Why Most Successful Leaders Practice Design Thinking

Because design thinking is actually a systematic approach to problem solving.

Find a leader who is innovative in any organization, and he has likely been practicing design thinking all along. It starts with the people we serve and the ability to create a better future for them. It acknowledges that we probably won’t get that right the first time. It does not require super powers.

It’s time for Design Thinking in your organization.

Design thinking can do for organic growth and innovation what TQM did for quality – take something we always have cared about and put tools and processes into the hands of leaders to make it happen.

Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie, Designing for Growth

Design Thinking isn’t just choosing the right images and fonts for your next website revision. It’s not about renovating the physical spaces of your organization.

In the old days, designers and design thinking were an afterthought, the people and process at the end of the production. Engineers would hand over something that was functionally effective and have the designers make it look good. Those days are over.

Today, design is about experiences as well as products. It’s about services as much as it is hard goods.

It’s a problem-solving process that incorporates the needs of “customers,” team members, and partners in your organization’s mission. It’s a way of working that creates and refines real-world situations.

The Design Thinking Toolbox explains the most important tools and methods to put Design Thinking into action. Based on the largest international survey on the use of design thinking, the most popular methods are described in four pages each by an expert from the global Design Thinking community.

If you are involved in innovation, leadership, or design, these are tools you need. Simple instructions, expert tips, templates, and images help you implement each tool or method.

  • Quickly and comprehensively familiarize yourself with the best design thinking tools
  • Select the appropriate warm-ups, tools, and methods
  • Explore new avenues of thinking
  • Plan the agenda for different design thinking workshops
  • Get practical application tips

The Design Thinking Toolbox will help innovators master the early stages of the innovation process.

What challenge are you facing today that could use the discipline of Design Thinking?


Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

The Best Sort of a Breakthrough Idea

“But of course!”

That’s the best sort of breakthrough idea.

An idea that after it is seen, can’t be unseen, an idea that changes what comes next.

No need to change the world. A tiny part of the world, even one person, is enough for today.

-Seth Godin



A periodic visit to the 100 Acre Wood. Here’s the backstory.

Are You REALLY Listening, or Just Waiting to Talk?

How many people do you know that approach a conversation as if it were a competition, going something like this: When I pause, you jump in with your thoughts; when you pause, I jump back in so I can top your story or hijack the conversation back to my side.

It’s a fight for control.

Your conversations will be smoother and more successful if you remember that every sentence in a conversation has a history, and you have to practice deliberate listening skills to understand that history better so you can understand the person behind it better.

There’s another way to look at it. The human brain can process somewhere between 350 and 550 words a minute, while most people usually only speak around 120 words a minute. In virtually every exchange of communication, each participating brain has room for 230-375 extra words’ worth of thought to float around. That gives our minds plenty of chance to drift and wander, whether we’re the one speaking or listening.

It’s so easy to slide into the basic communication pitfall of drifting away from the person speaking, often thinking about what we’re going to say next rather than being focused on what we’re communicating or what’s being said to us.

It’s time to challenge your brain to stay in the moment, to be fully present in listening to a conversation, not just preparing how you’re going to respond.

It’s called active listening.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Good Talk by Daniel Stillman

Leadership is the art of designing transformative conversations.

Real change is needed, now, more than ever. This change can’t happen through force, edict or persuasion. The future will be built through conversation – and Good Talk will show you how.

Good Talk is a step-by-step framework to effect change in your personal and professional conversations. With dozens of tools and interactive components, Good Talk is a handbook to navigate the conversations that matter.

What’s Inside:

  • How to see the structure of conversations. Life is built one messy, slippery conversation at a time. While conversations feel hard to hold onto, ebbing and flowing, back and forth and into eventual silence, they each have a structure. The first step to changing your conversations is seeing what’s going on between the silence.
  • What is your Conversation Operating System? Who gets invited to the conversation? Who speaks first? Where does the conversation take place? What happens if someone messes up? In every conversation, there are elements that guide the exchange. The nine elements of the Conversation OS Canvas can help you to shift the direction of your conversations.
  • What is your conversational range? Conversations are more than dialogue. From the conversations in your head to the complex conversation that is your organization, you need to design conversations that matter across a huge range of sizes. Learn to master conversations from the boardroom and beyond.
  • How to design conversations that matter. The world needs fresh, creative conversations that are alive, and that work for all the people involved. How can you design conversations that matter? Leadership means designing the conditions for these conversations to happen. Learn the patterns and principles to make change possible.


A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

According to author Daniel Stillman, when two people are in a conversation, we take turns listening and speaking. 

What do we do with our turns?

Do you listen, or do you just wait to talk? 

Or do you take the role of listener seriously and enjoy your turn as the listener?

In conversation, we “see” speaking, whereas listening looks like “doing nothing.”

How often in conversations have you interrupted (intentionally or accidentally) the conversation, derailing the other person’s train of thought?

In your eagerness to move the conversation forward, to take your turn, you’ve stopped their turn too soon.

When two people are in a conversation, we take turns speaking and listening. Understanding your “turn-taking” patterns can dramatically shift your conversations for the better.

Daniel Stillman

Conversations can look like a sloshing sea of opinions and arguments, but there’s a pattern underlaying the seeming chaos. There are only a few distinct “moves” we can make inside a conversation, diagrammed below.

Are you someone tho prefers to take a turn? Or do you tend to wait and see which way the wind blows? The former is an “initiator” (at the base of the diamond); the latter is someone who “holds” space at waits (at the center).

Once someone has opened their mouth and opened the floor, what happens next? Some of us tend to immediately react, either positively or negatively (at the apex of the diagram). In both reactions, that move is fairly habitual. I’m sure you know someone who always has something nice to say about everything, or maybe you hang out with people who always focus on the negative.

