The Barriers Petal

The Barriers Petal

No two Lotus Blossoms sessions are alike, because that particular tool is designed for maximum flexibility and broad applicability. You can do a Lotus Blossom around a problem statement or to explore solutions. You can use it to design an organization, outline a research paper, or define a business process. I’ve even been known to plan out my New Year’s Resolutions in a Lotus Blossom. The options truly are endless, and so is the variety.

But for all the different ways to use a Lotus Blossom, there is one consistent practice I apply almost every time. It’s a particular petal that seems to fit every situation, regardless of topic or situation. I call it… the Barriers Petal.

It’s a pretty simple concept – just write the word Barriers in one of the petals around the central blossom. I tend to use the lower-left petal of the central blossom, for no particular reason other than that box tends to be available. Plus, having a consistent location helps me remember to do it.

Oddly, one of the things I like about this is the way this brings a slightly negative tone to the conversation, an off note to the composition. While the rest of the blossoms are typically full of possibilities and sparkly ideas, the Barriers blossom helps us anticipate the things that might undermine our plans or interfere with our goals.

This contrast sends a subtle signal to go beyond the obvious, front-of-mind ideas, and to dig a little deeper. Plus, virtually every topic has some sort of barriers associated with it, and it’s better to think about them and anticipate them in advance than to be surprised when one smacks us in the face.

Phrases To Learn And Use

Phrases To Learn And Use

We’re having so much fun with these videos that we thought we’d offer another! This one is full of phrases to learn and use when facilitating a session using the ITK (or anything, really)

Mise En Place

Mise En Place

If you’ve ever watched an instructional cooking show, you have probably seen the chef or host say something along the lines of “Now we add two tablespoons of cinnamon…” as they reach for a small conveniently placed bowl that contains just the right amount of the necessary ingredient.

What you don’t see is the production assistant hunting through cupboards and measuring out all the ingredients before the camera starts rolling. The prep work is the essential step that makes those shows watchable and makes the recipes look a lot easier and faster than they are in my kitchen.

Those little bowls of pre-measured ingredients are part of a culinary technique called mise en place, which is French for “everything in its place.” It turns out, mise en place does more than make cooking shows easier to watch. It can also make your ITK session more effective.

A seeded Lotus Blossom

For example, when I’m preparing to lead a Lotus Blossom session, I might fill in a few of the boxes to get things started, like in the accompanying image. Think of it as a seeded lotus blossom. This helps accelerate the discussion in several ways. First, it demonstrates how to use the tool by providing some examples of the types of things participants might put in the various petals.

It also begins to plant some ideas and gives the group a starting point. I don’t fill in much – usually just two or three petals, enough to convey the basic practice and to help get the conversation started.

And of course, if any of the seed ideas are worth keeping, then we’ve already got some materials before the session formally starts.

Similarly, when I lead a Premortem, I like to do a little pre-Premortem. I’ll go through the canvas and answer some of the questions a few days before the event begins, maybe with the organizer of the event. If the group organizer has not done a premortem before, this gives me a chance to explain it to them in advance. They also get to put some of their ideas together in advance of the session, which can help the whole group hit the ground running.

So give it a try. The next time you’re going to use one of the ITK tools, do a little prep work and measure out a few of your ingredients. I think you’ll find it helps make the whole experience move along smoothly.

photo credit: Calum Lewis on Unsplash

Need to build consensus quickly? Try leveraging the Power of Prep

Need to build consensus quickly? Try leveraging the Power of Prep

In the world of innovation where moving fast is essential, knowing how to effectively build consensus becomes a superpower.

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Oftentimes, the most powerful outcome of an ITK session is the team building consensus together. Teams are often in a place of confusion or feeling stuck in their problem-solving process when they turn to Team Toolkit for help. Although project leaders and teammates may not have known consensus is what they needed, once they achieve this, there’s a tangible forward shift that occurs in project momentum: When a team is in agreement with each other, the team naturally switches into action because next steps are clear, and the team is motivated to move forward.

