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 and 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!
On August 3, Luke Hohmann, Conteneo CEO and Acting Executive Director for the Every Voice Engaged Foundation, presented the main stage keynote “Awesome Superproblems at Agile 2015 in Washington, DC. Luke’s keynote detailed how agile collaborative techniques and practices are being used to tackle wicked problems beyond building software. The problems being tackled are bigger than any one person can solve and exacerbated by inaction — thus the title “Awesome Superproblems”. Luke describes how making progress on solving these Awesome Superproblems is enabling us to find new patterns that can be applied to solve classes of similar problems. And are being used around the world.
We hope you will watch the video and discover how the collaborative, social and serious games born from the agile community have blossomed into multidimensional frameworks that agilists are using around the world to solve awesome superproblems without any special superpowers except a willingness to try.
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!