The default reaction of listening deeply before expressing an opinion is a “reflective” response, seen on the right side of the diagram. This individual peels back layers of meaning before adding their own.

The fifth option could be to reframe the conversation. Reframing can look like “glass half full” thinking, or shifting problems into opportunities. Reframing can powerfully shift a conversation, or feel like an unwelcome erasure of a real issue on the table.

Each of these five “moves” steers the ship of the conversation.

Daniel Stillman, Good Talk

A NEXT STEP

Use the following “active listening script” from author Daniel Stillman to frame how you can deepen your connection with people.

  1. Paraphrase what you just heard the person say in neutral terms. Start with the phrase, “I’m hearing you say…” You can also use the phrase, “Okay, wait…” to give yourself a second to get centered.
  2. Confirm your summary, asking, “Is that right?” Or “Did I get that?”
  3. If they say yes; ask, “Is there anything I missed?” Go deeper.
  4. Wait. Count to three. If they confirm that there’s more, they’ll say more. If they indicate that you got it wrong, they will correct you if you give them time.
  5. Lather, rinse, repeat. Try step 1 again, or continue with normal turn-taking if you feel comfortable doing so.

Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

How to Reframe Problems and Develop New Solutions

We are living in an age of disruption. According to Fast Company co-founder William C. Taylor, you can’t do big things anymore if you are content with doing things a little better than everyone else, or a little differently from how you’ve done them in the past. The most effective leaders don’t just rally their teams to outrace the “competition” or outpace prior results. They strive to redefine the terms of competition by embracing one-of-a-kind ideas in a world filled with copy-cat thinking. 

What sets truly innovative organizations apart often comes down to one simple question: What can we see that others cannot?

If you believe that what you see shapes how you change, then the question for change-minded leaders in times of disruption becomes: How do you look at your organization as if you are seeing it for the first time?

The question is not what you look at, but what you see. 

Henry David Thoreau

When you learn to see with fresh eyes, you’re able to differentiate your organization from the competition (and your “competition” isn’t the church down the street). You’re able to change the way your organization sees all the different types of environments around it, and the way your others see your organization.

This mentality is the ability to keep shifting opinion and perception. We live in a world that is less black and white and more shades of gray world, not a black and while one. Seeing in this way means shifting your focus from objects or patterns that are in the foreground to those in the background. It means thinking of things that are usually assumed to be negative as positive, and vice versa. It can mean reversing assumptions about cause and effect, or what matters most versus least.

In a season filled with uncertainty, how can you cultivate a sense of confidence about what lies ahead?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Stephen M. Shapiro, Invisible Solutions: 25 Lenses that Reframe and Help Solve Difficult Business Problems

Unprecedented access to infinite solutions has led us to realize that having all of the answers is not the answer. From innovation teams to creativity experts to crowdsourcing, we’ve turned from one source to another, spending endless cycles pursuing piecemeal solutions to each challenge we face.

What if your organization had an effective systematic approach to deal with any problem?

To find better solutions, you need to first ask better questions. The questions you ask determine which solutions you’ll see and which will remain hidden.

This compact yet powerful book contains the formulas to reframe any problem multiple ways, using 25 lenses to help you gain different perspectives. With visual examples and guidance, it contains everything you need to start mastering any challenge.

Apply just one of the lenses and you will quickly discover better solutions. Apply all of them and you will be able to solve any problem, in business and in life.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely, but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages. 

Mark Twain

According to author Stephen M. Shapiro, the process for driving better results doesn’t start with great ideas – it starts with better questions.

When faced with disruption and myriad challenges, we crave answers. It’s a natural human instinct.

But having answers is not the answer.

Asking different and better questions is the key to finding better solutions.

By using “reframing lenses,” you will see your problems and opportunities more clearly, and come up with creative answers that will boggle your mind.

Reframing lenses are a powerful tool that transforms complex problems into simple and practical solutions.

By changing the questions you ask, you can uncover answers that were previously hidden from sight. And the tool to help you reframe those questions – and shine light on invisible solutions – are twenty-five lenses.

Stephen M. Shapiro

How do we systematically challenge our assumptions? Using the lens of “reframing” will help you bring your assumptions to the surface. The process of reframing requires that you systematically question the direction you are going.

To help you sift through the lenses, they are grouped into five categories, with five lenses per category:

Reduce Abstraction – Make questions more specific when they are too broad.

  • Leverage
  • Deconstruct
  • Reduce
  • Eliminate
  • Hyponym

Increase Abstraction – Make questions less specific if the challenge is too narrowly defined.

  • Analogy
  • Result
  • Concern Reframe
  • Stretch
  • Hypernym

Change Perspective – Look at the question with a fresh set of eyes.

  • Resequence
  • Reassign
  • Access
  • Emotion
  • Substitute

Switch Elements – Swap multiple factors to get new ideas.

  • Flip
  • Conflicts
  • Performance Paradox
  • Pain vs Gain
  • Bad Idea

Zero-In – Ask the best question to help solve your problem.

  • Real problem
  • Real business
  • Insights
  • Variations
  • Observation

Stephen M. Shapiro, Invisible Solutions: 25 Lenses that Reframe and Help Solve Difficult Business Problems

A NEXT STEP

Use the following ideas from author Stephen Shapiro as a way to begin reframing problems through the use of the lenses listed above. Even without having access to the book and complete definitions and explanations of the lenses, you will be able to see how valuable they can be in overcoming challenges.

Identify an issue, problem, opportunity, or challenge that you want to address. As you are doing this, remember to always bring your assumptions to the surface.

Write down your challenge on a chart tablet in the form of “How can we…”

Once you develop your first iteration of your “How can we” question, you can apply lenses to help you reframe it. Review the list above to see which lenses fit best. Or, better yet, try all of the lenses and force them to fit. You will find that every lens can be applied to any challenge, although some might be more difficult.

Write down as many variations as you can. Try to do it at least six times. A half dozen variations using at least six lenses. More is better as it stretches your thinking.

There are a couple of things to look out for as you go through this process. For starters, avoid jumping to solutions. It is so tempting to fry to find answers before you have created a great list of questions: Stay in the challenge formulation phase.

Also, it is valuable to apply one lens more than one time to a given problem. It is all too easy to find a quick reframe and move on. It takes more discipline to find multiple variations from a single lens.

Recognize that questions beget more questions. Sometimes when you ask a question, you might need to answer another question in order to move forward. Although answering an insight question might not provide a solution, it should provide information that will help you further reframe your primary question.

The point is that it is important to practice reframing. As you go through this process, ask which of the reframed questions seems to create the greatest results. Different questions will create different solutions, which will result in different levels of value.


Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Rest is Not an Option for Leaders

They are too alive to die, and too dead to live.

This haunting observation of most people in the Western world was made by the Korean philosopher Byung-Chu Han.

We all have our own stories of trying to stay sane in the day and age of mobile phones, connected watches, a twenty-four-hour news cycle blaring from our devices, unceasing demands from family, church members, and our team, and …

Do you feel weary?

Do you feel burdened?

You’re not alone.

The most common answer to the question, “How are you?” is, “I’m good – just busy.”

That answer comes from everywhere, bridging gaps of gender, age, ethnicity, and class. Empty-nesters working from home are busy, even with their kids and grandkids spread across the country. New parents are busy, with a new mom headed back to work while the new dad begins the first week of parental leave. Even middle-schoolers are busy trying to juggle three different platforms of distance learning while helping around the home while trying to stay connected with their best friend in the neighborhood two streets over.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity by Saundra Dalton-Smith

Staying busy is easy. Staying well rested – now there’s a challenge.

How can you keep your energy, happiness, creativity, and relationships fresh and thriving in the midst of never-ending family demands, career pressures, and the stress of everyday life? 

In Sacred Rest, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, a board-certified internal medicine doctor, reveals why rest can no longer remain optional.

Dr. Dalton-Smith shares seven types of rest she has found lacking in the lives of those she encounters in her clinical practice and research-physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, sensory, social, creative-and why a deficiency in any one of these types of rest can have unfavorable effects on your health, happiness, relationships, creativity, and productivity. 

Sacred Rest combines the science of rest, the spirituality of rest, the gifts of rest, and the resulting fruit of rest. It shows rest as something sacred, valuable, and worthy of our respect.

By combining scientific research with personal stories, spiritual insight, and practical next steps, Sacred Rest gives the weary permission to embrace rest, set boundaries, and seek sanctuary without any guilt, shame, or fear.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

As a society that is now driven by better and faster technology, rest has become a lost art.

According to research, over eight million people in the United States struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep each and every night. 45 percent of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep affected their daily activities at least once a week. This epidemic has led to poor job performance, depressions, and overall dissatisfaction with quality of life and productivity.

According to author Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, finding genuine rest is more than overcoming insomnia.

Sleep is not rest. As different parts of an intricate system, sleep and rest are designed to work together to ensure every part of you has a way to regenerate and be restored.

Aborting rest empties me of everything holy. It strips me of the ability to treasure life and peels away the value of being. A life without periods of rest will not endure the daily grind.

Saundra Dalton-Smith

Physical Rest

None of us are at our best when depleted. Our bodies cannot fully function when they are in a constant fight for excellence high-performance, maximum effectiveness, and optimal capacity. It’s time to transition from our daily hustle to daily hush. In the hush, tension releases and recovery begins.

Mental Rest

Our mental background noise is often infused with negativity. Thoughts about the future are contaminated with anxiety, thoughts about the past are tainted with regret, and thoughts about the present are spoiled with discontentment. Mental rest involves relinquishing the constant stream of thoughts entering your mind quickly and obtaining a sense of cerebral stillness.

Emotional Rest

You experience emotional rest when you no longer feel the need to perform or meet external expectations. When our emotional withdrawals exceed our emotional capacity, we will experience emotional fatigue. Emotional rest is a deposit back into our emotional account.

Spiritual Rest

We all need sanctuary, a secure place where protection reigns and comfort is received. There we find a sense of security and peace that flows from our connection to God. Sanctuary is where we lay down our fight and rest. In the process, we find our way back home to a relationship with God.

Social Rest

Social rest is when we find comfort in our relationships and social interactions. It is the ability to find solace in another. Social rest reconnects us to uplifting, rewarding relationship exchanges. Just as the body hungers, your soul also hungers for connection. Loneliness is the soul’s pleas to feed your need for social rest.

Sensory Rest

Our overly busy and overly stimulating society has created the perfect environment for sensory overload, each technology advancement chipping away at the sanctity of our five senses. Periodic times of selective sensory deprivation deliberately  remove external distractions and stimuli from your senses in order to reenergize them.

Creative Rest

We need periods of creative rest to rejoice in and complement God’s work. We need his example to show us what creative rest looks like. Creative rest uses all God has created around us to create something inside of us.

Saundra Dalton-Smith, Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity

A NEXT STEP

First, take time to review each of the seven types of rest as described by author Saundra Dalton-Smith. On a scale of one to five, with one meaning “I never rest like this” and five meaning “I am able to rest like this most of the time,” score each type.

For types of rest where you scored a “three” or below, use the following suggestions from the author to become better at resting in that area.

Physical Rest

  • Practice body fluidity – When awake, don’t stay in the same position for more than an hour. Small acts of motion will help prevent stiffness from setting in.
  • Give stillness purpose – Choose to be totally still on purpose for five minutes while lying down, breathing in deeply to remember who is breathing into you.
  • Prepare for sleep – Develop a bedtime routine to prepare your body for sleep.

Mental Rest

  • Time block low-yield activities – Schedule all your energy-draining but necessary tasks into one time block, to be completed only then.
  • Meditate – Make a conscious effort to fill your mental space with restorative thoughts.
  • Create a mental sanctuary – Choose a characteristic of God (like the fruit of the Spirit) to rest on each day, giving you a mental place to return to throughout the day.

Emotional Rest

  • Be emotionally aware – Learn how to give and receive in relationships in ways that leave you emotionally healthy.
  • Cease comparisons – Acknowledge any areas where you may be comparing yourself to others, and give yourself permission to cease comparing.
  • Risk vulnerability – Cultivate rewarding relationships with those in whom you can find the strength to be vulnerable.

Spiritual Rest

  • Explore relationship – God is much easier to know when you take religion out of the question. His first request is simply to love Him.
  • Practice communion – In the privacy of your secret place, lift both hands high above your head to simply prove, “I need help.”
  • Reunite body-mind-spirit – If you want the help of the Healer, you must get to where He is and be still long enough to be examined.

Social Rest

  • Prioritize face-to-face time – Experience the closeness of being face-to-face and use those times to find comfort in the relationships you value.
  • Listen and learn – If most of your time with your closest relationship involves you talking, consider shutting up and listening.
  • Nurture your need to connect – Rest is active, restorative, and relational. Find the people you naturally connected to, and you will find an endless source of social rest.

Sensory Rest

  • Unplug – Too much external stimulation clogs up your life and slows down the flow of rest in your body. Try setting a time each day when you completely disconnect from technology.
  • Test your sensory response – Taste, see, feel, smell, and listen with the liberty to add or subtract from the sensory inputs in your life.
  • Identify and target – Identify one sensory stressor regularly encountered in your life, and work to undo the effect of that specific constant stimulation.

Creative Rest

  • Build sabbaticals into your life – Learn to slip in and out of periods of restfulness in the mist of great productivity.
  • Practice flow-break rhythm – Practice developing a flow of optimal performance for ninety minutes to two hours, followed by twenty minutes of a scheduled rest break.
  • Work with your body clock – Adjust your schedule one day this week to incorporate your must-do activities during the times when your body is wired to respond optimally.

Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Do You Know How to Use Empathetic Listening Skills?

How many people do you know that approach a conversation as if it were a competition, going something like this: When I pause, you jump in with your thoughts; when you pause, I jump back in so I can top your story or hijack the conversation back to my side.

It’s a fight for control.

Your conversations will be smoother and more successful if you remember that every sentence in a conversation has a history, and you have to practice deliberate listening skills to understand that history better so you can understand the person behind it better.

There’s another way to look at it. The human brain can process somewhere between 350 and 550 words a minute, while most people usually only speak around 120 words a minute. In virtually every exchange of communication, each participating brain has room for 230-375 extra words’ worth of thought to float around. That gives our minds plenty of chance to drift and wander, whether we’re the one speaking or listening.

It’s so easy to slide into the basic communication pitfall of drifting away from the person speaking, often thinking about what we’re going to say next rather than being focused on what we’re communicating or what’s being said to us.

It’s time to challenge your brain to stay in the moment, to be fully present in listening to a conversation, not just preparing how you’re going to respond.

It’s called active listening.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – 4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication by Bento C. Leal III

4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication in Love, Life, Work–Anywhere! is an excellent ‘How-To Guide’ for practicing the key skills that will help you identify and overcome communication barriers and achieve relationship success with the important people in your life–your spouse or partner, child or children, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, customers–everyone!

These skills will help you to:

  • Listen with greater empathy and understanding to what the other person is saying and feeling
  • Avoid listening blocks to effective communication
  • Engage in empathic dialogue to achieve mutual understanding
  • Manage conflicts and disagreements calmly and successfully
  • Nurture your relationships on a consistent basis
  • Experience the power of expressing gratitude and appreciation

An Action Guide at the end of the book will help you practice a particular skill step each day thus growing in confidence and ability as you do.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author Bento Leal, most of us think we are fairly decent listeners. In other words, when another person is speaking, we are listening, and basically understanding what they are saying – end of story.

However, if we are honest, many times in a conversation our minds wander off while the other person is speaking.

Or, when another person is speaking to us, we are thinking about our response to them rather than focusing on what they are saying in the moment.

What about jumping in with your own ideas while the other person is still speaking to you?

The problem with all of the above situations is that we are not really empathizing with the speaker, and trying to understand their meaning from their point of view, particularly on topics that are of importance to them.

The power of Empathic Listening can help make a healthy relationship even better, and it can help a relationship that’s veered off course move back into a positive direction.

Bento C. Leall III

The Empathetic Listening Skill has 5 steps:

  1. Quiet your mind and focus on the other person as they are speaking. As we listen to what the other person is saying, focusing on their underlying feelings about what they’re saying, and try to get “locked in” to their perspective, the peripheral distractions will start to disappear.
  2. Listen fully and openly to what they are saying, in their words and body language, without bias, defensiveness, or thinking about what you’ll say next. Actively listen. As we do so, we’ll likely get the full meaning of what they’re communicating.
  3. Listen “through the words” to the deeper thoughts and feelings that you sense from the speaker. If I only listen to the words you say, and with only my definition of those words, then I might get only a surface understanding of what you’re trying to communicate. 
  4. Don’t interrupt them as they are speaking to you or try to finish their sentences. Just listen! Interrupting other people when they are speaking is a major communication problem, even when people think they are showing empathy by “engaging” the speaker by talking while the speaker is talking or they think this will help speed up the conversation.
  5. Say back to them, in your own words, what they said and their feelings that you sensed from them to make sure you understand them correctly and they feel understood. They may think they explained themselves fully, but by your feedback – saying back in your own words what they said – they will clearly know if it was enough or if they need to explain more.