So what does building consensus look like? How might we do this effectively?

In a classic scenario of building consensus, teams may gather with blank ITK tools, then answer the question prompts and discuss together. By using blank tools, everyone begins at the same starting point and can generate their own individual responses. The main facilitator creates space for all teammates to speak up equally, and through sharing ideas and perspectives, consensus is built. While this is an effective strategy to build consensus, it may not always be the fastest route to convergence.

When your team needs to build consensus quickly, we recommend leveraging the Power of Prep. The Power of Prep occurs when one or more teammates pre-fill an ITK tool with responses that are intended for discussion. Depending on the team’s situation, these pre-filled answers could be intended to draw out the quieter voices, to confirm unspoken agreements, to explicitly acknowledge controversial areas, or more. By giving the team something to start with, this helps focus and accelerate the discussions.

Keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of pre-filling the ITK tools is to spur discussion, so always use your good judgment and discretion when putting down responses. For example, you don’t want to betray a teammate’s confidence in what they shared privately with you or widely reveal information that’s meant to be close-hold or restricted. Or, if you are the senior person in the group or are in a position of authority, make sure your inputs don’t discourage your teammates from speaking up. 

Before you begin, here are some additional Power of Prep Tips:

  1. Consider why your team is stuck and put down responses that you think will activate discussion
  2. Get unattached to what you’ve written down
  3. Now get very unattached to what you’ve written down
  4. When kicking off the session, clearly state that what you’ve written is for discussion rather than your individual perspective. Try something like, “I put this here, not because I think it’s right, but to get the process started.”

When you choose to use the Power of Prep, you must be unattached to the pre-filled responses. If not, then you may feel personally criticized when your teammates share their disagreements with the responses. This will cause you go to into a defensive mode, which blocks you from actively listening to others and being receptive to new ideas. Not exactly the most conducive behaviors to building consensus!

In addition, clearly stating that what you’ve written is for discussion rather than your individual perspective allows your teammates more freedom to speak critically about the pre-filled responses. If your teammates were afraid of disagreeing or critiquing your individual perspective, they may hold back their true thoughts which would keep the team stuck and ultimately negatively impact the final product.

So the next time you’re looking to quickly build consensus, consider leveraging the Power of Prep and let us know how it goes in the comments below!


Lotus Blossom Tool Tips

Lotus Blossom Tool Tips

The Lotus Blossom ideation tool is one of the most popular in the toolkit, and it’s also one of the simplest. This is a great way to help a team quickly come up with a large quantity of high quality ideas, in a format that is structured, binned, and categorized. A complete Lotus Blossom, with all the petals filled in, can be a really useful artifact for the team to refer to as the work progresses.

But don’t let the simplicity of the tool fool you. There are some subtle nuances and non-obvious applications & implications hidden in this tool, and it can be a challenging one to use well. Let’s take a closer look at some common patterns and missteps.

When a team is filling out a Lotus Blossom I often notice that one blossom has a lot of blank petals while another is fully populated or even overstuffed with more than eight. As a facilitator I like to direct the team’s attention to the blank blossom and encourage them to explore that idea in more depth. Is there a reason we’re not filling that one out? Is it a good reason?

I might also point out that if we’re focusing (and overfilling) on one blossom, that might indicate a high level of interest in that area so it’s worth pursuing, maybe even using it as the core for a whole new Lotus Blossom canvas. Alternatively, all those ideas might indicate a high level of comfort & familiarity with that topic. Maybe we’re only filling it in so completely because it’s easy to do so. If that’s the case, perhaps we should move on and do the more challenging work of exploring less familiar ground. Either course of action is fine – the trick is to be deliberate in our decision to either pursue it or pivot.

