018 – How to use scientific insights to design powerful workshops – with Myriam Hadnes
This is my first solo show and I speak about the science behind workshop design and facilitation. I share how I use evidence from behavioural economics to come up with ideas that help participants to experience meaningful progress during their working session.
Before founding idayz I had a career in higher education – as a researcher, lecturer and strategic advisor. From all these roles I learned about human behaviour and how to best facilitate their collaboration.
In the show, I share the rationale behind my workshop design and some of my favourite exercises. Some questions which I answer: How can we help participants to open up and engage despite hierarchical differences? How can we use the energy of nay-sayers for creative ideation and is courage one of the most important skills of a successful facilitator?
Don’t miss the part when I explain why I bring M&Ms to every meeting...
Questions and Answers
[1:59] If I was a hashtag, what would it be?
[3:30] Why do I call myself a "behavioural economist" and what does that mean?
[6:33] What’s my story? How did I get from a career in higher education to become a facilitator?
[10:59] Why did I call my business idayz?
[15:21] What have I learned from my previous roles in workshop design and facilitation?
[22:13] How do I use insights from behavioural economics to design workshops?
[29:22] What’s my favourite exercise and how do I use behavioural insights to design exercises?
[30:55] Why do I bring M&Ms to every meeting and workshop?
[32:54] What are the most powerful check-in exercises I use and why do they work from a behavioural perspective?
[41:45] Why do I brainstorm failures instead of successes?
[43:00] How do I help participants to cluster their ideas after ideation?
[45:41] Why do workshops fail?
[46:26] What shall my listener who missed the entire show remember?
Links and Connection
- My business page: www.idayz.nl
- Daniel Kahnemann: “Thinking fast and slow”
- Cognitive Biases
- Vipassana silent meditation retreat
- Pat Flynn’s concept of “unfair advantage”
- My blog post on check-in exercises
- Teresa Amabile: The progress principle
- Dan Ariely’s Lego experiment
- Dixit board game
- Our sponsor Session Lab (affiliate link)
Connect to me
on LinkedIn or follow me @myriamhadnes on Instagram or Twitter
What if your next team workshop delivered the results you hoped for? What if everyone believed that the working session was a valuable use of their time and felt inspired to take action? My name is Myriam Hadnes and it is my mission to help you to deliver workshops that work.
Today I'm recording an episode just with myself. I am looking forward to speak about the science behind workshops and how I use insights from behavioural economics to design workshops and to design exercises that help participants to stay out of their way. So, stay tuned
Since I'm just having a conversation with myself and this is very new to me, I just drafted the questions as if I had a person in front of me to talk to. So, I will go through these questions. Maybe sometimes I will ask myself these questions just for me to stay focused and structured and I will answer my own questions.
So my background is in behavioural economics. I used to be a researcher in that field, mainly in developing countries where I was looking for the connection between culture, social norms and economic behaviour, mostly amongst small scale entrepreneurs. I used to teach economics, mostly experimental economics, development, economics, mostly in Vietnam. And, I used to be a strategic advisor to the university president in Luxembourg and when I quit my job I moved to Amsterdam and now I am calling myself a facilitator and as a matter of fact I became a podcaster. And, I'll speak about the science behind workshops.
So, if I was a Hashtag I would be a #randomideagenerator, just because I really enjoy brainstorming either with myself, as you can see on my Instagram and Linkedin posts every Monday where I just brainstorm three minutes on a question that I come up to that is somehow relevant to my current state of mind and I realized that it's a nice muscle to train, to just sit down and without overthinking, without judging, without filtering, just writing down everything that comes through my mind and then having a coffee, getting back to it and structuring it and actually seeing the value and using it over the course of the week.
I also enjoy brainstorming with others, obviously I think otherwise I wouldn't call myself a facilitator. I really enjoy the energy that is created when people sit around a table and just brainstorm together, come up with crazy ideas, write them on post its and then make great things happen. And this feeling is actually quite addictive. So, hashtag random idea generation!
Many have asked me why I call myself a behavioural economist, actually, what it means to be a behavioural economist because why I called myself like this is: it's basically just an academic title. I studied first development economics, then I switched to experimental economics, which is just a sidearm of behavioural economics basically being more applied. So, I run experiments instead of writing the mathematical models that my co-author Heiner Schumacher did, and he was definitely better in that than I was. So, we were a good team, we were very complimentary. Hi Heiner! If you're listening to the show.
