Today’s post is co-authored by Bill Donaldson and Lauren Armbruster
ITK Trainee’s Perspective:
The road to becoming a certified Innovation Tool Kit (ITK) member is clear and full of community support-but it can also make the candidates a little nervous! For instance, one requirement is for all facilitators-in-training to run facilitation sessions while being observed by a veteran ITK member. Practice makes perfect…but I don’t think I’m alone in saying that we all wish we could be perfect on the first try! Thankfully, ITK members are trained to think positively and provide constructive feedback-which is exactly what I received from one of my observers, a certified ITK facilitator.
My experience with observation during an ITK practice was simple: I ran a Lotus Blossom brainstorming session as the sole moderator, Mural operator, and facilitator. I thought that the audience was engaged and able to meet the goals we had established in advance, plus have a little fun along the way-but I was looking forward to hearing what a more experienced facilitator might suggest as best practices for the future.
Team Toolkit Member Perspective:
I saw a post asking for someone to be an Observer during a Workshop through our internal channels. Knowing how hard it was for me to get those last items for ITK Certification, I was thrilled to help. “What an opportunity to help her get closer to her ITK certification”, I thought. Never giving it much though how I would actually do this, after all I’m a certificated ITK facilitator.
While in the session taking awesome notes, it came to me “how am I going to give her feedback?” So right after the end I did that ITK thing, improv.
I started with the COIN model, but wanted it to provide more of a critique than feedback. I used the Critque method (“I Like, I Wish”) from an ITK Lunch and Learn. This still didn’t convey what was accomplished by the ITK Trainee in her Workshop, so I then applied the ITK superpower of “AND” adding a User Journey on top like a ‘cherry’ on a sundae.
What is this sundae? At the base three columns: “I Like” and “I Wish” and “I Hope” Using “I” is a lighter way of providing feedback. Making the feedback specific things heard, seen, and felt. The User Journey is a great way to provide how things changed over time for the specific observations. But wait there’s more… all of this can be funner [yes this is a word]. Add icons, pictures, or even use a book or movie theme like to describe the Workshop. Humans are story sponges, our brains are wired to hear and remember stories. So make your observations reflect the story you saw and heard.
The recipe to recreate it…
1) Start with a quick meeting (15 mins) before the Workshop with the ITK Student for introductions and to get any specific areas for feedback. These areas can be used to plot on the User Journey. Make sure to ask how does the person like to get feedback. Even very well done feedback can be a surprise if not expected. Likewise, skipping this can make it hard on you to provide meaningful feedback when things appear to go awry.
2) During the Workshop record Observable events and the Impact on the Workshop (both the flow and the attendees) with the specific Context. These are from the COIN model
3) After do a scan for themes and group into three groups: “I Like” “I Wish” and “I Hope”.
- The “I Like” are that things your liked or even better when someone said they liked it during the Workshop.
- “I Wish” should be gentler then “areas of improvement”. When “you wish” something happened, it’s just that you wish. As the receiver I can grant your wish or not.
- “I Hope” give you the chance to push for something more or bigger that you see the observed person may not. You can make the case “I Hope” is the same as “I Wish” you wouldn’t be wrong. For me it was about the visual weight and appearance of 3:1 positive to negative comments.
4) Let the Story or theme come to you. Then find icons or pictures for observations and decorate the timeline. The entire effort should take under 30 minutes.
5) Meet with the ITK Student to present the Mural and let the Trainee define their Next steps. Start with asking the ITK Student how they thought they did. Use the exact words they gave you in step 1. Then go over the areas that aligned with their self-feedback and where you saw something different.
ITK Trainee Perspective:
I found this to be the easiest feedback session I have ever experienced at MITRE! I knew (somewhat) what to expect from it thanks to our expectations-setting conversation where I could identify specific areas that I was worried about or interested in them paying attention to. The timeline is a visual and intuitive way to track the progress of a full session. For me, this was most helpful to review very soon after I facilitated so I could remember my experience compared to what was observed and see if there were differences-and ask myself why that might be. Beginning with positive reinforcement through the “I Like” was a comfort and built me up before the more constructive “I Wish” and “You Might” feedback-but all of it was ‘light’ and easy to take and talk about thanks to the fun icons, memes, and imagery that were used throughout.
Overall, this form of feedback was easy to understand and a great mix of positive feedback and constructive criticism. It is highly recommended as a model to provide feedback to others within ITK and across MITRE after sponsor briefs, during annual feedback sessions, and beyond.
This week’s post is by Gabby Raymond
My husband, Ben, and I are at that happy stage of life where we are looking to buy a house together. What started off as a joyful hobby now feels like a full-fledged part-time job full of anxiety, anguish, and frustration. Those of you who have bought a house, especially in a market as hot as Boston is right now, probably know our pain. For the unenlightened, our house buying experience has been akin to proposing marriage to someone after your first blind date – equal parts fear, excitement, and “wow, this could cost me dearly if it goes poorly.”
Since training to become an ITK facilitator, I have found plenty of opportunities to apply ITK tools to my everyday life. After a particularly stressful open house where Ben and I were debating the merits of replacing our home search hobby with a home improvement hobby, we began to worry we would never actually buy a home. Over dinner and some beer, I told Ben I wanted to try out a Premortem with him. His first response was, “Premortem, is that when you kill me before we start?” After a good laugh, I described the tool to him: we’re preemptively trying to understand what failure looks like by describing a particularly bleak future (the bleaker the better), identifying the causes, and coming to a consensus on what success looks like. Sounds easy, right?