Another thing to watch for is the phrase “I have this idea but I’m not sure where to put it in the Lotus Blossom.” Now, the point of this tool is to develop ideas that are connected to each other. If the team is just coming up with random unconnected ideas that genuinely don’t fit into any of the petals or blossoms, they are just brainstorming and not really using the Lotus Blossom tool. In that case, I try to redirect them towards the empty petals and blossoms that do have labels, encouraging them to build on these ideas by getting more specific and granular.

But sometimes the phrase “I’m not sure where to put this” means you’ve come up with an idea that genuinely fits in multiple places. If that’s the case, it’s possible you discovered a relationship between the ideas that is not currently reflected in the Lotus Blossom layout. At this point you may want to rearrange and combine the related ideas into a single blossom. This is easier to do with a digital canvas than it is on paper, of course.

Another strategy for the “not sure where to put it” situation is to label one of the blossoms OTHER and put all the random stuff there. It’s not optimal, but this strategy can serve as a useful parking lot or holding place for ideas that may find a more connected home later.

7 tips to practice ‘Yes, And…’ during everyday collaboration

7 tips to practice ‘Yes, And…’ during everyday collaboration

Q: Team Toolkit, I love using ‘Yes, And…’ during your ITK workshops! I want more collaboration like this outside of the workshop. How can I use ‘Yes, And…’ during my regular, everyday interactions with my team?

A: Great question, anonymous audience member! Taking an effective workshop practice into your everyday interactions with your team is a fantastic ambition, and we’d love to help you with this.

In case you need a refresher, last week we covered what ‘Yes, And…’ entails. At its heart – ‘Yes, And…’ is a practice of accepting and building off of each other’s inputs, which requires being present and active listening. These attitudes can most certainly be practiced in everyday interactions.

Since many of us are working virtually, we’ll focus our everyday tips on virtual interactions but know that these 7 tips can be similarly used for in-person interactions.


To demonstrate accepting and building off of each other’s inputs:

Tip #1) Acknowledge ideas and efforts explicitly!

Whether it’s the best idea or the worst, you can always acknowledge that a teammate has put something out there. Start your response with this acknowledgment. You can use phrases such as “Thanks for offering your ideas!” or “Thanks for getting us started!” And if you like the idea, say so!

Tip #2) Show your excitement!

You could probably see this coming based on the examples in Tip #1: When writing, exclamation points are your friend! If that feels like too much, try italicized text. Use lighthearted and playful words that feel like a casual conversation, rather than formal phrases that feel boxy and forced. Conduct a thesaurus search for positive words, such as delight, joy, or wonderful. Get creative!

Tip #3) Invite others into the conversation by name. 

Especially when you’re in a group thread, sometimes it can be unclear when to jump in or not. When you respond positively to a teammate’s input, try offering not only your input but also include an invitation for a specific someone else to add their input.

By adding a specific name, now it’s clear whose input is next. It’s like an improv comedian passing the scene to a fellow performer, through a look, gesture, or question. This also helps ensures that the dialogue will keep going, which helps the initiating teammate feel that their input is valued and being acted upon. We’ve all felt the despair that accompanies sending an email into the internet black hole. Don’t let your teammates feel this way.

Tip #4) Literally use the words “Yes, and”

Sometimes the most obvious is the hardest to see. By actually using the words “Yes, and,” it will show your acceptance and how you are building off of your teammate’s input. Bonus points if your teammates are also familiar with this workshop practice because it may remind them to start writing “Yes, and” too.


To demonstrate being present and active listening:

Tip #5) Send a timely response.

This tip can be quite difficult if you’re struggling with staying on top of your inbox (#allofus). However, even if your response is to simply acknowledge that you’ve received the message and will respond more thoughtfully later, sending this type of quick heads up note shows that you are being present. It goes without saying that you should follow through with a more thoughtful response later. 

Tip #6) Be a role model for being present and practice vulnerability.

How many of us have been tackling a problem and gotten stuck? Exactly (#allofus). Now, how many of us have messaged our team when we are stuck to simply state that we’re stuck? Exactly (#fewofus).

