Building Empathy & Understanding with the Knowsy Board Game

On April 18, 2015, the Conteneo team facilitated a session on the California drought, “Let’s Talk Water,” at the annual Redwood City-San Mateo County Chamber of Commerce Progress Seminar. Robert Bell, former San Mateo City Manager, was one of the organizers and sat down with us recently to discuss the session, and how the Knowsy Board Game was used to build empathy and allow people who had only just met to tackle such a complex issue. (For those not in the know, Conteneo’s Alignment Engine is the online and business-focused evolution of the Knowsy Board Game and consumer iPad app.)

Conteneo: What was the purpose of the Knowsy “Let’s Talk Water” Session?:

Robert Bell: Once a year, at the annual Progress Seminar, San Mateo County community, business ProgressSeminar_Signand government leaders get the chance to come together to learn, share and discuss successes and ideas for the future of our region.  For this year’s event, we decided to invite the Conteneo team to host a number of breakout sessions using Knowsy in order to help participants talk about a complex issue we are facing–the California drought–and to experience an innovative way to catalyze meaningful conversations to increase empathy, connection and understanding.

Did Knowsy accomplish this?
The Knowsy Board Game was fantastic. We ran four sessions, each very well attended and what surprised everyone was how effectively the game’s structure helped attendees both talk about the topic, and learn about what others thought — without the typical difficulties that groups have in making sure everyone is both heard and has time to share their ideas. Laura Richardson, our facilitator, asked each session’s attendees at the end how many felt they knew the people at their table better than the neighbors on their own street. The question did get many laughs, but the reality is that nearly everyone in the room agreed that the game structure really helped them get to know the 6 or 7 people at their table better and faster than they know folks on their own block.

When do you think Knowsy works best?
For people to come together to tackle tough problems, whether in business or in their communities, people need to gain a certain level of empathy and understanding for those they need to work with. I’m convinced that Knowsy can be a key part in creating an effective environment where people can move beyond soundbites and superficial exchanges and actually gain empathy and understanding about the groups they are in. This is really the foundation for solution-building.

So the Progress Seminar participants really enjoyed it too?
The Knowsy sessions received the highest evaluations from the participants, many of whom said that participating helped them make important connections with other attendees, which is one of the primary reasons people attend!


Conteneo Leaders to Speak at PMI 2015 Symposium

Luke Hohmann, CEO & Founder of Conteneo, and Laura Richardson, VP of Business Development, will be speaking at the PMI Silicon Valley chapter’s 2015 Symposium held at the Santa Clara Convention Center on October 5-6, 2015. This year’s theme is “Learning Organization And Thought Leadership” and features keynotes, themed presentations and unconference discussions.

Afternoon Keynote: Monday, Oct. 5

Luke’s keynote, “How to Prioritize a Project Portfolio” will be on Monday, October 5. He’ll speak to LhohmannPlantoReplanthose leaders who are frustrated by the limits of ROI analysis and the lack of collaboration that makes traditional approaches to portfolio prioritization an exercise in frustration. Created from more than a decade of experience working with Fortune 500 and other progressive organizations, the process Luke will describe in this keynote will reveal how leaders can harness the amazing power of collaborative frameworks and serious games to prioritize their organization’s project portfolio. The result is anEpic Win: a project portfolio prioritized to both business objectives and customer needs with an organization motivated to implement the same.


Breakout Session: Monday, Oct. 5

Laura Richard’s presentation will be “Technical & Wicked Solution Strategies for Agilists,” also on richardson_laura1-150x150Monday, Oct. 5.  Laura will discuss how the kinds of problems organizations are facing have changed as agile has matured from a process practiced by relatively small, co-located teams tackling mostly IT projects. Today, organizations are using agile to tackle many different kinds of problems in business as well as in the public sphere. Laura will highlight a series of enduring problems that agilists are supremely suited to tackle: Some of these problems are technical (like prioritizing your backlog, or a city budget). Others are wicked (like what to do when our software is late –which still happens in Agile! — or how to solve the California drought crisis).

Based on Conteneo’s groundbreaking work with leading non-profits Every Voice Engaged Foundation and The Kettering Foundation, Laura’s session will review both technical and wicked problems along with solution strategies for solving them. She will provide case studies, concrete examples and templates that are useful for business and public sector problems, with particular focus on how a team from Conteneo helped the Los Altos School District engage citizens in a wicked problem related to student enrollment growth.

Deb Colden, a Conteneo Qualified Instructor and Certified Collaboration Architect, will also be speaking at the Symposium on “Designing Great Value Propositions for Real Customers.”

More information on sessions and registration on the PMI Silicon Valley chapter website.



The Collaborationist is In. 5-Cent Advice.

It’s safe to say that there isn’t much I haven’t seen in the conference/tradeshow world, having worked for more than a decade on all sides of industry, from show management to vendor to exhibitor. From speaker recruitment to booth design, I thought I’d seen and done it all. That is, until August 3, when I found myself and our VP of Business Development Laura Richardson at the Gaylord Convention Center at National Harbor, Maryland, building a booth for the Every Voice Engaged Foundation from PVC pipe, a couple hundred yards of brown butcher paper and tempura paint.

It’s safe to say that our “Peanuts” inspired booth was unlike any other exhibit at Agile 2015. But the brown-paper booth wasn’t the weirdest part. Nope. We were building a booth from $200 worth of craft supplies and Ikea furniture to share with 11 other companies, who, depending on the project or the day, may be our competitior.

Crazy? Crazy good.

We skipped the fancy graphics, printed backdrops and rental furniture — and instead focused on building a true “Community Collaboration” booth to highlight the community partners who have supported the Every Voice Engaged Foundation since it’s inception. Over four days we joined our fellow Collaborationists in the booth to talk with our agile brethren about how agile collaborative techniques are tackling complex problems in both the public and private sector. Check out the photos below to see the booth in action, and don’t miss the Collaboration TV video series we created with our partners.  We look forward to seeing brown-paper booths, not to mention more collaboration, at conferences all over the world! (And we’d love to hear from you if you are inspired to create your own Peanuts-inspired booth!)

Oh, and a special thanks to Mark Finnern from Playful Enterprise for inspiring our booth design!