Want to change the world?

I have some bad news.

It’s a lot of work! 

It’s also a lot of listening and loads of grace and patience with your change partners. If you are changing even those smallest parts of your world, there’s a good chance you are embarking on new territory. Unfortunately “new” and “change” aren’t things our brains get excited about. In fact, our brains get us in a fight or flight mode because it’s our brain’s jobs to protect us from all the scary things. 

So how do you let go of your primal instincts and get to the good but hard work? You create safe spaces. Safe spaces inject humor which lets the amygdala (the fight or flight gatekeeper) loosen its grip on the  executive brain functions – critical thinking, creativity, and reasoning. If you are leading people through change, it’s also important to provide clarity about what you’re doing and why. Clear guidance helps alleviate the tension that is created when tackling a new challenge. Lay this foundation and you will set your team up for productive work. 

In my last post, I shared that in our social impact session we used a collaborative whiteboard platform called Mural. We made sure we understood the student journey with subject matter experts sharing their current experience. After listening to subject matter experts, we created an empathy map to better understand the youth experience. Once we had that in our minds, we used the Lightning Fast Decision Jam process from AJ & Smart. This simple process helped the team sort all details and big ideas that percolate during the listening time. The Decision Jam 

Here’s how it works. 

Draw a boat with a waterline, anchor, and sail. This easy visual allows critical thinking to flow. Trust me, the less you tax the cognitive load with complexity, the better. The focus should be on the participant outputs. 

Spend 10 minutes generating post its on “what’s moving us forward.” The rules for this are:  one idea per sticky and no talking, just generate ideas silently together. We also talked ahead of time about how awkward silently together can be at first. This method not only saves time but keeps the more skilled persuaders at bay so everyone can sit with their own thoughts. We all learn and process differently so different teammates may struggle at first but you will find that this creates a contemplative atmosphere with time for processing. 

Next, spend 10 minutes generating post-its on the topic “what’s holding us back.” Then categorize your challenges and issues. From here we narrowed down and prioritized through voting where to start working and how to chip away at the creation of an equitable, engaging, and empowering technology program for youth.



I’d like to say we got well on our way, but we didn’t. Our categories were still incredibly broad with the issues still looming at macro level. With COVID complications like inability to interact with students, new purchasing issues brought about by supply chain, and the unknown trajectory of the disease, we had to make a lot of best guesses. 

For our next session, I brought in another subject matter expert and changed the view of our empathy map. This time I had everyone create “how might we..” questions silently together while listening to the experts. This seemed to get us narrowed down to actionable, micro level problems we could tackle over a summer. 


Next up, we’ll take a look at our challenges, some manna from heaven, and new smarty pants IT partners just in the nick of time!