By being present with your own situation and vulnerably sharing where you are – whether you are stuck or just had a breakthrough – can be a powerful role modeling of behavior that the rest of your team will imitate. By practicing vulnerability, it achieves two very powerful outcomes:

1) It invites others to also put their guard down and share where they are too, which helps co-create the safe and trusting environment for your team.

2) It creates an opportunity for someone else to say ‘Yes, and’ to you 

Tip #7) Pay close attention to calls for help, which may require reading between the lines.

This tip is a companion to Tip #6, and it requires empathy and grace. While you’re building more camaraderie and trust amongst your team, it may initially be both unfamiliar and uncomfortable for teammates to directly ask for help or share when they feel stuck, overwhelmed, or confused (which further reinforces why being a role model in Tip #6 is so valuable).

When you sense that this type of situation is at play, this is the most critical time to be responsive and actively listen. Through your words, you can acknowledge the situation and also demonstrate that you’ve really heard what your teammate is actually trying to convey.

For example, one teammate may send out a team message reporting on their research for a broad topic. They feel unsure of which sub-topics to continue researching deeper because they found so many. Rather than a specific ask for help, they close their message by asking “Thoughts?” broadly to the team.

In this example, you could respond by saying “Great research! That is an overwhelming set of sub-topics we could dig into, how about starting with sub-topic X? Teammate Jane Doe, what do you think?”

By naming the “overwhelming set,” you acknowledge that there are many choices and it’s not clear which is the best choice. You’ve also offered your input by suggesting an idea. And bonus points – with these two sentences, you’ve also practiced Tip #1, #2 and #3!

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Team Toolkit Example of Everyday ‘Yes, And…’

Now that we’ve gone over the 7 tips for everyday ‘Yes, And…’ collaboration, let’s see a real life example of this! This example shows a message thread amongst Team Toolkit, and you’ll see my narrator commentary in the far right and I’ve highlighted the relevant text in green.

Context: It’s the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day weekend and also the first 3-day weekend since the beginning of full-time working from home due to covid, a.k.a. it’s an especially quiet Friday afternoon. Team Toolkit’s high school intern is graduating and headed to college in the fall. The ITK teammate who works most closely with our high school intern is organizing a collective group card to wish her well in this next chapter.

ITK Teammate 1

12:09 PM

Our ITK High School intern is graduating this year.  We would have done something anyway to celebrate her graduation.  However the city of Lawrence, where she lives in has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic so I definitely want to do something for her now.

I’m happy to send along a card with a gift card, messages, and am happy to sign people’s names.  So let me know if you want me to write a message for you and if you want to make a contribution.  No pressure, of course.  I probably won’t do a video unless someone else wants to work with me on it.  I would need some partnering, just because putting it together and editing it feels overwhelming to do alone. 😝






Tip #6 – ITK Teammate 1 has practiced vulnerability and is asking for help

ITK Teammate 2

1:12 PM

Yes, let’s absolutely do something for our ITK High School Intern to show our appreciation and support.

Thanks ITK Teammate 1 for initiating us! When’s your ideal deadline for this?

I can help create a compilation video if folks are willing to go on camera. The initial thought I had was a round-robin video with each person giving a ~10-20 sec good wish, and a final shot of all us and some group sentiment (happy graduation/ good luck in college/ thank you/ etc).

I have no idea how to actually do this, but I’m willing to try if folks are willing to record! Pretty sure we can leverage zoom to do these recordings.

ITK Teammate 3 and ITK Teammate 4, I know both of you have done video editing – any tips?

Tip #4 – Literally use the words “Yes, and”

Tip #2 – Show your excitement.

Tip #6 – Now ITK Teammate 2 has practiced vulnerability and is asking for help. They also offer an idea.

Tip #6 again

Tip #3 – Invite others into the conversation by name.

ITK Teammate 1

2:02 PM

Looks like we need to get the videos to the school by June 3.  I’m not sure how long it will take to edit the videos together, but we have 11 days including weekends.