So what does behavioural economics do? It basically applies insights from social psychology to explain economic decision making. You might have heard of all these biases that Daniel Kahneman wrote an entire book about, which is just awesome. If you have the chance to read it: "Thinking fast and slow", I think it must be in every bookshelf. It's full of inspiration.
So we come across biases like overconfidence, like belief bias. If you believe in something, you will see it everywhere and you will feel and you see the confirmation everywhere. That's the confirmation bias. For instance, how often does it happen that the phone rings and you're like, oh, I was just thinking of this person. And then you suddenly have the impression, oh, every, every time I think of a person, this person calls and it's simply because you just don't remember how often you think of someone and this person doesn't call.
For instance, when we make a wish and the wish comes true, then we keep this in our memory because it's something exciting. It's something, it's a story to tell that we would also share with others and the more we share it with others, the more everyone has the impression that it's actually true. Whereas when we make a wish, our wish does not come true. Why would we even share this story so nobody knows about all these wishes that never came because nobody talks about it because the story is missing. Another example for behavioural economics is the impact of priming. So, for instance, when you fill in a questionnaire, just the sequence of the questions can have an impact on your answer and this is actually a well-researched topic. You might have seen it if you use online questionnaires that very often they give you the opportunity to just randomize the sequence of the questions.
Just to get rid of this bias in the answers of your audience that you might analyse afterwards. So, this is basically what behavioural economics is and what I did. So, I researched the impact of culture, social norms on economic decision making as I just said, and I will not go into details because otherwise the time is up and I haven't talked about workshops at all, but I have learned from just conducting research and designing questionnaires for low scale entrepreneurs in Western Africa. So, you have to be very specific and very clear in your questioning and you have to listen very carefully on what the answer. So, before I get into the details about my life as a researcher, maybe I want to tell the story how I ended up with workshop design and facilitation and eventually podcasting. As you can guess, I actually had a career in higher education after my PhD in Frankfurt.
I went to Vietnam where I helped the University of Frankfurt to set up a study program within the Vietnamese German University for Vietnamese bachelor students to get a degree from a German accredited university. And I helped to set up the program and we flew in the faculty from Germany and it was a wonderful experience to see the development of these young students. So, I did this for three years and then I came to a point where everything was done. I was at a point where everything just became a routine. So, I needed a new challenge and I actually missed Europe. And exactly in that moment I was heaved a phone call from the future president of the University of Luxembourg who asked me whether I would be interested in joining him for an awesome mission to help him design the strategy for the university over the next 10 years. And it was his vision to set up the model, European Research, University of the 21st century, how can you say no to that?
So I think half a year later I left Vietnam for Luxembourg and it was a very valuable and intense experience where I was allowed to bring together the vision and ideas of professors, students, administrative staff, ministers, lobbyists, because all of them had a view on the university and its potential and its mission. And we had all these different workshops bringing together these different stakeholders to learn from them and to include them into the design of the new strategy. And I was fortunate enough to have this boss who just trusted me and had my back. So, I learned a lot from that period. And eventually politics kicked in. As life happens and I decided to leave this job in Luxembourg and started a new life in Amsterdam. I plan to take some time to just redesign my life and to think what I wanted to do. And I got very interested in organisational development because I observed at the university and through this process, the energy that you can develop when you give staff members the opportunity to create, to engage, to bring in their own ideas.
And then you don't need to tell them what to do because they will come up with the brightest solutions and they know the reality from the organisation. So just bring them together, helping them to create ideas and bringing them to life, enable them, empower them to bring these to life. This just blew my mind and I thought, if I can work in an environment where this would be my daily job I'm in. So obviously life happens while you're making plans and finding a job in Amsterdam wasn't as easy as I expected because Amsterdam was not waiting for me. But I was fortunate enough to find fantastic mentors and they were of tremendous help. At one point, after 10 days silent Vipassana retreat. I decided I have to start my own business because I am unemployable. With my background in academics, I don't fit into a box and I didn't see myself getting hired for the position that I was actually seeking.
So I came up with this idea of creating idea days where people come together to develop ideas together, to coach each other, to inspire each other and then go home with all this input to make things happen. And that's how I also came up with the idea of calling my business idayz, which is basically idea days. So, I thought half-day workshops usually don't work because we, we rush through things and we don't have time to really digest and to reflect on what we learned. We're going from one exercise to the other, filling post-its, but we lack the time to reflect what it actually means and to translate it into our daily lives. And that's why I thought, okay, I don't want to do half-day workshops. All I want to do are full days. And that's why I call it idea days, idayz.
