World renowned Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is famous for his study and exploration into what creates an “optimal experience” that ultimately results in a state of high performance and productivity. Over time, his research has revealed that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called flow. During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life.
In his book entitled “Flow” Csikszentmihalyi reveals an often overlooked discovery when he shares the powerful realization that:
“The most common place that people experience FLOW was in conversation with others. At work, conversation with colleagues is one of the most flow-inducing activities.”
Csikszentmihalyi’s teachings around flow highlight the importance of the conversations we have and inspired us to create and master our own unique versions of appreciative conversations, which are organized as the four XCHANGE conversational choreographies.
Each choreography creates the interaction patterns that allow any group to accelerate learning, connection and belonging simultaneously, at speed and scale. What’s even more powerful is that we can achieve these results reliably and repeatedly, both online and in-person.
This choreography invites participants to pause for a moment and reflect on something of deep meaning or purpose, which is typically connected to the theme of the event or gathering. It often creates the opportunity to connect with someone new and engage in a meaningful dialogue, usually uncovering shared purpose and values. It also sets a foundation for and begins to create psychological safety, which Google’s research indicated was the most important ingredient in high performing teams and organizations.
The Purposeful Connecting choreography presents a thoughtfully designed question, followed by some brief period of time for reflection and writing. Next, participants are moved into small groups of ideally 3 to 5 and share their answers with one another. After a short period of time, the full group comes back together and participants are invited to share their own answers or anything they heard in their group that they found especially meaningful, inspirational or that would be important to share with all participants.
Perhaps the most powerful choreography, the paired interview is an expression of both speaking and being heard, because each person has the opportunity to share their voice and also listen deeply to their partner.
This choreography delivers several important outcomes, beginning with the fact that every person present is given the chance to speak and for their voice to be heard. It sets a dramatic tone of equality and signifies that all voices matter. It presents an opportunity for each person to practice active listening, a skill that is often underutilized in our society today. Lastly, it allows colleagues to form a connection with someone they may not otherwise have had the opportunity to engage with.
For an effective Paired Interview, participants are invited to pair off with someone they don’t know as well. Instructions are provided for the activity and tips on how to actively listen, remain curious and capture any key themes that may emerge. Interviews are closed by the partners each taking 60-seconds to reflect back what was the most inspiring thing they heard. We often design our interviews to include three questions: a high point story from the past, a strength-based question about the present or an intention setting question and a future vision question.
The Crowdsourcing choreography moves participants into more collaborative group work, which is designed to elevate and amplify the most powerful ideas, stories or other elements for the benefit of the entire group. Participants learn from each other’s real world experiences. Often, the output is a recipe or list of ingredients for an intended outcome. For example, what are the most important elements of a high performing sales team or how might we create an amazing, unforgettable client experience?
The Crowdsourcing activity starts very similar to Purposeful Connecting, but when moved into smaller groups, ideally 4 to 8 in this case, the teams are given some very specific tasks to complete and an output to deliver at the end of their time together. Teams find common themes, ideas, strengths, visions and then focus on grouping similar ideas together, ultimately presenting their discoveries to all participants in a brief report out or presentation, so all may benefit.
The Wisdom Circle choreography leverages the experience and wisdom of the group to provide peer coaching and help solve issues in real time. It often is the beginning of longer term relationships that create a support structure for ongoing mentorship and personal or professional development.
Participants are given time to reflect on any challenges or opportunities they are facing where they may need support and capture three to five of those topics on paper. Then participants form small groups, ideally 4-5. After joining, each person shares their single most pressing topic where they want support, in just a minute or two. The group then decides which topic will be most beneficial for all to cover. Next, the person needing support, will offer more details on the topic and a very clear, specific and succinct ASK for what they need support with. The group will then spend a predetermined amount of time to ask a round of clarifying questions, only after which the group members will then offer insight and coaching on the topic.
These four choreographies can be used to leverage meetings, retreats, summits and conferences of all types. If you’re interested in learning more about how to use these choreographies, contact us for a complimentary Design Studio or join one of our upcoming Introduction to XCHANGE webinars.