go big now, it’s going to be that much harder down the road. So let’s get started.” And luckily we have gotten started when Paul Hawken writes his books about sustainability, about regeneration, all he does is describe things that are already happening, that we need to start doing at scale. So this great turning toward a more global approach, toward a more sustainable civilization has already begun to happen. It just needs a little more help and a little more scale and a lot more creativity and a lot more political will to get this done.
So part of my message when I’m teaching people how to do design shops is, “All that great corporate work we’ve been doing for decades, that was practice. Now you have a chance to get in the real game.” It’s like being in the minor leagues is working it out to be in the major leagues. Well, the major leagues is helping society, civilization, including business, probably starting with business more so than government or NGOs. Business people know how to get stuff done and we live in the same planet. So how do we harness all of our resources and energies in the service of making this a world that works for everybody. It’s simple to say, it’s harder to do, but we don’t have any choice, but to do it. So that’s where I see going big. It’s like, “And your options are what? What enclave would you retreat to that is exempt from what’s going on?” Doesn’t exist.
Douglas: How’s that showing up for you these days? In the pre show chat, you were saying that you really don’t have to do this anymore, but you do it because you love it. You love this idea of impacting the future generations that are coming up. I’m assuming there’s a go big, save the world aspect to that for you. I’m just kind of curious how you’re personally stepping into that.
Rob: That’s a great question. One of the ways I’m going big is teaching people how to do this stuff. So we don’t have another 27 years, which it took for me to figure out how to do it well enough to write about it. We don’t have another 27 years so how do we accelerate people learning how to work design collaboratively at scale? If I can help people learn that, individuals, but also people in these large consulting companies that have adopted our methods, I’m all in, on that. My wife, Carolyn has just written a book called Epic. Her life has been working with women and empowerment as well as being a global leader for the pharma practice of Ernst and Young. She’s amazing. We work together, where we can, on diversity and inclusion in large corporations. To help all the voices of all the people, more representative of the planet than old white guys, pardon the expression, a technical term we use in the diversity business, to help large organizations be a place where all the voices get listened to and taken into account. So, we do that work.
We work with William Ury on conflict and then teaching people a collaborative approach to solving conflicts, getting to yes, and his next book will be called Getting to the Impossible Yes. Doing the things that everybody knows we can’t do, but we got to do anyway. There was a time when any resolution to apartheid was seen as completely impossible. The fact that the east and the west were pointing missiles at each other, we still are by the way, but it got very active and very dangerous and may be getting dangerous again. The resolution of the cold war was completely impossible. Bringing down a wall in Germany and in Eastern Europe, impossible. That’s not going to happen. All of those things happened and there are so many impossible things that we must find a way to make happen. It just takes the commitment to do it. People need to wake up every day going, “You know what? I’m going to do something today to make that future a little more possible than it was yesterday.” And that’s all it takes.
Another thing about the MG Taylor approach is to really take the future seriously. There’s a saying there, “You can’t get there from here, but you can get here from there.” What does that mean? Well, it’s hard to imagine what we need to do to get to the kind of future we want. What’s easier to imagine, from a psychological point of view, is to step into that future, describe it and then ask what of this future could I do more of tomorrow and bring that there to here. That unleashes creativity. It gets us unstuck and gives us something to work toward. So there’s just some of the ways we’re going big and a lot of people are going big. That’s what’s cool.
It’s not just us. Humanity has kind of an immune response, Douglas. It’s like when we get sick and we get a fever, Oh, that’s good. That’s our body trying to cook whatever is in us, out of us. That’s a healthy immune response. There’s an immune response that humanity has to the situation we’re in and it’s called organizing. Getting people together, in large and small ways, to make a difference. And it’s happening countless ways, millions and millions of ways. Millions and millions of new groups around the planet organizing to make something local, a little better, or something global a little better that has local ramifications and all the local things have global ramifications and we don’t even know what they all are. But we need to get in the game. Need to do our bit.
Douglas: I love that idea of making it a little more possible.
Rob: William Ury calls himself a possibllist. And the scientists have a phrase in evolution called the adjacent possible. What has become possible now, that might not have been possible x ago, a year ago. I mean, what’s possible now after a pandemic is it’s a piece of cake for us to have this conversation, to record it, to put it out to people. We’ve become much more adept at using these technologies for some things that they’re good at. We’ve tried to apply them to some things they’re not so good at, but okay, that’s fine, we’ll learn that. We’ve knit together the planet in a way that it’s never been together. This pandemic was a global experience. Name another time in the history of humanity, when humanity has been self-consciously going through the same thing altogether. The same thing and everybody knew we’re going through this together with those people on the other side of the planet and the other side of the tracks. We’re all in this. Now we’ve had various not so helpful ways of responding to that, but the reality of it was inescapable.
So, just as the idea of the ecology, that’s a relatively new concept that the planet has a system that has its own rules. Let’s learn what those rules are and then try not to violate them all the time. So this sense of a global civilization that some have had always, but not everybody, it’s harder to run from. And we just need to help people understand there are ways of responding to it. Even if it’s just something in your own neighborhood, something in your own yard, you can do better. And then things we need to do better together, politically, socially, economically. We need to find a way to do that.
Douglas: Incredible. I want to make sure to leave time for you to offer our listeners a final thought.
Rob: Oh, I’ve inflicted a lot of thoughts on our listeners, but if I had to do anything and if they have time for one more, what would it be? I think my final thought would be, connect. Connect with people. Connect. You’re not in this … nobody’s in this alone. You didn’t start out in this alone. You’re not going to end up, really we all might die alone, that’s possible. I don’t know what happens inside the head when you die. I don’t know.
But I know the fundamental reality of human life is connection. The pandemic has disconnected so many people from so many relationships and systems. It was hard. It was hard on relationships, really hard on relationships. Hard on relationships at work. Killer on many domestic relationships. Relationships between parents and kids. Wow. So connect, reconnect, and know that, that’s the bedrock truth of being a human being is we’re human beings together and we’ve always been stronger together. That was always the gift that this species had, was our ability to communicate, our ability to work together, to use our hands to work together, our ability to recognize and to see the sadness in another person’s eyes and the joy and connect it to our own. That’s that’s been the essence of being a human being.
So let’s get back to that and let’s get together and turn your heart. Put your heart to work in your hands and do something. Just do something. Get in motion. Get in motion. It can be almost anything, but don’t just sit and watch because we are not fundamentally observers. We have very good observer functions, but fundamentally we’re on the planet to do things together. And we have a chance to help make the planet a garden for us and for all other species. It’s about time we got started.
Douglas: Amazing. How can folks find out more about the Design Shop training and the Collaboration Code series? Where can they find out more on that and maybe join in on some of that?
Rob: Sure, collaborationcode.com has links to the books and we’ve done so much training recently inside large organizations, we’ve kind of put the public training off to the side. Maybe it’s time to pick that back up again. So no promises there, but it’s quite likely that my wife, Carolyn Buck Luce, and I will be initiating that again. But you know what, you know enough now to get into action. You don’t need to wait to get trained. A lot of what we learned, we learned by doing. It’s a very practical method. Just learn by doing, pay attention to what happens when you do that and then do whatever you did then, better the next time and learn from that.
The essence of design is feedback. It’s, put a prototype out there, you put an idea out there. Not because you think it’s right, even though your ego may be all tied up in it, the way mine is a lot, or anybody’s is a lot. Recognize it’s not done until it’s been tested, vetted, until you’re with other people, giving each other good feedback. Being tough on the ideas, not tough on each other, but tough on the ideas, so the ideas we commit to work together are the best we got. Now that’s a natural process, but get involved. Get involved somehow. Get in motion somehow. Work on something because even that will help you become a better human being. That’s how we got here. That’s how we got here.
Douglas: Amazing. Thank you so much, Rob. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you today and thanks again for joining.
Rob: Douglas, I am just so grateful to have the opportunity to talk about this and I really appreciate what you’re doing to help people’s understanding of when we get together, how do we do that even better? I love that. Well done.
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. If you want to know more, head over to our blog where I post weekly articles and resources about radical inclusion, team health and working better, voltagecontrol.com.