Guest post by Geoffrey Nelson, M Ed.
As virtual events and meetings evolve, we are discovering new uses for our tools. Murals, it turns out, can work more like game boards than whiteboards. Map-based murals look like rooms in a virtual space, each one with its own function and theme. These murals can look like chocolate factories or alpine mountains (check out the highly-stylized work of Benjamin Dehant). They can evoke a series of clearings in a dense, yeti-haunted forest. They can mimic a museum floor plan, complete with galleries of client work.
Map-based murals use spatial cues to deepen participants' engagement and focus.
Map-based murals support high-quality, high-value work. Like good architecture, their design invites action, directs attention, and fosters emotion. Architectural affordances like signs, corridors, and kiosks guide us through the mural’s virtual space. Implied geometry tells us that there is even more interesting work ahead. Sub-maps linked to the main mural create private workrooms. These nested workspaces are perfect for gamified activities. They heighten the excitement of competition we miss from live events.
To make a map-based mural, consider employing a designer or modifying a map or image in Photoshop. This fundamental image should be saved as a .JPG and locked down. Rooms in the design need plenty of space for your participants’ emerging content. Each room should give visual cues about its purpose.
Consider covering sections of the mural to build suspense and to hold attention to the task at hand. You can add an intriguing image or message to the covering element: a locked door or “No peeking!” Lock these down too. When you’re ready to reveal the next section of the map, delete the covering element or send it to the background. Alternatively, you may add elements (or backgrounds of entire sections) to the outline using the “Add to Outline” feature and toggle the visibility using the eye symbol in the outline.
This focuses participants on the visible content and unburdens their working memory.
Refer to the theme of a map-based mural only as much as it facilitates the work. People need to know how the theme relates to their objectives, strategy, or lines of business. Everyone wants respect even while they’re brainstorming in the forest clearing or slaloming the Alps.
As playful and fantastic as these map-style murals can be, we’ve never run into a credibility issue. We used map-style murals with Fortune 100 execs who loved the experience.
No one complained about the yetis.
Geoffrey Nelson, M Ed. is a people-builder, manager and trainer of creatives, and a conscientious process refiner. He leads talented people beyond their definition of possible.
Guest blog post by Geoffrey Nelson, M Ed.
When I discovered Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) in the fifth grade, I fell hard in love. The funky box art, the spooky dice, the idea of a story lived and a world discovered through the power of pure imagination, all took me in and never let go. Through Dungeons and Dragons, people like me began creating outstanding virtual experiences for their friends long before Zoom, the internet, and even personal computers were part of daily life.
Dungeons and Dragons was first published in 1974. It disrupted the toy and game space and became the best-selling toy of 1978, despite having no board, no pieces, and no winner. It also flew in the face of the emerging trend in video games. Pong had just arrived and it seemed that digital games tethered to TV sets were the future. D&D wasn’t about winning or losing or technology. It was about fellowship and story-making. It was VR before VR was cool.
A shared virtual experience doesn’t live on a screen or a cloud server; it lives in the minds of the participants. They cast visions together with their super-power of conceptualizing the unknown and unseen. Their ability to collectively imagine creates unique interactive and problem-solving opportunities.
Truly virtual experiences provide a sense of agency. When participants cannot affect change through meaningful choices, their experience is passive and vicarious, not virtual. Engagement, investment, and synthesis characterize optimal virtual experiences. In D&D, the participants’ choices shape their outcomes. The Dungeon Master (DM) describes the setting and situations, but the players decide the actions of their player characters (PC’s). What emerges is a memorable, enjoyable, virtual adventure.
A good D&D session is a highly curated experience. The DM considers lighting, sound, and insists on the all-in presence of the players. Everything the DM does is intentional and aimed at immersing everyone deeply in the virtual world. Distractions must be minimized; table rules for players’ behavior are as important as the rules of the game. Cell phones in a basket, people! There’s no texting in the Fever Swamp.