In the beginning, I wanted to facilitate masterminds. So, the idea of bringing people around a table, they peer coach each other, everyone has a specific time and the hot seat. And then receives feedback and input and inspiration from all the others. And everyone gains from this collective intelligence. And I really tried hard to put these masterminds together. And since I lacked the gene of sales and promoting myself because I grew up in the public sector where my knowledge, my contribution, my mentorship were basically a public good. I totally failed in promoting, selling, marketing, my mastermind idea. But people came to me and asked me whether I can help them with their workshop designs or they told me, Oh, I'm having this workshop but I'm unsure what kind of exercise I should do. Or they simply asked me if I could facilitate workshops. Um, they would pay me to facilitate workshops and eventually pay me to design workshops.
And I realised, okay, if everyone is asking me that and my intuitive reaction is always like, that's not rocket science. Everyone can do that. But apparently not. And then I came across Pat Flynn who dropped this concept of unfair advantage and he said, you know that you have an unfair advantage if your peers, your potential clients, your surrounding are constantly asking you for your input or for your advice on a specific topic. And you have the impression that it's actually not very valuable because everyone can do, could do that. So, at one point they were like, hold on a minute. If everyone asks me about workshop design and workshop facilitation and apparently, I'm doing a good job when doing that, why don't I just call myself a facilitator and then ego kicked in and I realised that I don't want to call myself a facilitator and I don't want to call myself a designer of workshops because workshops have such a bad reputation.
Every time that I told someone, Hey, I facilitate workshops or I love workshops, and then they would go like, oh, workshops, what a waste of time. They don't lead to results, they never work. It's just about throwing around post-it notes and having a good time. But we could use this time better by either just doing our jobs or by going on a team event and have some fun. Then at least we know why we're there. So, I realised that actually workshops have a bad reputation and it somehow became my mission to just promote workshops. So, I thought, okay, what if I start a marketing campaign for workshops? So that was my mission for the podcast. I think I would never have started it without having a mastermind group that said, okay, Myriam just start it. You have to get out there. So, um, yeah, here I am now.
So what have I learned from my previous roles? Being a researcher, strategic advisor, team leader. I think from research I learned listening and digging deeper, not being satisfied with the first answer I get. And trying to find a solution to really get to the core. And that's what a workshop is for. You are presented with a problem, otherwise people wouldn't meet, they wouldn't invest their time to go to this creative room and hire facilitated if they didn't have problems that were obvious to solve. So before starting a workshop, it's very important for me to first understand what is actually the problem we're trying to solve and what is the purpose of the workshop. And that is basically a research mission. So, I have my questionnaires and I start digging and understanding what my client's problem is. And then I interview all of the participants to understand what their perception is.
And then only I start with the designing process. For my world as strategic advisor to the uni president, I basically learn to be fearless, maybe. Because I worked with so many influential people, people with big Egos, very smart human beings. I mean professors. With students, with administrators, devoted administrative staff members. And when it comes to a creative process, you see that everyone is just human. Nobody wants to be treated differently just because of their role. Nobody wants to be interesting just for their role. Everyone, me included, everyone just enjoys talking about themselves. I think that's a trait every human being shares and even maybe introverts who wouldn't raise their hand when they're asked if they want to share their own story. But I think if we have someone in front of us who's generally interested in listening to our thoughts and listening to our story, all of us enjoy talking about ourselves.
So I realized that whether I'm speaking with a student or with a professor or with a minister, at the end of the day they are all humans. And this gave me kind of a self-confidence as a facilitator to impose my rules and to guide the group through the process. Because I think as soon as the facilitator doubts the process or is unsure how the group where we act is afraid of feeling judged, of being judged, then this will immediately spill over to the group and then the facilitator will be judged. And actually, I learned this courage from basically three people. The first was Patrick Cowden, who was number one on my podcast and he introduced me to an exercise that I still call the Patrick Circle where he showed me how much trust, intimacy, safe space can be created within 15 minutes amongst a group of total strangers with very high positions.
