Did You Know? 6.0: Change to Thrive

Technology and behavior are radically reshaping business—on a global scale. Did You Know? 6.0: Change to Thrive advances the conversation about how organizations can adapt and prosper by changing the way they work.

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Ten Tips for Running a Successful Workshop

A workshop or offsite can be a very powerful tool for collaboratively sharing information, generating new ideas, and/or aligning people on goals. One of the keys to running a successful workshop is having good facilitation that guides participants toward achieving the goals while nurturing an engaging environment.

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The New Brainstorming: Six Principles to Redeem Group Ideation

"Brainstorming" is a dirty word these days. It conjures up images of people shouting out ideas, getting hit by unreliable bolts of "a-ha" lightning, and touchy-feely groupthink. We know that the original tenets of brainstorming, developed by Alex Osborn in the 1940s, were somewhat flawed.

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Five Card Decks Every Leader Should Own

You may have read every leadership book on the planet, but did you know that some of the best tools out there are hidden inside card decks? Here are five of the best.


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Improve the Remote Experience One Meeting at a Time

As an organization that specializes in collaboration and serves clients all over the globe, it’s critical for us to have the remote meeting experience dialed in. Through the use of virtual meetings with screen share, tablets for live drawing, and experienced facilitators we were able to achieve a fairly successful experiencefor our clients. However, our internal meetings were really suffering. With two offices (Portland and Amsterdam), a handful of employees that work from home, and positions that require significant time on the road, it seemed we almost never had everyone in the room at once. The remote attendees often had a poor experience and participated minimally. The common feedback we heard was, “ I couldn’t really hear or follow the conversation so I just dropped off the call.”  Ouch.
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You Want Innovation From Your Company? Ask Them to Stop Working.

I am unreasonably excited about this.
Starting in 2015 XPLANE is setting aside one full working day per month to focus on individual and organizational innovation. This means no client work and no company work on that day.
We are calling it, an xDay.

The Experiment
The idea of innovation time in the workplace certainly isn’t new in the world, or even at XPLANE. We've had practices like this for years (though not in a full-day format), and practices like Google’s 20% innovation time are well known, among others.
But 20%, 10%, 5% – it doesn’t matter how much time you allocate. The difficulty is actually getting people to use the time. For over a year we have had “xTime,” two-hours per week blocked on everyone’s schedule to work on whatever they want. However, if you stop doing your day-job for two hours, you have to make up that time somewhere else (evenings, weekends). So few people stopped working; they simply skipped their allocated innovation time.
To address this we are changing from two hours per week, to one full day per month; the idea being by blocking out a full day, day-job schedules will bump out around that day like a holiday and the time won’t need to be made up in the same way as the two hours.
However, you would be surprised. Giving people a full day to work on what they want creates a certain amount of anxiety. Even after months (years) of people asking for more time to work on passion projects, as we socialized the full day xDay idea initial excitement became uncertainty.
Who decides what I can work on? What if I don’t finish in the day? How will I know if my project is appropriate for this time?
To alleviate this, and ensure the first xDay is a good one, we are asking department leadership to organize their teams into a project or projects. Later we’ll encourage people to organize themselves more, but we will crawl before we walk or run.
Ultimately, we have to learn to do this. To do that, we are enlisting everyone’s help by 1) proactively recognizing that this is an experiment, and 2) making that idea an open discussion. At the end of each xDay we will conduct a Plus/Delta exercise to talk about what worked, and what we should do differently next time.
This kind of engagement and continuous improvement approach should help us through the prototyping period faster, and get to a steady state sooner.
Here is how we have structured xDays to get us started.
What is an xDay?
The purpose of xDays is to allow individuals or teams focused time to innovate. The goal is to create or learn something new to improve the way we work and serve our clients. That is the only criteria for an xDay project.
Example projects could be:

How will xDays work?
xDays will happen on the last Friday of each month. Individuals, functional teams, or project teams will decide what they want to work on, develop a plan, and go. The days will be structured, however, they should feel very different from a regular workday. 

We believe the social aspect of the day will be important to its success; the energy should be inspiring, and stating plans and sharing results should create accountability and even spark some friendly competition.
Ready to Go
Managerially speaking, xDays are an investment to be sure. But we are 100% committed to making them a success, and seeing the return on that investment. We anticipate the results – tangible, intangible, and unexpected – will far outweigh the opportunity costs.
So on Friday, February 20 we will hold our first xDay and begin this learning process.

And I cannot wait.
Note: Look for follow-up posts on xDay results and program learnings throughout the year.

[See The Origin of xDays]

Our First xDay in Review
Our First xDay in Review Part 2

Dave King is the Vice President of Client Services in Amsterdam.