To be a good DM, you must be a rules expert, a compelling narrator, and a master of description. As the rules expert, you need to know how the game works: what the characters can reasonably do, what they absolutely cannot do, and how to determine the outcomes of their decisions. What makes D&D a game as opposed to a cooperative storytelling exercise is the welcome element of uncertain outcomes. Just as in facilitation, the DM knows the rules of the game but not how it will turn out. The more a DM invests in a particular outcome, the less meaningful players’ choices are. Without the skill and courage to manage agency and uncertainty, virtual experiences are boring at best and destructive or divisive at worst.
To help the participants make the most of their agency, the DM must master skillful narration. Good DMs optimize the pace and momentum of the game through their narration of action, reaction, and consequences. Players lose focus and act silly or nihilistic when they are out of the spotlight for too long or the narration feels irrelevant. The DM solves this by keeping narrations short and vivid. Once a players’ turn is resolved, the DM focuses on the next player. Quick summaries, frequent reminders of critical information, and occasional over-cuing are tools DM’s use to keep the game moving forward.
Just because the DM doesn’t know what the players will do, she must imagine what they might do. DMs should visualize various outcomes before the gaming session to anticipate what the players may need next. The RPG luminary Hankerin Ferinale creates binary nodes at critical decision points: if A, then B happens; if C, then D happens. Thinking ahead and planning for both success and failure won’t provide an exact answer for whatever the players choose. It will provide a set of options that combines and synthesizes with new information to create the next adventure node.
Finally, the DM must master the art of succinct, evocative description. This isn’t action-focused narration or storytelling, which resolves a question. Resolving questions is for the players; The DM’s job is to evoke a shared story-space full of meaningful choices. The story emerges as the participants engage with these choices. With the focus on surfacing critical content, the DM must make situations as clear as possible: what are the stakes, what are the dangers, and what resources are available? By describing just the right details to bring the environment and situations to life, DMs enhance essential player agency.
The quality of a D&D session can be measured by how vividly and fondly the players remember it. They will carry the experience with them, reminiscing about defeating the red dragon or the zombie invasion. They may make art or write stories about their adventures. Their real-life behavior may reflect something they’ve learned through play. These are responses to deeply engaging and impactful experiences.
Learn the lessons of great DMs to shape your facilitation clients’ online experiences:
Follow these guidelines and your clients will be able to bravely and mindfully engage their challenges, and their virtual experience will be memorable and valuable. They will be heroes in a shared story and enjoy the riches of the highest outcomes.
All coaching is the same no matter what you call it.
Whether you call it life coaching, executive coaching, purpose coaching, or creativity coaching, coaches identify growth and development opportunities. With executive coaching, sometimes the only difference is that the company is paying for it.
A coach is not a therapist. A therapist is concerned with things like safety, story, and setting. They are willing to focus on the past, listen to the client talk about their wounding and provide or prescribe tools to help the client manage the process of healing.
A coach is focused on the future self (or state) and accountability to the client’s vision of that future. The role of the coach is to see the nascent potential — the glowing ember at the heart of the individual and to breathe air onto it, fanning the flames of growth and becoming.
The goal of any coach should be to provide feedback on behavior, strengthen client performance, and nurture underdeveloped skills.
One former coaching client had scheduled a Walk and Talk session with me at a local park. She was in a horrible living situation, had been offered a great opportunity out of state, and was conflicted on whether or not to pack up her family and move — or stay put where she had laid down some roots and made some friends. We hadn’t gotten more than five yards when I needed to challenge some of her beliefs. She told me that my language was “triggering” for her and that she felt like I was telling her what to do (I wasn’t).
I stopped walking and told her we could not move forward until she understood two things:
I gave her a choice: Stop now, get your money back and find a different coach or we move forward and I continue with what you’re paying me to do — provide coaching.
She chose to move forward. She also chose to move. Her family is now thriving in their new home.
Sometimes, a coaching client will be dealing with blocks or obstacles. The most common tendency is for the client to see these obstacles as external to themselves — somewhere out in their environment, or maybe in the form of other people. In the rarest cases, like when a person is in prison, this is true. Most of the time, though, these blocks are internal. They are psychological. The aim of coaching is to gain clarity around these obstacles, getting objectivity or distance from them until they seem small and insignificant.