I realized after the open house that Ben and I had done a poor job communicating our individual goals because we were too worried about disagreeing. We needed to get everything out on the table. I set us up on different computers in different rooms to use MURAL, an online whiteboarding tool, to fill out a Premortem canvas. I used MURAL’s incognito mode to make sure we didn’t bias each other’s contributions. After 10 minutes of quiet working time, we cozied up on our couch together to discuss our canvas. Right away, we confirmed something we already knew – we were both tracking to the needs, desires, and goals of the other person. However, there were a few things that were surprisingly different.
Our biggest divergence was when answering the most important question on the canvas, “If the only thing we do is ______, it’s a win.” His answer – have a place to live. My answer – make an investment. It was a great dialogue point for some of the stress and anxiety we’d each been feeling. He was worried about the stability of having a house versus being at the will of a landlord. I was concerned that after years of saving up for a down payment we would purchase a house that would go down in value and flush our investment down the drain. Neither of us had vocalized those concerns directly, so it was helpful to talk openly.
We wrapped up the Premortem canvas by describing three failure scenarios and risk mitigations. It was refreshing to go from doom and gloom to planning for future successes. After the Premortem, we took our key house features and plotted them on a Cost x Importance matrix. Just like the Premortem exercise, the differences in our answers led to great conversations about tradeoffs and compromises.
Ben and I found our whiteboarding exercise to be valuable, both because we confirmed that we agree on the important aspects of our house search and because we came to a consensus on what success looks like in the big picture. We used MURAL’s incognito mode to foster clear dialogue without the concern of compromising in the moment or biasing each other’s opinions. In the end, framing of the conversation was just as important as the content.
We haven’t bought a house yet, but we know what we’re looking for… at least a little better than we did before!
Hot. Muggy. Humid. Like a swamp (but not really).
Yep, I’m talking about DC summers. The time when tourists and summer interns descend en masse upon the District, and the locals grumble about these visitors mistakenly standing on the left side of the metro escalators.
But now that the kids have gone back to school, the mornings have a brisk chill, and the green trees are starting to show their first yellow leaves, it’s time for us summer lovers to accept the inevitable: Fall is coming.
With any change in seasons, it’s a prime time to reflect on the past season to savor the good moments and make course corrects for the next one.
For me, my favorite ITK summer memory was by far our “ITK DC Roadshow” to bring our Innovation Workshop to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Public Administration, and the US Marine Corps Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Creativity.
Based on their interest and unique requests, Team Toolkit developed a custom Innovation Workshop that took participants on a lightning round lesson on three ITK tools (Problem Framing, Value Proposition Canvas, and Culture Change Canvas). They learned how to use these tools and applied them for current problems with us there to guide them.
It was an absolute delight working with such engaged and dynamic participants: We were truly impressed by their eagerness, their hunger for innovation, and their willingness to try something different.
And we learned so much from them too! We found fellow comic makers and problem framing enthusiasts, and our own perspectives and world views were positively widened from our workshop conversations.
But the best part was the “Train the Trainer” portions of our workshop: Rather than being only a participant, we invited our audiences to also become co-conspirators of innovation by teaching them how to lead the use of these tools on their own teams without us.
Let’s let that soak in a bit… remember the saying about the man and the fish?
Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.
Yes, that one. By teaching our audiences how to use ITK tools, and the practices and mindsets behind them, we created the first of hopefully many future cohorts of co-conspirators.
We at Team Toolkit are passionate about democratizing innovation and believe that anyone and everyone can be an innovator. We created the ITK toolkit to provide tools and a structured process to help you get there faster because helping you ultimately helps all of us.
Have a question on the ITK tools? Want an ITK Innovation Workshop at your organization? Not sure where to start but know you want to?! Contact us! We’re here to help and can’t wait to connect with you.
Last year I had the opportunity to serve on a National Academy of Sciences committee. We were chartered to help NASA improve its innovation ecosystem, a truly awesome experience. One of my main contributions was to lead several Premortem sessions, where participants imagined a future scenario where NASA has failed completely. As always, the Premortem produced several moments of insight & honesty. It continues to be my favorite tool in the kit.
If you’re not familiar with Premortems, the objective is to build clarity and consensus about what success looks like. Although a lot of the discussion is focused on describing a hypothetical failure (making the description as stark and dystopian terms as possible), the key question in the Premortem canvas is actually “If the only thing we do is ______, that’s a win.” We don’t start with that question, but I always make sure we get to it before the Premortem is complete.
Here’s a short excerpt from the National Academy committee’s report, describing the consensus these groups came to during the Premortems:
…one of the answers that popped up in all three sessions was “to build strong collaborative partnerships with industry and internationally.”
In particular, a number of session participants acknowledged that NASA is no longer the only game in town and argued that the agency’s continued presence as a relevant leader in space and aerospace will thus depend on its role as a collaborative partner rather than an independent actor. One example that a number of participants mentioned is the existence of civilian space companies such as SpaceX that are increasingly accomplishing missions that were previously done by NASA alone. As long as NASA is recognized as a valuable partner in these missions… then the agency will rightfully receive some of the credit for successes in this area.
…three main things that participants identified as being important for avoiding a dystopian future: developing strong partnerships with industry
and internationally, continuing the learning culture at NASA and building on it, and improving communication across NASA and with those outside of the agency. NASA is already doing many of these things, the session participants said, but there is room for significant improvement in each area.
If you’d like to learn more about how NASA used the Premortem and how they answered the “If the only thing we do…” question, or even if you just want to see what NASA’s senior leaders are doing to help the agency improve, check out the full National Academy committee’s report, now available as a free PDF (see the “Download Free PDF” link on the right of that page).