Bento C. Leal III, 4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication

A NEXT STEP 

Set aside time in a future meeting to practice the five steps listed above.

Prior to the meeting, copy and distribute this to all of your team members. Ask them to read it in preparation for a team exercise. Also ask them to come prepared to discuss a personal or work situation that they are stuck on, and need advice.

Divide your teams in groups of two; if you have an odd number on your team, have one group consist of three members.

Set a timer for seven minutes. Ask one individual to share his problem, and ask the other individual to listen. When the time is up, ask the group to switch roles.

When the second timer is up, set aside ten minutes, and ask each group member to take no more than five minutes each.  Go through the five steps above, and have each member discuss how their partner did or did not adequately use empathic listening as described in the step.

At the end of this ten-minute period, call the entire group together, and spend 10-15 minutes discussing how this exercise can be used in their personal and team settings to be a better listener, and therefore, a better leader.

By consensus, determine the one step that the team needs to work on, by determination of how it was used in the group exercise. At each team meeting for the next month, use three minutes as a reminder to strengthen this step, and ask for one “celebration” story each month of how a team member successfully used it.


Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Disney’s Missed Opportunity at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Walt Disney World

My recent trip to Walt Disney World for the kickoff of its 50th Anniversary celebration was a special time all the way round. My wife and I were joined by my daughter and son-in-law for 5 days and four nights of non-stop fun, food, and memories.

With a solid passion for Disney history, I was certainly an outlier of the tens of thousands who began lining up at the gates as early as 4 a.m. on October 1. (Note: I didn’t line up that early – my wife and I walked over from the Contemporary Resort at a much more respectable 7:30 a.m.).

Unlike the majority of Guests there, I wasn’t driven to acquire the large assortment of special anniversary merchandise (more to come on this in a future post).

I was there to celebrate an extraordinary achievement of the vision of Walt Disney, culminating in the efforts of thousands of team members for over six years: the creation of Walt Disney World.


The realtime thoughts and images of the 50th Anniversary kickoff were documented on my Instagram account.

I will continue to unpack that day here as well as on Guest Experience Design.

Even with all the good memories, I did have one major disappointment. I even knew it was coming, but was hoping for a last-minute big surprise.

Alas, it didn’t materialize.

Most of the crowd present at Magic Kingdom didn’t even miss it, which is sad.

Because without this one attraction, Disney parks as we know them wouldn’t exist.

And in my opinion, this “miss” for me was indicative of a bigger miss throughout the day.

I want it to look like nothing else in the world. And it should be surrounded by a train.

Walt Disney

The creation story of Disneyland, the first “theme” park in the world and the model for all Disney parks to follow, is somewhat clouded.

Depending on who is telling it, or even when it is told, the origins of Disneyland can start with a park bench, model making, boredom, or a boyhood fascination with trains.

There is a measure of truth to all of them. It is certain is that all of these influences in the life of Walt Disney contributed to the resulting creation.

Personally, I lean toward Walt’s love of trains as the primary inspiration for Disneyland.

His small-scale fascination led to a full-scale kingdom.

Michael Broggie, Walt Disney’s Railroad Story

As a bona fide Disney fan, focusing on the history of the man and the company that bears his name (especially from the late 1920s to the mid-1960s), I can trace “railroad” stories from Walt (and about Walt) that reinforce this.

Those railroad stories could (and do) fill several books – the best of which is Walt Disney’s Railroad Story, by Michael Broggie.

It’s a fascinating book, and when the author knew of Walt Disney as “Uncle Walt,” and had the enviable role as a teenager to assist Walt in the operation of the Carolwood Pacific Railroad (Disney’s personal, rideable miniature railroad in the backyard of his home), you know the stories are going to be memorable, filled with detail, and a fascinating read.

You see, Michael Broggie’s father Roger E. Broggie, was a precision machinist who joined the Disney Studios in 1939. Broggie’s accomplishments at the studio were wide-ranging, but in the early 1950s he was promoted to the head of the Disney Studios’ Machine Shop, where he became a transportation specialist. 

And where did he fine-tune the skills needed to create all the unique transportation vehicles found at Disneyland and later at Walt Disney World?

In building Walt Disney’s backyard railroad.

On the Carolwood Pacific Railroad.

The Carolwood Pacific Railroad (CPRR) was a 7 1/4-inch gauge ridable miniature railroad run by Walt Disney in the backyard of his home in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. 

It featured the Lilly Belle, a 1:8-scale live steam locomotive named after Disney’s wife, Lillian Disney, and built by the Walt Disney Studios’ machine shop. The locomotive made its first test run on December 24, 1949. It pulled a set of freight cars, as well as a caboose that was almost entirely built by Disney himself. 

It was Disney’s lifelong fascination with trains, as well as his interest in miniature models, that led to the creation of the CPRR. The railroad, which became operational in 1950, was a half-mile long and encircled his house. The backyard railroad attracted visitors to Disney’s home; he invited them to ride and occasionally drive his miniature train.

With the creation of a personal railroad, Disney’s next step could only be designing and building the real thing.

Research into the earliest development of Disney’s “park” reveals a constant: the presence of a railroad with a steam engine pulling cars that people could ride in.

So, any visit to a Disney theme park for me must include a ride on the Disney Railroad.

Unfortunately, at Walt Disney World, the railroad has been out of commission since 2018 for the pandemic-delayed construction of the TRON Lightcycle Run, a new attraction coming to the Magic Kingdom in 2022. The train tracks have been rerouted, through the Lightcycle attraction inside a tunnel, according to information released by Disney in concept art.

I knew that any surprise announcement that the train would be running on October 1 was unlikely, but it wasn’t until I rode the People Mover early that morning and saw the view of the dismantled train tracks, plainly visible where they would run through the future Lightcycle attraction, that the disappointment set in.

In the meantime, the train is available as the perfect backdrop for a memorable photo at different places in the park.

For me, “the perfect backdrop” of a static display is a far cry from the swaying motion of the train as it circles the park.

The way Walt Disney dreamed about it from the time he was a young boy…

…until he made it happen.


This (somewhat) detailed explanation of a personal miss for me highlights a bigger missed opportunity for Disney during the opening days of their 18-month long celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World –

Disney seems to be forgetting where it came from, and therefore, is struggling to determine where it is going.

How to Lead with Flash Foresight

We are living in an age of disruption. According to Fast Company co-founder William C. Taylor, you can’t do big things anymore if you are content with doing things a little better than everyone else, or a little differently from how you’ve done them in the past. The most effective leaders don’t just rally their teams to outrace the “competition” or outpace prior results. They strive to redefine the terms of competition by embracing one-of-a-kind ideas in a world filled with copy-cat thinking. 

What sets truly innovative organizations apart often comes down to one simple question: What can we see that others cannot?

If you believe that what you see shapes how you change, then the question for change-minded leaders in times of disruption becomes: How do you look at your organization as if you are seeing it for the first time?

The question is not what you look at, but what you see. 

Henry David Thoreau

When you learn to see with fresh eyes, you’re able to differentiate your organization from the competition (and your “competition” isn’t the church down the street). You’re able to change the way your organization sees all the different types of environments around it, and the way your others see your organization.

This mentality is the ability to keep shifting opinion and perception. We live in a world that is less black and white and more shades of gray world, not a black and while one. Seeing in this way means shifting your focus from objects or patterns that are in the foreground to those in the background. It means thinking of things that are usually assumed to be negative as positive, and vice versa. It can mean reversing assumptions about cause and effect, or what matters most versus least.

In a season filled with uncertainty, how can you cultivate a sense of confidence about what lies ahead?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible by Daniel Burrus

Flash Foresight offers seven radical principles you need to transform your organization today. 

From internationally renowned technology forecaster Daniel Burrus—a leading consultant to Google, Proctor & Gamble, IBM, and many other Fortune 500 firms—with John David Mann, co-author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller The Go-Giver, comes this systematic, easy-to-implement method for identifying new business opportunities and solving difficult problems in the twenty-first century marketplace.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author Daniel Burrus, all of us have had fleeting glimpses of where things might be heading. We have all said, “I knew I should have done that,” or “I knew that would happen.”

That’s hindsight, and it happens because you don’t typically know ahead of time when your hunch is accurate and when it’s not.

What if you could make a distinction and learn to develop glimpses of the future that are reliable foresight, and not just those that are simply hunches?

Flash foresight is a blinding flash of the future obvious. It is an intuitive grasp of the foreseeable future that, once you see it, reveals hidden opportunities and allows you to solve your biggest problems – before they happen.

Daniel Burrus

Flash Foresight is a sensibility, a skill you can develop, refine, and strengthen. 

Flash Foresight is what you get when you combine a shift of perspective, a willingness to get down on your hands and knees and look at things from a fresh point of view, with a grasp of where current trends of change are taking us in the future. It’a about transforming the impossible with a glimpse of the possible.

Flash Foresight Triggers

1. Start with certainty (use hard trends to see what’s coming).

2. Anticipate (base your strategies on what you know about the future).

3. Transform (use technology-driven change to your advantage).

4. Take your biggest problem and skip it (it’s not the real problem anyway).

5. Go opposite (look where not one else is looking to see what no one else is seeing and do what no one else is doing).

6. Redefine and reinvent (identify and leverage your uniqueness in new and powerful ways).

7. Direct your future (or someone else will direct it for you).

Daniel Burrus, Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible

A NEXT STEP 

Using the following ideas below from the author as starters, set up a team meeting with the express purpose of practicing flash foresight.

First, create seven chart tablets, with the word or phrases in bold below as headers.

Next, read the paragraphs below under each section as the launching point for a ten minute discussion of that section. As your team responds to the prompt, write all ideas on the chart tablet. Complete each chart tablet the same way.

Next, at the end of ten minutes, take one minute and identify the top three ideas/actions that would impact your church the most. Circle and number them accordingly.

Finally, review all chart tablets, and on a new chart tablet, write the top three ideas/actions from each of the seven sections. As a group, determine which single one idea/actions from each section that you agree is the most important. Create seven teams of three leaders – one from your team and two other individuals in your church – to research each idea/action more thoroughly, and report back to your leadership team in one month. At that review meeting, force rank the seven ideas/actions, and plan to launch the most important one within two weeks.

Start with certainty

Typically we limit ourselves by looking at all the things we don’t know and all the things we can’t do. Instead, create the habit of starting with a list of things you can know and do. Don’t let yourself get boxed in by the word can’t. Every time you bump into something you aren’t certain about, put that to the side and keep focusing on the things you are certain about. What are our certainties?

Anticipate

Being preactive means anticipating the future before it happens. Being anticipatory, instead of reactive, allows us to change fro the inside out, instead of being forced to change from the outside in. How can we begin to anticipate the future?

Transform

Change means doing the same thing, only with difference. Transformation means doing something completely different. It’s no longer enough to change; no matter what field we’re in, we need to transform. There is no organization that is not going to transform dramatically and fundamentally over the years ahead – whether or not we want it to. What does radiation transformation look like for your organization?

Take your biggest problem and skip it

A difficult problem can easily become a roadblock so large that it seems impossible to get around. The result is often procrastination and paralysis. The key to unraveling our biggest problems is to recognize that they are typically not our real problem. Skipping our biggest problem, instead of trying to solve it, sets our minds free to discover and engage with the real problem. What problem do we need to skip for now?

Go opposite

One powerful way to trigger a flash foresight is to take note of where everyone else is looking, and then look in the opposite direction. Looking where no one else is looking helps you see what no one else is seeing, and then do what no one else is doing. What are some opposite directions we should consider?

Redefine and reinvent

Reinventing our organizations based on the visible changes taking place has always been a powerful strategy, but today it has become a continuous imperative. Reinvention is not the same as adding a twist or a new feature; once something is reinvented, it never goes back to being the way it was before. What do we need to reinvent?

Direct your future

To a certain extent, our vision of the future is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Change your view of the future and you direct your future. Our vision of the future drives our choices and our behaviors, which produce our outcomes and shape our lives. We become what we dream. Which means that if we want to know what we are becoming, we need to ask, what are we dreaming?


Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

It’s Time to Stop Setting Goals

They are too alive to die, and too dead to live.

This haunting observation of most people in the Western world was made by the Korean philosopher Byung-Chu Han.

We all have our own stories of trying to stay sane in the day and age of mobile phones, connected watches, a twenty-four-hour news cycle blaring from our devices, unceasing demands from family, church members, and our team, and …

Do you feel weary?

Do you feel burdened?

You’re not alone.

The most common answer to the question, “How are you?” is, “I’m good – just busy.”

That answer comes from everywhere, bridging gaps of gender, age, ethnicity, and class. Empty-nesters working from home are busy, even with their kids and grandkids spread across the country. New parents are busy, with a new mom headed back to work while the new dad begins the first week of parental leave. Even middle-schoolers are busy trying to juggle three different platforms of distance learning while helping around the home while trying to stay connected with their best friend in the neighborhood two streets over.

You feel over-worked, over-booked, and over-connected – how can you reclaim your health and wellness again?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – To Hell With the Hustle: Reclaiming Your Life in an Overworked, Overspent, and Overconnected World by Jefferson Bethke

Our culture makes constant demands of us: Do more. Accomplish more. Buy more. Post more. Be more.

In following these demands, we have indeed become more: More anxious. More tired. More hurt. More depressed. More frantic.

What we are doing isn’t working!

In a society where hustle is the expectation, busyness is the norm and information is king, we have forgotten the fundamentals that make us human, anchor our lives, and provide meaning.

Jefferson Bethke, New York Times bestselling author and popular YouTuber, has lived the hustle and knows we need to stop doing and start becoming.   

After reading this book, you will discover:

  • How to proactively set boundaries in your life
  • How to get comfortable with obscurity
  • The best way to push back against the demands of contemporary life
  • The importance of embracing silence and solitude
  • How to handle the stressors that life throws at us

Join Bethke as he discovers that the very things the world teaches us to avoid at all costs–silence, obscurity, solitude, and vulnerability–are the very things that can give us the meaning, and the richness we are truly looking for.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author Jefferson Bethke, after only a decade or two of living up to the unrealistic cultural expectations of our times, many of us turn around and realize we can’t find the meaning we thought we were striving for.

We’ve been hustling, but hustling toward an empty grave.

It’s as if millions of us are on a treadmill, believing we’re going somewhere when we’re actually going nowhere. All that work, energy, and effort – yet we’re running for nothing.

Only those who are anchored in a richer and deeper and more meaningful experience than the one our culture is currently offering won’t get sucked away.

I’ve began to understand that we are created for formation, not goal-setting.

Jefferson Bethke

In general, goals are usually about a finish line. Something you can reach for and then be done once you accomplish it. It’s about doing something.

Formations, on the other hand, aren’t about doing something but about being someone. One is usually about activity, while the other is about identity. 

Goals are linear and resemble a straight line. Formations look more like a circle, where you are constantly coming back to the same place to seek renewal and refreshment in a particular practice. One is about a result, the other is about a process.

Why does this distinction matter so much? I think because Scripture doesn’t talk much about goals. But it is deeply focused on our identity. On who we are becoming.

Are we becoming more like Jesus by the practices and formations we are doing?

Here’s a quick way to think about it. Traditional goals are like an arrow aiming for a bull’s-eye. Formations, through are less like a bull’s-eye and more like an arrow bent in a circle.

One is linear and final. Once is circular and forever.

One doesn’t really change you. One can transform your life.

Jefferson Bethke, To Hell With the Hustle: Reclaiming Your Life in an Overworked, Overspent, and Overconnected World

A NEXT STEP 

Author Jefferson Bethke says that we are becoming someone and something. We are being formed. We are an image that is reflecting.

Reflecting what?

Our society has long had a pattern of considering something new as invigorating and exciting, adopting it at full scale and with full embrace without questioning the consequences. Then, thirty or fifty years later, the negative impact begins to show, and regulations begin to pop up.

Consider your current use of social media platforms. Where do you find yourself in the following list?

  1. This is cool and exciting.
  2. The is actually the best thing ever created. How did people even live without it before?
  3. The is still the best thing ever, and I can’t imagine my life without it, but it seems to be hurting me also.
  4. It’s definitely hurting me and I probably need to live without it in some way.

If we are honest, many people would answer somewhere between “2” and “3” – and heading quickly toward “4.”

While this is not a diatribe or condemnation of social media, it is an accurate observation of how dangerous something like social media usage is to becoming more like Jesus.

Here’s a strategy suggested by Deep Work author Cal Newport to reducing some of the complexity in deciding whether a social media tool is useful to you in “being formed.”

The first step of this strategy is to identify the main high-level areas in your personal and professional life. When you’re done you should have a small number of areas for both the professional and personal areas of your life.

Once you’ve identified these areas, list for each the two or three most important activities that help you achieve that area of your life.

The final step in this strategy is to consider the social media tools you currently use. For each such tool, go through the key activities you identified and ask whether the use of the tool has a substantially positive impact, a substantially negative impact, or little impact on your regular and successful participation in the activity.

Now comes the important decision: Keep using this tool only if you concluded that it has substantial positive impacts and that these outweigh the negative impacts.


Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

How to Practice the Art of Active Listening

How many people do you know that approach a conversation as if it were a competition, going something like this: When I pause, you jump in with your thoughts; when you pause, I jump back in so I can top your story or hijack the conversation back to my side.

It’s a fight for control.

Your conversations will be smoother and more successful if you remember that every sentence in a conversation has a history, and you have to practice deliberate listening skills to understand that history better so you can understand the person behind it better.

There’s another way to look at it. The human brain can process somewhere between 350 and 550 words a minute, while most people usually only speak around 120 words a minute. In virtually every exchange of communication, each participating brain has room for 230-375 extra words’ worth of thought to float around. That gives our minds plenty of chance to drift and wander, whether we’re the one speaking or listening.

It’s so easy to slide into the basic communication pitfall of drifting away from the person speaking, often thinking about what we’re going to say next rather than being focused on what we’re communicating or what’s being said to us.

It’s time to challenge your brain to stay in the moment, to be fully present in listening to a conversation, not just preparing how you’re going to respond.

It’s called active listening.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Communication Skills Training by James W. Williams

Have you ever been misunderstood and misinterpreted? Do you sometimes misunderstand or misinterpret the signals you are receiving?

These situations indicate the inability to communicate appropriately, and it can prove to be detrimental in life and your career. You might be surprised at how many opportunities you could be missing out on. Likewise, a lot of relationships have been ruined because people do not know how to send out the right signals or receive them properly.

What if I told you that “communicating” is not only simple and straightforward but also easy to master?

However, with so much false information taught by the “gurus,” it is sometimes hard to cut through the noise. That’s where this book comes in.

This book will give you everything you need to become a better and more effective communicator.

The book Communication Skills Training: How to Talk to Anyone, Connect Effortlessly, Develop Charisma, and Become a People Person provides a comprehensive guide on how you can quickly move through conversations, and express yourself in a manner that is conducive to relationship-building and productivity.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author James Williams, many people do not fully realize the impact successful, two-way conversations have on our daily lives.

While most of us feel comfortable at some level speaking to others, many people do not understand the importance of “listening” in a conversation.

You might be surprised to find out that the ability to process information being directed at you is just as important as clearly conveying your thoughts and ideas. 

But listening is not enough. You also have to do it in an empathetic and attentive manner in order to carry on a conversation.

Surprisingly, one of the most important tools that you need to develop in your communication skills is not your mouth. It is those two things on either side of your head.

James W. Williams

The most basic explanation of active listening is that it is the kind of listening that involves the use of one’s full concentration. The goal of this type of listening is to understand the person delivering the message.

Active listening is a skill which you have to develop over time. To do this, here are some steps to help you make yourself an active and effective listener.

  1. Eye Contact

When you talk to a person and you try your best to avoid meeting their eyes, this is a telltale sign that you are not giving the conversation your full attention. When a person is speaking to you, stay focused on your gaze to lock your attention to the conversation at hand.

2. Relax

There is a difference between making eye contact and staring fixedly at the person. The goal is to maintain focus while tuning out all distractions.

3. An Open Mind

Indulging in mental criticisms in the middle of a conversation will impede your ability to effectively listen to the other person. You must listen without making any hasty conclusions.

4. Visualize

The best way to retain and process information in your brain is to convert that information into a “mental image” of sorts. This could be a sequence of abstract things forming a narrative or even an actual mental picture.

5. Avoid Interjections

When you interrupt a person, you convey messages of self-importance or pressing time. What you have to understand is that people think and feel at very different paces.

6. Wait for the Stop

A stop in a conversation happens when a person does not add anything else after a second or so of not talking. Once the stop has occurred, you can then present your response.

7. Maintain Course

The things that we say right after a person is done talking have, more often than not, nothing to do with the topic, but it is easy to derail an entire conversation this way.

8. Step in Their Shoes

Learn to synchronize your emotions with that of the speaker’s. Make your reactions visible through the words you say and the expressions you show.

9. Give Feedback

It is not enough that you see things from that person’s perspective or understand what they are feeling. You also have to visibly confirm to the speaker that you are listening.

10. Pay Attention to What Isn’t Said

Most of the direct forms of communication you will regularly encounter are non-verbal. It is up to you to know how to pick up on non-verbal clues.

James W. Williams, Communication Skills Training

A NEXT STEP

Set aside an hour of time to use the list above as a “self-check” on your active listening skills.

First, review the list above to make sure you have a good understanding of what the author is trying to convey in defining the characteristic of listening.

Next, write each phrase down the left side of a chart tablet for use during the rest of this exercise.

Next, thinking back over the past week, briefly write words or a phrase that demonstrates when you DID or DID NOT use this characteristic in a conversation. Your goal should be to have at least one example (positive or negative) for each of the ten characteristics.

Next, review the list, and circle up to three characteristics that you DID NOT practice. Choose one, and brainstorm how you will improve in this area in your conversations over the next week. At the end of the week, reflect on how you have done. 

Repeat this last step for the next two weeks if you listed any characteristics that needed improving.

This exercise can also be easily adapted for use in your team meetings.


Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.