The highest outcome is that the client surrounds themselves with people (mentors) that are skilled at navigating these obstacles, and ultimately sees themself as someone who is skilled at navigating, confronting or avoiding these blocks altogether.
This is not the same as doing mindset work. Mindset is focused on the science of neuroplasticity and describes how the brain and mind respond to things like effort, criticism, challenges or the success of others. Carol Dweck has written extensively about the difference between Fixed and Growth mindset.
But, if we are not oriented to a North Star, performing our Noble Commitment in the world, fulfilling our sacred calling or vocation, or living out our purpose, why would we ever be motivated for growth? Why would we ever bloom where we are planted?
Coaching is the act of helping others identify that purpose and take control of their life in order to move toward that purpose. It is the art of helping others become the lotus and rise from the mud.
Most of the executives I coach want to feel like they are making meaning in the world. They believe there is “something more” to their work than the meetings, budgets, and bottom line.
They care deeply about legacy and are concerned about who or what is next. In the best cases, they have two people lined up behind them and are focused on teaching them everything they know. Some are lost — overwhelmed by strategy, mastery, empathy, or power. They know that if they are not in control of their lives or business, someone else will be.
Hiring the right coach helps you realize you are exactly where you need to be, that you are equipped with everything you need and that you can take control of your life or business. Simply being seen as someone who drives strategy, walks the path of mastery, fosters empathy and stands in your power is sometimes all we need to make it so.
Are you ready to be seen or acknowledged in this way?
Who better to be in control of your life than you?
From world-traveling author and musician to founder of a global interfaith movement to innovation consultant, Joran Slane Oppelt has blazed a creative and uncompromising trail. In addition to coaching and consulting CEOs at some of the world’s largest organizations, Joran (and his wife Jennifer) have started and sold two businesses of their own. If you are wanting to boost your accountability, work your growth edges, and really step up as the leader and CEO of your business, schedule a Discovery Call today and see if Executive Coaching is right for you.
Join Amplified -- Joran's free Executive Coaching group -- here.
Do I miss being in the room?
Yes, as a facilitator, coach and consultant, I miss being with people.
I miss the awkward silences, the reading of body language, the laughter reverberating off the walls, the high-fives after a big win. I miss the hugs after a really great breakthrough session. I miss struggling with the oversized Post-it Sheets, spilling the Sharpies and hanging the 30x40 engineering prints with blue painter’s tape.
I miss the side conversations. I miss the snacks.
And, I love the problems we’ve been able to solve as well as the solutions we’ve been able to build together using virtual tools like Zoom and MURAL.
MURAL is a digital workspace that enables innovative teams to collaborate visually and remotely. And, it’s fun. It taps into the part of my brain that loves graphic design (bringing harmony and emotion to a compelling composition), information design (where should my eye go next?) and even the 10-year-old part of me that would sit at the dining table and design board games.
Here are some of the different ways I use MURAL:
And, here are the top 10 Murals I created in 2020-2021 (and their outcomes).
10. OBJECTIVES and KEY RESULTS
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is a goal-setting framework for defining and tracking objectives (aspirations) and their highly-measurable, time-bound outcomes at every level of your organization.
9. CUSTOMER JOURNEY MAP
For organizations with an emerging or reimagined line of business, the Customer Journey Map is a half-day virtual session that helps you make decisions that fit consumer and buyer needs in an environment that’s lively and productive.
8. STRATEGIC VISIONING
This academy needed to pivot all of their students and clients from in-person classes to virtual sessions - all while moving their offices within two months! We led a Strategic Visioning session for their leadership team using templates from The Grove Consultants, International. We also provided Executive Coaching for six weeks post-retreat in order to stabilize the operational plan.
StoryBrand is a marketing messaging tool that allows organizations to clarify their message using a seven-part process that leverages the power of story. Used correctly, this powerful tool can help your business become a valuable asset in the lives of your customers.