Tip #5 – Send a timely response. Notice the timestamp of the last 3 exchanges: Although it was a Friday afternoon, the elapsed time is ~1 hr between each response.

ITK Teammate 5

2:03 PM

What about a Zoom conf and we all take the time to say something and just screen record that? Tip #5 – Now another teammate has chimed in and notice the timestamp again. They’ve quickly chimed in and are also building off of ITK Teammate 2’s idea

ITK Teammate 4

2:10 PM

That’s a brilliant idea ITK Teammate 5 – yes, let’s record a group Zoom session. We all may want to script up a few words (or at least do a little thinking about what we want to say), but that definitely feels like the easiest / fastest / smoothest way for us all to send our high school intern a message that really reflects the team and how we work. 😊 Now we have another teammate responding, and here we see Tip #1, #2, #4, and #5!

ITK Teammate 2

2:16 pm

< sends a meeting invite to the whole team with a zoom meeting link> Tip #5 – responding quickly to the idea

ITK Teammate 2

2:17 ppm

Sweet! I added a 30-min video recording session after our Team Toolkit meeting next Thurs. We’re having that meeting in MS Teams so we can keep going in there, OR I also set up a Zoom meeting if we want to switch. The (video recording) world shall be our oyster 😊 Tip #1 and #2


Upon returning from the Memorial Day Holiday, the rest of Team Toolkit also begins chiming in….

ITK Teammate 6 I like the zoom recording idea! Tip #1 and #2
ITK Teammate 3 Love the Zoom idea! Tip #1 and #2
ITK Teammate 7

If we were really snazzy… we’d all dust off the crayons and markers and each make an 8-1/2×11” letter spelling  G-O-O D L-U-C-K (if we were on Zoom, where we could brady bunch said message). Not sure if this would work, but ITK Teammate 3 and I could represent two letters

·       ITK Teammate 3: G

·       ITK Teammate 7: O

·       ITK Teammate 4: O

·       ITK Teammate 8: D

·       ITK Teammate 5: L

·       ITK Teammate 9: U

·       ITK Teammate 2: C

·       ITK Teammate 6: K

·       ITK Teammate 1: !

This being said, not sure how this would play out in terms of “order” on the screen. Does anyone know if you can move the order of participants around?

Tip #2 – ITK Teammate 7 has gotten excited and continues building off the idea











Tip # 6 – Practices vulnerability

ITK Teammate 2

Love this idea!

We can do it in “speaker view” and have each person say something so their camera is the focus. Aka the letters will display serially, rather than in brady brunch view.

Tip #1 and #2


Continues building off the idea

ITK Teammate 4


One way we could do this is for someone to assign the letters once we’re all dialed in and can see what order we’re in… we just wouldn’t do the letters in advance.

Tip #2


More building off the idea

ITK Teammate 6

So cute!

Yeah, I think we could do the GOODLUCK in gallery view and agree with ITK Teammate 4 and then speaker view for our messages!

Tip #2


Tip #4

ITK Teammate 1 Yasss! I love this and everyone’s creativity!

Tip #1, #2, and #4

Tip #5 – Notice that it was ITK Teammate 1 that started the thread, and they also closed the loop and acknowledged everyone’s inputs.


Hopefully seeing this real life example sparks new ideas for how you can practice ‘Yes, and…’ in everyday interactions with your team. Let us know how you use these 7 tips in the comments below!

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P.S. Curious how the final recording of our video message went? Check out two snapshots and the video recordings below! After many more ‘Yes, And…’ moments live on the zoom meeting, we successfully recorded our “Good Luck” video message to our ITK High School intern!

Take 1: Team Toolkit spells “OLGODUCK!”

Team Toolkit holds up letters that spell 'OLGODUCK'

Take 2: Team Toolkit wishes “GOOD LUCK!”

Team Toolkit holds up letters that spell






And last but not least: The final video as posted on Notre Dame Criso Rey High School’s YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram!