Saturday, August 29, 2009

Teleconferences that make you SNOOooore - the Italian Smoke Break

Meeting by phone fantastic, you can work from anywhere, connect across the globe and share ideas with words and voice. But if you’re like me it’s tough to sit through just about any meeting and teleconferences make it that much harder to stay engaged. Sure an amazing facilitator makes a difference but come on, we can do better!

After I facilitated a recent teleconference, I decided it was about time to search out effective, creative techniques. I couldn’t find much other than the usual tips. Here’s our chance to revolutionize this communication tool. Instead of checking emails, eating lunch and playing Sudoku, here are a few of my ideas:

Bingo (to stay focused on outcomes)
Create a bingo card agenda. In each square write an outcome for the meeting.
Write actions to be taken in each square as you address the outcome.
Have participants ‘dab’ their squares along the way with highlighters, pictures or items on their desk (erasers, paperclips).
Once a row or card is complete meeting’s over.
Variation: Visit the idea is to slip in as many words on the card as possible into the conversation, just in case you need a break!

On and Off AKA Interval Training or my favourite The Italian Smoke Break (to explore creatively and creativity)
Brain-based research reports that after 15-20 minutes our minds wander.
So build your agenda in 15 minute intervals.
An idea on how to use this principle:
For a one hour session have 5 intervals.
The first & third are online participation and discussion (15 minutes each).
The second & forth are off (10 minutes each).
The last is a 10 minute wrap up.
15 minutes sharing, 10 minutes off, 15 sharing, 10 minutes off, 10 minutes wrap up.
During the ‘off’ intervals participants stay on the line (difficult to get everyone hooked up if you disconnect) but are not interacting with each other.
People may opt to mute themselves during the ‘off’ time.
Off time may include: Giving participants focused assignments or tasks such as having them surf the net for new information, talk with others in their workplace, go for a walk and clear their heads, read an article, etc.
You may also want to play elevator music for their listening pleasure.

Exer-Size (to get people off their chairs)
Choose one exercise as an analogy for each agenda item.
When you move to each item, have participants DO the exercise together.
For example if you are discussing work/life balance, have participants stand up, close their eyes, lift one foot, hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides. Talk them through the feeling of imbalance, awareness, use of proprioceptors, etc.
Research the exercise or talk to a kinesiologist for more ideas.

I’ve got more, just ask.

Love to hear your revolutionizing tips and techniques that not only will keep everyone awake but stimulate their participation (posting comments should work now). I’ll post our list of creative teleconference techniques on my website at (look for the launch of my new website coming soon).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Conversation, the art.

Conversation Café – a community I’m involved with hosted a conversation café similar to a world café facilitation technique ( to engage their community in discussion around important topics to build on in their community. It is a conversational process based on a set of integrated design principles. Conversation being the means to an end.

Conversation and connecting – Socrates never wrote a word down, he lived through conversation. Conversation, when focused on finding the truth, the meaning of life or exploring ideas that have transformed the world, connect and unfold.

Conversation Sparks – Conversations are not the intent of our governments or organizations, usually the purpose is around some other outcome. What if conversations were the desired outcome? One implication is that the process becomes the focus making outcomes really ongoingcomes which lead to unknown endcomes due to the flexibility of the process. Then what about those who want something more concrete in order to know they're on the right track? Perhaps it's time to get more comfortable with unknown. Or, at least, combine ongoingcomes, outcomes and endcomes together with desiredcomes. Changing language sparks conversation.

Unintentional community and conversation – conversation is the intent of some groups. An unintentional community is where fate not choice brought you together such as your neighbourhood. Check out the Oakland EcoVillage whose goals are: self education, self entertainment and conversation. Check one out at To see more about the EcoVillage movement visit This is something any community can pick up on and modify in their own neighbourhood, pretty cool.

The art of conversation, the art of travel, the art of war - all books that take a very different approach to their relationship with art. How is it that conversation is transforming before our eyes, or should I say b4 R I’s.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Violinist

Ever hear a violinist in the subway station?
Do you stop and throw in a loonie or walk on by?
Along the TransCanada Highway straight through Calgary there's a violin repair and service store. It's a small stucco house with a sign that's faded and peeling. The windows are dark and I only imagine the old, gray-haired man working with fine expensive instruments in the back, testing out the bow and strings, melodic notes soaring and filling the space. It's a romantic thought with soft images like Mona Lisa's smile.

Down the road there's a business painted like a Holstein Cow, black and white splotches. Intriguing sure, a landmark certainly, calling out to eyes of passers by like hungry cows ready to be milked at 5 a.m. No image of dancing divas in colourful boas, or live parrots looking for their pirate perchs surrounded by circus music chiming retards my brain, only that of a lovely meadow with cow chewing cud.

What's down your street?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Back to Real Work

In January I reflected on real work and lately real work or perhaps more accurately lifework, has emerged again in my readings and reflections. For quite some time I’ve seen my lifework as being the time I spend traveling or at the Lake, away from what society might call work. Leisure, as I see it, is that of traditional work. The reason for this topsy tervy version of leisure and work has been sifting through my brain and draining into a glass like freshly squeezed orange juice, not clear but rich with meaning and interpretation.

So if work is leisure and leisure is work, how can that be? My version is not based on the definitions and meanings of each word, it is based on their purposes, our understanding of what they mean.

Josef Pieper says that ‘leisure is the whole point of life’ in his book Leisure, The Basis of Culture. Glass full!

Leisure then (my lifework as society would have it) is time I spend reflecting, sharing and playing for no other purpose, “an inner absence of preoccupation, a calm, an ability to let things go, to be quiet…Leisure is a form of that stillness that is the necessary preparation for accepting reality; only the person who is still can hear, and whoever is not still cannot hear… Leisure is the disposition of receptive understanding, of contemplative beholding, and immersion – in the real.” Pieper

Purposes: the point of traditional work is a time to refresh for leisure (my lifework), to rekindle spirit for leisure, not the other way around. Leisure is not a time to refresh for work, leisure is the point and work is included in the equation to enable meaningful leisure. This may seem very bourgeoisie, egocentric, and appalling to those of us who grew up with a strong work ethic, especially in a world where we have millions of starving people, communities torn by war and hatred, suffering beyond what we in Canada and the States can even imagine. However, a culture of connectedness, caring, giving and sharing is the leisure I embrace. It’s listening, talking with people, building relationships and understanding, learning about other ways of thinking and doing, as well as sharing experiences, ideas and skills. It’s giving time to nurturing the evolution of something with a focus not on building wealth, or more status, or gaining more of anything.

This is where my ‘real work’ philosophy has had the most profound change. I used to travel to get, now it’s to share and to give. My lifework time has been spent exploring the world, culture, nature as well as just being, with the goal of working myself out of a job. In my mind this is a sustainable way to continue initiatives, continue adaptations necessary in the workforce that creates space for continuous learning, creations and connectedness. My quest is to initiate and build on the conversation around deeper, more meaningful connections. This is my leisure, my lifework, the point.