6. VISION BOARD WORKSHOP
Forget the magazines and glue sticks! In this fun and interactive workshop, we took inventory of our wins and accomplishments and set a bold trajectory for our big 2021 milestones.
5. VISION AND VALUES
For a quickly-growing team, this session included the creation of a Vision Statement, Mission Statement and the definition of Core Values. Using a basic Design Criteria (must, should, could, won’t) we identified key aspects of the Mission as well as themes that would later become the OKRs.
4. DiSC WORKSHOP
Using the DiSC Assessment, teams separated by style to discuss the do’s and don’ts of communication and leadership. A final roundtable invited the teams to share insights about the easy and magical ways they might work better together.
3. DESIGN SPRINT
This was a fast-paced, fun and interactive multi-mural event for the internal RIDG team. During the challenge, the participants received the resources and toolkit required to create a digital prototype, refine it, make their pitch and declare one team the innovation champions!
2. MY PERSONAL PROJECT BOARD
From sketching out high-level concepts and project planning to tracking my sales pipeline and outlining blog posts, MURAL has become my primary playground for problem-solving.
1. WILDERNESS RETREAT
This wilderness-themed retreat features a labyrinth, breakout sessions, dangerous animals, river rapids, a campfire session, gallery walk, and a hidden Bigfoot!
Do you need help building an amazing Mural of your own? Schedule a Discovery Call today. Call Joran at (727) 771-5656 or e-mail email@example.com.
Here's the most important thing I learned in 5 years working at a consultancy.
It was hinted at when I became a non-smoker, it slapped me in the face when I became a parent, it was drilled into me when I became a coach and a chaplain, and as a consultant working with executives, it became so far cemented into my understanding that I now take it for granted.
It remains true across the board -- for CEOs, salespeople, accountants, administrators, artists, doctors, cashiers, students -- anyone who receives information daily through their senses and is tasked with integrating it into their attitude, outlook, strategy or worldview.
It is true for individuals as well as organizations.
It is true for teams, tribes and nations.
So, today, for whoever needs to hear it:
YOU MUST LET GO THE IMAGE OF WHO YOU ARE BEFORE YOU CAN BEGIN THE WORK OF BECOMING SOMEONE NEW.
You’re probably thinking, “that’s great, but how.”
Here’s the how:
You currently have an image or an idea of yourself.
Burn it, scream at an empty chair, write it out, sweat it out, but get rid of it until it stops showing up. Then grieve it -- cry, laugh, tell stories about it.
“Remember that time I …”
In my studies as a chaplain, I learned that before you can affirm, you must deny. Clear the hovel, tear out the weeds, scorch the earth, only then can you till and plant and build.
You must say (out loud):
Then, remove those environmental triggers or the people in your life who don't see your potential (the smokers or quicksanders who are angry and jealous that you've left them behind), those who would judge, ridicule, diminish or minimize your efforts to evolve and grow.
Surround yourself with those people (and voices) who are succeeding and making the change look easy. Organizationally, this may look like onboarding (or removing) the people who can't grok the new vision.
All the while, affirming:
It all begins with screaming out loud for all to hear (and sometimes destroying something).
"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."
- Stephen R. Covey
For as long as I have been around salespeople or sales teams, they have lived by (or been force-fed) the idea that they should listen more than they should speak.
The idea is to get the customer talking about their pains and needs. The more a customer talks about their pains, the more they reveal or confirm their emotional experience, including vital details about potential solutions. The more a customer talks about potential solutions, the higher the probability that your solution becomes part of the conversation. The more these words come out of their mouth (and not yours) the more they are involved and included in the act of selling themselves on the idea of your product, service or solution.
As Jeffrey Gitomer said, “People don't like to be sold -- but they love to buy.”
The same principle applies in coaching. From life coaching to executive coaching, successful coaches ask questions that get their clients talking about pains, blocks, limiting beliefs and bad habits. Coaches rarely give direct advice. You’ll hardly ever hear a coach say the words “you should.” The more the coaching client speaks, the more they externalize their inner dialogue. The more the client speaks, the more they are involved in “trying on the language.”