He created this atmosphere of sharing amongst CFOs, CEOs, general managers of multinational companies. That just blew me away. And since then I have tried this method in so many different environments and it never deceived me. It always works. So, I learned from Patrick that if we set the rules, and if we know that someone works, something works, it will work. Another person who really inspired me was um, Jean Marc Fandel also at the university and he, he taught me how to be courageous or the impact of courage because he asked leadership teams, the leadership team at the university to do all these silly exercises that actually weren't really silly when he presented them because he was just confident that they would work. And it's from him that I learned the brainstorm on questions where he could see that one person had an important issue to address but was somehow stuck.
And that feedback in these environments of big egos, big roles usually end up in, let me explain you something or here's what you should do. And usually to this kind of advice, we, we act in a very defensive way. Like, so what do you know? I have already tried that or why you're telling me that. So, it's difficult to accept someone else's advice on our own issues. And usually their advice is just centred at their own experience because that's all they know. So, they cannot put themselves into our shoes so they don't understand what our wheel issue is. So, all they can tell us is what they have experienced in the past that might be similar to our experience, but it's not the same. And then the feedback they're giving us, their advice is just addressed to their problems but not to ours. So, this was a framework and what Jean Marc Fandel did was like, okay, instead of giving advice or brainstorming on ideas, he asked the group to brainstorm questions.
So what are the questions that this person with this big problem or challenge can ask herself? And since they had very different backgrounds, academic backgrounds, the questions they came up with were so diverse and highlighted aspects that the person in the hot seat wouldn't have even thought about. And this also put the person in the hot seat in this enabled empowered position that she didn't need to answer these questions on the spot. She was just listening to the questions and then at a free moment, sort them, go through them. And answer them by herself because, and I think that's true for most of our challenges. We actually know the answers already. We don't need most of the cases if it's not technical, we don't need someone to tell us the answers. We just need someone to ask us the right questions and then find headspace and time to look into ourselves in order to find these answers.
So after all this background on where I'm coming from, how do I actually use behavioural economics? Um, for workshop design? First it helped me to really structure a workshop because I can better understand how people would react in certain situations. So, for instance, why is it important to make sure that everyone who's in a workshop space has a specific role? And why do I call every participant to just check their expectations and hear their story about the purpose of the workshop? If you don't know what's expected from you, if you don't know what you're actually doing there, then how can you not zoom out if you feel awkward because you don't have the impression that your input is needed or that you can contribute, why would you, why would you spend this energy in contributing? So, making sure that everyone in the space has a role and then you welcome everyone with a handshake to make them feel comfortable and welcomed and seeing, okay, this is my space.
Someone waited for me and I'm part of the process and then I would do the check-in where everyone says something. So, for a meeting it would just be the question, what's on your mind right now? And then everyone answers with either a word or a sentence, sometimes even more of a story. And this has two reasons. First of all, everyone gets to say something already from the first moment and this will increase the likelihood that they will speak up again later. And you want every participant to speak up because otherwise there is no reason for them to be there. And second, it helps them to land in the space because they can just get rid of whatever's in their mind and they can vent for a few moments or share their excitements. And third reason why the check-in is so important is that it helps the group also to understand where this person is coming from.
So if someone shares that he didn't sleep all night because the new-born was constantly crying, then maybe he will react a little bit impatient or we'll zoom out or fall asleep, which has nothing to do with the workshop, it's participants or the content, but simply with his lack of sleep. And then the other, the peers in the room, they will show empathy to this person because they know why this person falls asleep. So, Steve is not falling asleep because he's bored by John but because his new born was just keeping him awake. So, this exercise of the check in also helps to create the safe space. So, help the participants to connect to each other and to see each other's authentic personality. And the last important thing for a workshop setup to work is to have this feeling of progress. So this is why I'm using templates that the groups will fill in related to the exercise and the purpose to stay on track, not to get lost in details, not to get on a side-track, not to get in the big complaining mode, but to work on very explicit tasks and to write down their ideas, to put them into a framework and then they see that if one exercise is linked to the next and they can actually use the results from one exercise put into a template for the next exercise, they will get this feeling of progress, which actually motivates us.
Teresa Amabile, she wrote an entire book we did, if you can. I'm super inspiring about the progress principle and she found through her research that the single identifier for distinguishing employees who are motivated at work from those who are demotivated and will eventually quit, is the sense of meaningful progress and they've done research on, what's his name? I cannot recall his name, but I will put it in the show notes. And he had two groups and they were both asked to build something out of Lego. Let's make it a house. And one group, whenever they finished the house of Lego, he put it on a shelf and then they started the next one. And the group was actually paid for each house that they built. So, there was a monetary incentive to be as fast as possible and to build as many houses from Lego.
The second group had exactly the same task to build houses from Lego and they would get money for each house that they finished. So, the more houses the more money. But what he did was that whenever they finished the house, he just doesn't, um, decomposed it back into the Lego stones. And then they had to start from scratch using the same stones. And what he showed is that the group that actually could see the progress and could see, could count the houses that they've built would perform significantly better. Although the monetary incentive and the money that they would receive was exactly the same as for the group who saw that their work building house from Lego was actually meaningless and a waste of time, so meaningful progress. If you can give your workshop participants the feeling of meaningful progress within a safe space where they can be heard and where they know that they have a role, this will almost guarantee a successful workshop because then also everyone wants to continue this progress. They know that they could achieve something within a day or maybe even half-day and there they usually feel empowered and enthusiastic to continue this work together.
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So what is my favourite exercise and especially how do I use the insights from behavioural economics to come up with these exercises because I, I must admit that I never followed a course in facilitation. I don't have a certificate as a facilitator, but I read a lot, mostly Harvard Business Review with you, but also all these popular science books. Maybe you can call them self-help books today, but popular science definitely sounds smarter and I'm always looking for these tweaks or for these puzzles of human behaviour. So how do we get people to open up? How do we get people to just stay away of their ego? I recently, actually this week I had a beautiful mini-workshop that I didn't call workshop, but I called it meeting and I invited a group of stakeholders in a project that I'm currently doing in Luxembourg. And the idea was, or the purpose of this meeting was to connect them amongst each other so that they can align their work and maybe start collaborating.
So when they entered the room, instead of finding this meeting table, the chairs around it, they found a circle of chairs and now imagine these bankers coming into room expecting a workshop [MH: meeting] and they are invited to sit in a circle. So, I checked the hand, I welcomed them. I offered some M&M's. Yeah, I have M&M's in every workshop that I do because just side note, why do I have m and m's in every workshop? Because two reasons. And also, that's behavioural. When we share food together, this creates trust. That's why we have dinners with clients or why we have dinners with dates. Second, this crunchy sound of M&Ms. I know very few people who don't like it. So, M&Ms have something about a childhood memory. They're sweet, they're crispy. So, it's a joy to eat them, but nobody can stop.
So everyone shares this bad conscious and through the sharing, not only the food, but also the bad conscious of not being able to resist. This also creates a bond because then at one point someone starts to laugh because there's always this one person who would just get a handful and find an excuse or this one person would just eat one, trying not to be seen and then decides to just get one more and one last one. So, this kind of playful behaviour creates laugh, laughter and laughter creates bonds because it shows our authentic human side. Okay. So back to the experience. These people came to the room seeing these chairs in a circle, and when we started I asked them to go on the circle and to introduce each other, to introduce themselves with three things, their name, their role and if they had a superpower, what would that be?
And the first looked at me as if I was a little bit crazy. But then I ask who wanted to start and someone started and the beauty of this exercise is, and it always works independent of the setting that again, so everyone gets to say something and by stating a superpower, they admit that they are human and independent of their role and their status and that and the hierarchy. Everyone still has the wish to be able to do something that they cannot and this brings them together and shows the humanness in each one of them. And then there was this one person quite high in the hierarchy who admitted, actually at the moment my superpower would be to be invisible because sometimes I just want to disappear and there are certain people at the office, I don't want to be seen by them. And then everyone laughed because they were so surprised to hear that that then the other ones also felt more courageous in just sharing the experience.
And then I wondered why, why we don't do this at every meeting? And I realized the power a facilitator has. So, if we just have the courage to do things, even if they're surprising, if they feel uncomfortable at first, the people in the room, they will follow and they will do it and then they will realize that it works and then they will trust you more and you can be more courageous and thereby help the group to go even deeper and progress faster. Another exercise also for check-in, I like is using Dixit cards. Dixit is actually just a board game, but they have these beautiful cards that are always showing something deeper. So, you look at them, you see a picture and then you look at them again and you see a different layer. And when I have for instance a full-day workshop where it's important to highlight that everyone has different perspectives and that all these perspectives actually count and add to the full picture.
I like to use this check-in exercise. So, I would ask them in the beginning to pick a card and it's I think the easily a hundred different cards with pictures on it. So, I asked them to pick a card that represents, their current state of mind or how they feel about the project and then we go in a circle that everyone explains why he or she picked that card, and I do this because it's, especially for adults in a professional environment, it's so much easier to talk about what you see on a card than to talk about your own feelings. That's why it's so easy to get in a museum when we're standing in front of a piece of art. It's so easy to get into a conversation and to share what you've see in this picture because you actually don't have to talk about your own state of mind, but even in a museum, very often when we look at a piece of art, we actually just reflect our own current state of mind, our emotions that we don't disclose so easily, especially not in a professional environment.
So I will put the link to the Dixit Card game in the show notes because I think it's just magic. Another exercise that I also use a normal meeting facilitation. That is awesome. Is a question then answer exercise so you might know the situation where you say, okay, it's Q&A session, so just ask me questions and I will answer them and then the first person asked the question and you or the, the workshop sponsor starts to answer and then this answer leads to more questions, leads maybe to a debate, maybe leads to an argument and then suddenly the time is up and you have only frustrated people in the room because the person who initially asked the question maybe doesn't feel satisfied or maybe he or she is the only person satisfied in the room. Then you have everyone else who might also have had questions on their mind that were not addressed and you have all the others who wanted to contribute to the answer but they felt stressed because they this kind of unsettlement in the room because everyone wants to ask their own questions so nobody really listens.
To cut a long story short, what I came up with is a routine where first asked everyone to ask questions. And what I often do is just going around the circle again and ask everyone to ask a question. And if I'm in a good mood and if I'm very daring, I force everyone to ask a question. And only after the circle is finished I or the workshop host would answer all the questions in a bulk. You make sure that you have all the questions that are relevant on the table that everyone gets hurt, everyone has the same attention. And then when you get into the answers, maybe the answers even answer further questions and follow-up questions. And only after all the questions have been answered, you either get into a debate or in an into a debriefing. Our second round of questions. So, this is really fantastic to keep the time, to keep the energy high and not to get lost in these useless debates.
And actually I cannot, I cannot not mention the premortem exercise because that's one that I almost always do. And it's especially useful if you're working on a project or problem with a group where you have a lot of those who would say we've tried it so many times that never worked. We've done this before. Oh, not another workshop. I'm so tired of it. This kind of people you certainly know who might talk about. So, if you have this negative energy in the room and you ask for, hey come up with your creative ideas, how can we find solutions? The probability that you will find innovative, inspiring, creative, maybe funny ideas I would bet is close to zero. What I do instead is I let them define and agree on the perfect outcome, on the goal of the project. So, for instance, we want to design a conference that is inspiring and enabling for the conference participants.
And then instead of asking, okay, how can we do that? I would ask them, okay, how can we make sure that we are designing a conference that is frustrating for everyone? How can we make sure that we fail greatly? And then I set the timer on usually three to five minutes and I ask them to just speak out everything that they can do that would make them failure for sure. So, the timer I helps to put some pressure into the group so they have to come up with ideas and that they know that there is an end to this exercise. Even if they feel uncomfortable. I ask them to just shout out their ideas at as they cross their mind because the idea of everyone might inspire someone else to come up with another idea. If you get into this with them then surely there will be bad ideas or stupid ideas or just random ideas that don't make sense.
But this random idea might inspire someone to come up with a grand idea so everyone feels more comfortable. It creates also this equality amongst the participants because everyone just, every idea is the same and since there is no commenting, no side talking, no questioning, everyone becomes the same. And then since you hear all these ideas, what I experienced very often is, especially in groups, with differences in hierarchies. That those who are high in hierarchy, they would be positively surprised by the ideas others would come up with. And this creates, yeah, nice new level of respect actually. And then they're willing to listen because they realize, hey, there's a perspective that I've never taken into account. So, this is um, what the framework helps and why I am asking also for the failures is because we are much more creative as human beings when we think off risks, everything that can go Wong because that's how we are programmed.
We want to minimize risk, we want to survive. So, it's easier to spot everything that can go wrong instead of something new that would lead us to success. Because usually when we are trying to come up with new ideas, we try to relate to our past experiences. So, we would think of, okay, what has happened, what has worked in the past? Then maybe this can work in the future. But usually it doesn't. And this is not where innovation comes from. When we think of what can go Wong at the job interview at the first date, we can imagine so many different scenarios and when we try to imagine how we can create this great product or how we can succeed in a job interview, it's actually more difficult. So that's why I am a big fan of premortem brainstorms with a timer, just shouting out ideas, putting one idea on a posted note.
