tips for harnessing creative intelligence and collaboration

Facilitation is one of those skills that we don’t always fully appreciate until something goes wrong: the conversation in a strategy meeting goes off the rails, or a brainstorming ideation session goes nowhere.

But when done well, facilitation can unlock the collective intelligence of a team to reach clarity, harness new insights, and develop breakthrough thinking.

5 Keys of Facilitation — drawing of a hand
5 Keys of Facilitation — drawing of a hand

So how do we develop good facilitation skills?

I picked up my facilitation skills on the job as a consultant and educator. I learned by watching and doing. …

How overzealous (and erroneous) copyright enforcement tramples fair use and is a bad look for progressive politics

To Pete Buttigieg
Hyperakt and Zazzle

Dear Pete (and Team),

I don’t think we have ever met. We were a couple of years apart at Harvard, and we have some friends in common. I don’t know how I feel about your politics yet, but I support your ambition as a millennial making a difference and love you and your husband’s courage to kiss in front of the cameras and the world.

I know you are busy, so I’ll get to the point.

As a design practitioner and educator, I’m loving what your team has done with your newly revealed dynamic, interactive, participatory brand system. It’s all very new power. …

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸
United States of America
United States of Amnesia
United States of Antithetical Extremes

Today we celebrate science and NASA landing on Mars 🚀
But sometimes science is not science
Even when the scientists say so

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Even when California burns🔥
The Unpresidented President hides his own government’s climate change report in the hubbub of Black Friday
That annual classist and racist ritual where the privileged watch the less-fortunate trample each other for forty percent off on flat screen TVs
Made in China, of course
But All-American entertainment nonetheless

Cyber Monday
The day we devote to the deity of almighty Dollar 💵
The day we land on Mars
We launch tear gas at asylum-seeking…

Let’s blame the practitioners, not the tools

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Photo: Copyright Morten Falch Sortland/Getty Images

In the September 2018 issue of Harvard Business Review, NYU professor Natasha Iskander argues that design thinking is “fundamentally conservative and preserves the status quo.” She gives several reasons for this claim, including:

  • Design thinking is poorly defined as a methodology.
  • It’s a marketing ploy for expensive consultants.
  • It’s a new name for an old method.
  • It fundamentally privileges designers and other elites who keep the power over the creative process.

“If you’re shepherding a crowd rather than just a bunch of people on your payroll, what’s different about that? And what’s different in the context of a world in which there is a very, very big hunger to participate?”

In the latest episode of FoossaPod, David Colby Reed and Lee-Sean Huang interview Jeremy Heimans, CEO of Purpose and co-author of the book New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World–and How to Make It Work for You.

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Why do some leap ahead while others fall behind in our chaotic, connected age? …

From a new book, to more podcast episodes and articles, this is a snapshot of what Foossa has been up to for the last few months.

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From a new book, to more podcast episodes and articles, this is a snapshot of what Foossa has been up to for the last few months.

Like us, you have probably received a whole bunch of GDPR-compliance updates over the last few weeks. Our terms and conditions haven’t changed. Foossa remains as committed as ever to transparency, data protections and the rights of consumers and citizens. But we are happy to see consumer protections finally getting implemented on the internet.

What are your thoughts on the GDPR (either the European data privacy regulation or the Great Daring Prodigious Raccoon that scaled a skyscraper in Minnesota last month)? …

Whether it is a corporate design project, government policy, or awareness campaign, we’re relying on tools that were designed to move individual widgets.

In the latest episode of FoossaPod, I talk with Andrew Benedict-Nelson about social norms as a key to innovation. We discuss ways to rethink responses to homelessness and make sense of movements like LGBTQ equality and #MeToo.

Andrew Benedict-Nelson is a social change practitioner, historian, and author of See Think Solve: A Simple Way to Tackle Tough Problems. He is also a lecturer at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

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Podcast Transcript (edited for clarity)

I believe that the social, social norms, human behavior, is a gigantic missing element in almost everything that we’re doing.

Authentic civility is different from weaponized civility

There is a difference between authentic civility and and weaponized civility.

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Authentic civility is agreeing to disagree, living and letting live based on differences in beliefs, opinions, and interpretations.

We acknowledge each other’s shared humanity and human rights. We acknowledge facts and evidence, even if we disagree on what to do about those facts. We are authentically civil because we see (and treat) each other as equals.

Weaponized civility is privilege wielding its power to oppress, but doing it with smart haberdashery, fine wine, expensive china, and good manners. It says “hush” instead of “shut the F up” to people trying to tell their truths but always with the implied threat of more severe consequences. …

If you don’t like the uncertainty of the exercise, you probably won’t like the uncertainty of running a venture

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Photo collage of Foossa in action — the incident described in this post is not pictured here.

Wait, why do we have to do this?

The other day, my co-founder David Colby Reed and I were facilitating a workshop for entrepreneurs. One of the participants questioned why she should participate in a “stoke” that we were leading.

Stokes are like ice-breakers or warm-up activities, but we also use them in the middle of sessions as kinesthetic palate cleansers, or at the end of sessions to help participants transition their bodies and minds back to a non-workshop steady state.

The participant who pushed back wasn’t sure why she should take part in the activity, which involved eye-contact and hand-clapping with other participants. We often facilitate stokes that get participants out of our usual work habits of sitting and talking. There were no blindfolds, trust falls, or primal screams in this scenario, but in general we do like to push some of the usual norms of what to expect in a classroom or business training session. …

We just released a new book.

Written by our friends and long-time collaborators Jeff Leitner and Andrew Benedict-Nelson, and designed by me and the Foossa team, See Think Solve is a simple guide to difficult problems.

Originally developed for a social work PhD program at the University of Southern California, it is written in an easy-to-read, jargon-free style for anyone interested in better understanding human behavior and how to design products, services, and programs that shift collective norms and culture. The ideas in the book have really shaped our consulting and teaching practice.

Buy See Think Solve on paperback and ebook on…



Cofounder @FoossaNYC: I work for and with communities to tell stories, design services, and build new forms of shared value.

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