It’s a principle we see in Motivational Interviewing and “Positive Psychology” coaching. The more the client talks about what doesn’t work, the more a coach can respond with questions like “Is that true?” or “What do you really want?”
The more clients speak about things like change, potential, possibility and self-image, the easier it is for them to envision their desired outcome. Once again, feeling the words come out of their own mouth is them trying on these beliefs to see how they feel. The better these beliefs feel, the more the coaching client sells themself the idea of change.
I believe we can widen this analogy to include the art of facilitation. Facilitators are also tasked with asking questions (mostly to groups) and waiting for them to respond. The facilitator is in the business of selling – not solutions or ideas, but consensus or alignment.
If a facilitator were to present a group with a list of 20 vendors to evaluate, the group would be resentful and inevitably tell the facilitator where to stick his list. However, if the facilitator gently and repeatedly asked the questions, “How many names do we need?” “Who else might we reach out to?” “Who else might we include?” and “Who have we forgotten?” then the group will produce a list of their own. The group is then able to point to the list, feel good about the outcome and agree on the work at hand.
THE 80/20 RULE
The Pareto Principle (or 80/20 Rule) is named after economist Vilfredo Pareto. It specifies that “80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes,” disrupting what we think we know about inputs and outputs. It is a concept that cuts across many industries and theories of distribution. (As early as 1896, Pareto had observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.)
We now regard this as an unwritten law in business and leadership development. Where you exert 20% of your energy (or spend 20% of your time) will yield 80% of your results.
It shows up in nutrition and weight loss plans – eat healthy foods 80% of the time, and 20% of the time, treat yourself to a serving of something you love.
We see it in relationships – give 80% of your energy to your partner, keep 20% for yourself (and your personal, self-fulfilling activities).
We even see it in music production and content creation – spend 20% of your time reading other’s work, listening to reference tracks, etc. and 80% of your time writing or creating your own.
There’s no reason to believe the 80/20 Rule isn’t the golden ratio for speaking and listening – in fact (to use another auditory example), if you lower the volume on the background music at any cocktail party to 20%, you leave the perfect amount of headroom for lively conversation. It is an indication of our brain’s ability to filter signal from noise.
The same can be applied directly to selling, coaching and facilitation.
We should be listening (with the intent to understand) 80% of the time and with the other 20% we should be speaking (with empathy) and asking better questions.
The first 30 minutes of any virtual session are critical. It is where you greet your participants at the door, make a first impression, establish necessary ground rules, set the tone, begin to build trust and empathy, and get them familiar with any new technology.
Ensuring that your participants have an easy time with this new tech -- before the session begins -- can go a long way to make them feel included and significantly boost their engagement later in the session.
Here is how we begin every virtual session when using MURAL as our collaborative workspace.
1. Soundcheck/Set-Up (15 min)
2. Welcome/OARRs (10 min)
3. Tools Review (5 min)
4. Icebreaker, Check-in (15 min)
Now, you’re off and running. Finish out your agenda as you normally would. And, if you need help or have any further questions about facilitation, don’t hesitate to contact us at illustri.us.
Order Joran's latest book, The Visual Meetings Field Guide: How to Facilitate Great Meetings for Amazing Teams on Amazon or wherever books are sold.
We use four key questions to create great meetings. They are called the OARRs (Objective, Agenda, Rules and Roles) and are inspired by our work with The Grove Consultants International.
The OARRs are a sure-fire way to identify your primary objective (“What do we hope to achieve?”), articulate your agenda (“What must we do today?”), get clear on team roles (“Who needs to be in the room and what are they doing?”) and establish some ground rules (“What behaviors do we need to set and reinforce so that we may follow the agenda and achieve our objective?”).
1. What is the Objective for the meeting?
Is the meeting to make a decision, share knowledge, explore ideas, or address a challenge? The objective will determine who needs to be there, the length of the meeting, and the right time of day for the meeting.
