The Conversation Factory
About This Show
Welcome to the conversation factory. I'm investigating how we create change through changing conversations. Each episode I'll talk to an amazing conversation designer to try to distill insights we can all bring into our work and lives.
Most Recent Episode
Building a Group Mind with Steve Portigal
It's always such a pleasure to get to sit down with one of your heroes...and it's especially wonderful when they are just warm, wonderful people. Steve Portigal is a prominent author of two excellent books on user research ( Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights and Doorbells, Danger, and Dead Batteries: User Research War Stories, linked below) and Steve also speaks prolifically on the conference circuit. And while he maintains a solo practice on the west coast, he somehow makes time to also give a lot of his knowledge away, blogging, podcasting...When I was coming up in the design world, Steve's writing was always clear and helpful. And when we first met, he was approachable and human. Steve is a model for the kind of design thought leader we need more of! Sitting down with Steve for this episode was an interesting risk, though. We ran into each other in SF and talked about the possibility of an episode grounded in a topic Steve is an expert in, but indirectly. Let me explain. Steve is a User Researcher, heart and soul. And he talks and writes about it, fluently. Facilitation is something that he *has to do* in order to bring people together. He's an extremely reflective practioner about research, but about facilitation, less so. For me, it's fascinating to see that divide. I think there are a lot of people where facilitation is a means to an end. Steve illustrates something I coach people on often - you have to be your own kind of facilitator. I can be theatrical and energetic. Steve is more introverted and centered. My way of solving for group work isn't Steve's : he's adapted his own approach that feels natural and gets the job done. There are a few key insights I got out of this conversation that I want you to look out for: Treating Workshops as a series of games with clear rules and goals Steve breaks his time with groups up into "beats" or "scenes" just like an improv person would. Each scene has a focus, an outcome and rules. It breaks the time up and keeps energy moving. Narrow Ranking 0, 1, 2: If you're going to get participants to rank things solo before comparing, make the structure simple. 0 is meh, 2 is awesome. 1 is good. That's it. Too much granularity confuses things. Direct vs indirect facilitation Steve talks about comedic scolding of groups, pushing teams but using humor, vs letting them do their ow