And then to follow up, I would ask them just to cluster them. Usually I ask them which ideas were surprising, which ideas were great that they can actually work with? And I asked them, which ideas do you consider irrelevant? And then usually they, they expect me to say, okay, let's throw away the irrelevant ideas. But then I say, no, hold on. These actually may be the most important ones because the ideas that we would label as irrelevant usually hide two important factors. One is overconfidence. So, if we see a failure and we see, ah, that's irrelevant. Maybe it's because we believe that we have an ability or a knowledge that we don't fail in this way. But what if we don't? So, for instance, I brainstormed with a group of students there was very interesting and they had to prepare for a group challenge for group competition where it was very important that they could work over.
It was a kind of hackathon there, 24 hours and they had to work very intensively as a team and one of the failures. Um, so how would they lose the hackathon for sure was if we're getting into a fight amongst the group and then they said, well that's irrelevant. And then they realize that actually, okay, that's maybe it feels uncomfortable to talk about this fact because the group didn't want to admit that maybe there were tensions or maybe they didn't want to see the tensions, but then working on this failure helped them to establish a process on how to deal with tensions to explore why fights could happen. It's usually because they have different ideas and they don't know to how to prioritize, how to take decisions. Then they discussed do they actually need a leader? Do they need a voting system? Is this voting system democratic or should they use dots or should they have someone who decides the end?
So all of these kinds of very important questions and discussions came up just because of this one idea. How they could fail by getting into a fight during a hackathon. Super powerful exercise if you have the trans, just try it out. And I cannot believe it that I would even tell this to myself, but I am running out of time. Um, and I always say that to my guests and I thought that it's because of my guests, but maybe it's me, I'm talking too much. Okay. So, um, I talked about my favourite exercises. Check the box. Why do workshops fail? I think that workshops fail if the facilitator doesn't dare to take authority to take the lead and to ask the participants to get out of their comfort zone. If the facilitator is not convinced and doesn't have the self-confidence, then this will spill over to the group and he or she won't be listened to, followed.
And then you cannot, if the group cannot trust the process, cannot trust the facilitator that he or she knows what he or she is doing, then the workshop will fail for sure. And if my dear listener fell asleep after minute one and just woke up, what do I want you to remember from this entire show? That to design and to facilitate workshops that work, I truly believe that we have to start from the awareness that we are dealing with human beings and human beings have a lot in common and most of us are just driven by instincts whether we want to admit it or not. So, once we're aware of that, we can design exercise and little tweaks that help us to get out of our own way. In terms of ego, how can we make sure with a small exercise like the superpower check-in that everyone can see the human side in each other and not only the role, how can we give each other the opportunity to be seen as a person and not only as a job title and to be heard equally?
How can we make sure that an intern or an assistant can also be heard and respected for their ideas? And this reminds me of one anecdote that I once heard about Tabasco. So apparently, and I don't know whether it's true, but it's awesome. This leadership team of Tabasco, they were running red numbers, they didn't have enough sales. And this leadership sat together, brainstorming, trying to find out how can they increase their sales, how can they make more money to survive? And at one point the cleaning lady entered the room and just like that, they ask her, okay, so what do you think? How should we, what should we do in order to be more profitable? And she looked at them and started to laugh and said, well, make the hole bigger. And if you're from, if you're my age or older than you will remember these times where when you turned around the Tabasco bottle, you had to shake it so hard to have just one drop coming out of it.
And now you turn it around and before you can even count to one, half the bottle already emptied on your steak. So, this random idea came from someone who is totally unrelated who didn't have a title and who might have not had a university degree, but it just adds a new perspective. So, I don't even know whether I mentioned this in the show, but I think that's definitely something to remember. Make sure that you bring in a diverse team that can really point out new perspectives and yes, see blind spots of each other and at the same time create the safe space where these blind spots can actually be unveiled and discussed so that a team can experience continuous progress even if they're just small steps during the workshop because this will motivate them to continue the progress even after they left the workshop room.
And this brings me to the end. I hope you enjoyed the show. I hope that you got some content, inspiration, ideas out of it. If you want to continue the conversation with me or if you want to find out more or if you're just looking for the other podcast episodes, go on www.workshops.work and there you'll find everything. workshops.work. Put it into your browser and it will lead you to my homepage. Thank you very much for your attention, your time, or for staying tuned. I value your time, I value that a lot. I'm extremely grateful. Thanks. Bye. Bye. Okay.