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Design Powered Action

The pace of change and transformation and initiatives and ‘insert your favorite business-bingo term’ is evident. We see it - feel it - everyday. It’s the constant pressure everyone feels - from the newly minted graduate to the Fortune 50 CEO. It’s inescapable; it’s the new-norm of the business world. We see the ‘listacles' every day: 5 ways to be more productive, 7 key practices to make your organization more nimble, the 62 simple steps to work-life balance. Clearly this chaos is here, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. 

So what to do. Well, this article isn't the answer. There is no answer; there is only focus, adjustment, and clarity for you. Enter design. Bologna (or other descriptors) you say. “We’ve heard the design-can-save-you mantra before, but my new iPhone and super cool pen-holder do nothing to help me improve my business.” We understand, and we agree. When we at XPLANE say design, we mean the clarifying, unifying visual artifacts that help remove ambiguity. This will always be true. But we ALSO mean the design of the approach and effort - the elements of unpacking and sensemaking that bring about big ideas and incremental steps. Monumental answers and nuanced adjustments. It’s design as it applies in the approach to your thinking and engagement with your employees and business.  

Warning: sensible action ahead. Try this design exercise to organize your business’ capacity for change:

Initiative modeling: Capture the framework for any initiative within your organization on a simple 5x7 card. Really draw it out: title, simple scope, timeline, owner, team, purpose, and goal. Don’t make it harder than that. Do it again - make it better and clearer this time. You now have an initiative template.

Organize the Initiatives: You’ll need some colored markers. Don’t be afraid, and don’t worry about them being on-brand. Look at all the initiatives you have and color-code them per functional group: IT is green, Operations is purple, HR is burnt-orange; you get the idea.

Capacity Framing: Clear a big wall. Take down the business posters and last-year’s company picnic photo - get some real wall space. Section off three areas and label them as follows: Pipeline, In-Process, and Completed. Now get to work - put all the initiative cards for your business up in the proper areas and stand back and observe your work. It’s probably a mess, and skewed to the ‘Pipeline’ column. Time for more design - start to categorize, edit per date, plan, reiterate, reorganize.

This will take time and this framing will likely change, but guess what, you just designed a capacity model for your business.  Benefit? It will give everyone that walks by a greater insight into what’s actually happening with all that change and transformation buzzing around. All with design.

Drew Mattison is the Vice President of Business Development at XPLANE.
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Inspiring Thought Partners: CANDOR Consulting’s Tish Squillaro

We frequently talk with executives and team leaders about the importance empathy plays in fully understanding their employees and customers. But, often times, people forget that when it comes to the inner workings of their company, they should work to understand both the emotions of the employees as well as their own thoughts, feelings, and issues. We chatted with Tish Squillaro, leading lady behind CANDOR Consulting, radio regular on Women to Watch, and author behind the HeadTrash books, to discuss how to acknowledge damaging emotions in the workplace and what leaders can do about them.  

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Stop Asking Consultants to Give You the Answer

Our clients are increasingly buried in work, and their schedules are always booked solid. As we work with them to understand their needs, they frequently ask us, “Why can’t you just give us the answer?”
We will tell you what we tell them: “Our experience clearly shows the best answers come from co-creating the solution with your teams. When you hire someone to give you the answer, you give away the most powerful tool you have.”
Your own employees and colleagues know what’s broken, and they have clear ideas about how to fix it. They usually come up with more useful solutions. People support what they help to build. This is the biggest reason to engage your teams. That means co-creating it with your people makes them instant advocates, and even evangelists, for those solutions.
Co-creation in product development may mean collaborating with customers or partners to develop new and better products. Inside of organizations, co-creation means engaging your employees to design better internal solutions.
At XPLANE, co-creation means bringing together a cross-functional team to discover, design, and iterate a solution. Over the years, we’ve heard every reason why co-creation won’t work. Here are the top three:

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Six Games to Envision the Culture You Want

Do you have an awesome company culture, but you’re worried about losing the magic as you scale and grow? Or perhaps you’re struggling with company culture, and it’s derailing success? The first step to getting the culture you want is getting clear on what it looks like. But it’s tricky to put your finger on culture. What’s the secret to making the intangible tangible? Using visuals and games gets beyond the superficial and generic to what’s uniquely true about your organization. Inspired by Gamestorming, here are six games XPLANE plays with groups who want to map their current or desired culture. These games are serious play–while you’re having fun in a group, you’re opening up challenging conversations and getting to the heart of a slippery topic. This technique is just part of XPLANE’s approach to culture mapping.

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