You don’t hold a brainstorming meeting directly after lunch, when the team is full and sluggish. Those meetings are best in the morning when (most) people are open-minded, fresh, and creative.
2. What is the Agenda?
To keep everyone focused and to determine the duration of the meeting, you’ll need an agenda. This is a list of all of the business you need to cover or all the decisions you need to make. Consider using a Visual Agenda — either a set of boxes sized according to how much time is spent on each or a Pie Chart Agenda.
There are always at least three components to every agenda:
3. What are Our Roles?
Based on the Objective and the Agenda, determine who needs to be in the meeting and what their roles are. Roles can be based on a participant’s job description, their expertise, their knowledge of the problem and the marketplace, or their position as a producer or stakeholder.
You may assign some roles to people at the outset of the meeting. Who is transcribing or taking notes? Who is acting as a facilitator? Who is keeping track of time and making sure lunch gets ordered? Who is the designated “Devil’s Advocate” — acting as the wrangler of unicorns and asking tough questions about how we might fail? It helps to think about these roles metaphorically. Are you the person driving, coaching, cheerleading, building, etc.?
See also: The Five Vital Roles in Any Virtual Meeting
4. What are the Rules?
Rules help us cross the finish line as a team. Rules are the covenant and the contract that we abide by as a community. We establish affinity, trust and relationship by mutually agreeing on and following the rules.
If your meeting is being held to reach a decision, then your rules need to create a process of decision-making. You might have a rule about deferring new ideas, projects or business to a later date. You might have a rule about withholding judgment, instead asking specific questions that help you arrive at a decision.
If you’re establishing an environment of trust, respect, consensus and collaboration, you might have rules about always speaking for yourself (using “I” language), raising your hand, or speaking one-at-a-time.
If the meeting is exploratory — designed to share knowledge or brainstorm big, wild ideas — then the rules must support creativity and openness. We borrowed one of the most effective rules for generativity from improv comedy: “Yes, and …”
See also: The Power of "Yes, and ..."
By invoking the rule of “Yes, and …” we stay positive and build on each other’s thoughts, honoring what everyone has to say.
Problem-solving meetings may include the rules “All information is valuable” or “No idea is too small.”
You may invoke “Honesty” as a rule, reminding everyone that we will only achieve our goals if we trust one another and respect each other enough to tell the truth.
If you don’t want people on their phones or laptops, then invoke the rule of “Focus,” “Presence,” or “All In.” Kindly instruct them that if they need to handle business they can take it out of the room (or turn off their cameras) and return when they’re done.
If it’s to be a highly-visual meeting with lots of people sketching or scribing, you may add the rule, “Don’t make fun of others’ drawings.”
After reviewing the rules, you may ask, “Are there any rules we forgot?”
Allowing the participants to create rules together is a way to ensure commitment and engagement early in the process.
When I use the customer journey mapping process to aid clients in their sales and marketing efforts (i.e. a framework like StoryBrand), we place their ideal client in the center of the story.
They are the hero and protagonist who has embarked on a quest to solve their problems (internal, external or philosophical). We identify a villain — someone or something that stands in their way and thwarts their progress at every turn. And, we are their guide (Yoda, Gandalf, The Scarecrow or Glinda the Good Witch).
When they finally overcome this villain to claim ultimate victory and the gift of achievement, we have helped them up the mountaintop and filled them with the power and confidence to stand with one foot on the belly of the dragon and hold their sword to the sky.
To move our potential customers from the safety and warmth of their hearth and up this treacherous mountainside, we may feel the need to shy away from such polarizing language when addressing them. We might think they need to be gently coaxed into a place of safety — lured into a cave and given the plan or solution in secret.
In reality, our hero has been waiting for years for someone (a guide) to come along that has the courage to speak to her in such polarizing language — a language that draws a stark relief between what she’s afraid of and what’s truly at stake and what she stands to win.
Identifying the villain — and what success will look like — allows us to plug simple, yet mythic and powerful words into formulas like the ones below that speak directly to the heart of our ideal client.
The formulas are quite simple.
