Written by Jens Hansen
Simple and powerful skills for crafting your Future
Have you ever started a new sport, family game or hobby? You probably started with the fundamentals, aiming to master the basics before trying something more advanced.
Crafting your best possible future is no different. In this and the next few posts you will become familiar with and start practicing a few simple and powerful skills for crafting your future – Your Future-Fit Skillset Starter Kit.
We will start with the skill of creating and maintaining a safe space for deep focused conversation in support of complex, strategic exploration and decision making. In other words, how to create the optimal conditions for achieving the best possible outcome from complex, engaged group conversations about our future.
1. Create a Safe Space
Think about your life and try to focus on when you felt the safest. What were the characteristics of those spaces, or rather the characteristics of the immediate surroundings of those spaces? What were the characteristics of the people that created those safe spaces and those you shared them with?
How did these safe spaces make you feel? In which ways did these safe spaces empower you? How did these safe spaces contribute to your reflections, imaginations, and dreams?
Now, fast forward to today and ask yourself – Could I be the creator, the guardian, and the facilitator of such similar safe spaces today?
Now, hold on to your answer to this question and let’s add deep, focused group conversation to your safe space.
2. Add deep, focused Group Conversations
2.1. Deep Conversations
How may a deep conversation be characterized? As the saying, often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, goes, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Many studies conclude that there is a strong correlation between deep, substantive conversations and the feeling of well-being and happiness. With this let’s associate deep conversations with ideas, strategies and visions for the future, discussed in a positive, supportive and explorative fashion.
What are some important aspects of being focused? Becoming and remaining focused requires will and discipline. Today it requires that we deliberately shut off potential and likely distractions such as our mobile device, our email and other message applications, that we signal ‘please, do not disturb’ to those around us. We may also need to manage our internal conditions through brief meditation, breathing exercises and other mindfulness practices. Like deep conversations, creating focus does not just happen – it needs to be deliberately created.
2.3 Group Size & Composition
Let’s now uncover what a good group size may be for having our deep, focused group conversation. Again, here we will take some practical guidance supported by more serious research. Our practical guidance comes from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. He has a “two-pizza” rule for the ideal group size: If you cannot feed the group with two pizzas, the group is too big. More serious studies support group sizes of 5 or 7 people in total, noticing that both 5 and 7 are odd numbers. Being intentional on the group size increases our group’s chances of having a successful conversation.
The composition of your group is obviously extremely important. I will not go into detail here beyond highlighting the need to consider both the outcomes of the conversation as well as the conversation itself when bringing a group together.
3. Consider the digital age we are living and working in
What may constitute a “safe space” in our digital age? There are numerous guidelines for physical spaces that constitute safe spaces, including “neutral turf,” those in quiet surroundings or plenty of natural light, and those that are considered private and free from unexpected interruptions. We are still experimenting with how to create virtual safe spaces, for example by ensuring that no matter where they are, each individual is sitting in suitable physical environment.
In addition to the physical safe space comes our psychological safety. This means a shared space and environment in which each individual feels safe in taking interpersonal risks, and where participants feel accepted and respected, in open, trustful, curious, and non-judgmental conversation. Helpful in establishing well-founded psychological safety is to clarify the guidelines that would govern the conversation. These can both be specific like “no one will interrupt another speaker”, and “any participant will speak a maximum of two times on each topic”. Also, these can be more general like “we will behave in ways that build and support trust and mutual respect”.
In our fast-paced, constantly disrupted, multi-taking environments we suffer a lack of space and time for reflection and deliberate, open sharing and curiosity. We need to create the environment in which we can each bring our best and contribute to an improved journey further into our Future.
Setting up the most helpful conditions is a skill in itself. Under well-considered conditions a group of diverse, professionals can create magic. A key part of your success in crafting the best Future for your organization, your team and yourself is to have the skills to create the best possible conditions for a superior outcome of your ideas, visions, strategy and purpose.
Questions to reflect on
- How can I benefit in from improving the conditions and setup for our more complex conversations and brainstorms?
- How can I already today improve the conditions even for our more regular conversations and get better outcomes?
- How can these skills add value to our new, hybrid work environment?
- How much can we improve the quality of the outcome and the actual impact from our strategy and vision conversations?
Supertrends Institute Live Session Conversations
For our Live Sessions at Supertrends Institute we are following the principles and guidelines presented in this blog post wherever they are appropriate. It is a part of our signature to create the best possible conditions for your Future learning conversations. As a member of our Institute, you can benefit directly on your personal and professional journeys into your Future.
This blog post has in part been inspired by the book Strategic Doing, by Morrison, Hutcheson, Nielsen, Fadden, and Franklin.