collaborating with strangers

Published: 9th February, 2014

I was horrified to find myself in front of a room of people who were really not fussed about being a part of my ‘human’ Big Picture template. My intention was to use the layout of the room to demonstrate a living breathing metaphor for a business. As a group of individuals making their own connections I thought it would be a great way to live and experience the kind of ‘penny dropping’ moments I see in workshops using Big Picture. It didn’t work!


On reflection this is what I learned about collaborating with strangers:

– Active participation is not guaranteed- like anything what you get out is a product of what you put in and I’d done nothing to being this group together. They were, and remained, single individuals without any appetite to ‘group-think’. Oh yes .. it was just after lunch too!

– If helps if people care- there may have been some empathy with me as an individual, feeling sorry for me as a little bit of me died! But no feeling for the business I’d chosen, the event organisation which we were all attended. A sea of faces in front of me ‘why should I care?’! Not something that people could drag themselves out of their passive state and thing ‘YES! I’ll help make this work’;

– Create the right environment right- I hadn’t really explained what I’d intended to happen nor create the kind of setting in which individuals would be willing to share open and honest feelings. The theater setting of the seats didn’t help create the group feel nor did the the lectern style help me get in amongst it and mix things up.


So what does this mean for you and I next time we’re prepping a session to collaborating with strangers:

– Prep the room and the session with a load of investment in the feeling in the room for each individual. Maybe some music and a thought around first impressions from the car park through the front desk and into the room. A session plan that has sharing and openness at it’s centre;

– Focus on a theme that means something to participants- so there is a real benefit on making it better. Understand what exactly participants are likely to care about whether that’s financial, the success of the organisation or today’s new news;

– Set the session around active participation at every opportunity- once the mood is set and people find they have the authority to get hold of the props to express themselves fully then the session will flow.

So let’s get cracking!