Formula 1: Kill / Claim - This one uses the “k” sound to create an alliteration. The inputs should be short and use rhyming and/or rhythm to create a brief, memorable statement.
Formula 2: Slay / Step Into - This one relies on the “s” sound and uses the mythic term “slay” in place of “kill.”
Here are a few case studies, based on some of my past sessions:
A corporate innovation company that helps other businesses think ten steps ahead. They have identified as their villain the “Prime Movers” — those who are first to market. Their success looks like a prominent place in their chosen market segment.
For them: Slay the competition. Step into your position.
A sales-based insurance company whose villain is the gray, shadowy, “big bad wolf” that threatens the safety of the community. Success looks like them being perceived as the trusted advisor, providing safety and shelter through the mitigation of risk.
For them: Kill your monsters. Claim peace of mind.
A coaching program that encourages therapists to leave behind the clinical 1:1 practice model, become entrepreneurs and launch a group coaching business. The villain that terrorizes their (primarily female) protagonist is self-doubt and the fear of the unknown. Success looks like the fulfillment of a career they knew they were destined for.
For them: Slay the unknown. Step into the light.
Or, more boldly, and my favorite: Kill your fears. Claim your future.
Copy like this is perfect for headlines in blog or social posts, webinar or workshop titles, or display ads. It serves to address their needs/pains and immediately begins to position you as the guide who is empathetic and demonstrates the authority to lead them on their quest.
You can start today by using more bold, direct language with your potential customers. Watch how they react and respond. Measure how much faster they move up the mountain. And let me know the results.
If you’re interested in what a StoryBrand or business coaching session can do for you, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a discovery call.
Part 1: The Exotic Moods of Les Baxter (1996)
If you were in a facilitation led by me this past year, chances are high that while you brainstormed or wrote silently or sorted and posted up your stickies in MURAL you heard some retro–tiki, instrumental lounge music playing in the background.
That album is The Exotic Moods of Les Baxter and I played it so much in my sessions this year that, according to Apple Music, the album (along with killer releases by Hailey Williams and Moses Sumney) is one of my top 5 albums of 2020.
Most of the people I worked with this year were innovation teams, executives and leadership teams, Chief Innovation Officers and CEOs looking to manage the growth phase of their business or train innovation thinking and best practices throughout their organization.
The work we do together usually spans multiple half-day sessions where we are using collaborative workspaces (like MURAL) to gain clarity or consensus, cast a big vision, work on culture and communication, prioritize initiatives and outcomes, develop a strategic plan or stay accountable to the process.
When facilitating, especially during visioning or brainstorming, I usually build in plenty of time to work silently or write and reflect. And I’m always on a search for music without lyrics to distract from the thinking process.
Sometimes jazz is what I'm after. But, if it’s too busy (like bop or free jazz) it can feel distracting and chaotic, and if it’s too mellow (like smooth jazz) it can feel hokey. 70s–era Miles Davis is greatly atmospheric (i.e. In a Silent Way) and a personal favorite, but the tone of his trumpet can end up sounding grating or tinny when run through Zoom’s compressors or played through tiny laptop speakers.
Sometimes down–tempo electronic or dance can serve to keep the energy steady throughout a session. Goa (a blend of trance and techno) can work for high-energy activities. Minimalist electronic music with blips and washes of sound works great for quieter sessions (think Brian Eno or Bill Laswell). You may also find various playlists, designed for reading or studying, that fit the mood.
For whatever reason, The Exotic Moods of Les Baxter was the album that I played in the most sessions this year and it took a well-deserved spot in my top 5. I suppose it provided the right balance of tension/adventure (like standing in the line at Disney Land) as well as the non-threatening and nostalgic sounds you may find in your grandparents' living room.
I'd love to go through my library and feature some other music that I facilitate and work to. But I’m dying to know -- what is your go-to instrumental music for facilitation, working, studying or reading?
Please sound off in the comments below.
ABOUT THE Author
Joran Slane Oppelt is an international speaker, author and consultant with certifications in coaching, storytelling, design thinking and virtual facilitation.