Earlier this week, a number of us on the Commerce Kitchen team attended Flip the Clinic. As a developer, I’m familiar with hackathon or hack night events. This was not one of those. Instead, it was a design-thinking workshop, which was rather new to me.
On Monday morning, bright and early, we were introduced to our team facilitators, John and Jochen. They were tasked with leading us through the chaos and into clarity. They did not attempt to influence our team and what we would eventually decide we would work on and present. Instead, they worked to keep us moving and focused. Overall, their presence taught me a few really important lessons, and I’d like to share one in particular.
One of the first things that we were shown was this concept of the “Four Room Apartment”. It goes something like this:
Imagine an apartment, divided into four quadrants. The top left is “Contentment,” the bottom left is “Denial,” the bottom right is “Confusion,” and the top right is “Renewal.”
The Contentment room represents the state of normalcy in which we live our day-to-day lives. For whatever reason, we encounter a moment where we see a glimpse of what could be better, the Renewal room. However, there is no door to directly pass from Contentment to Renewal. Instead, we have to pass through Denial and Confusion, in order to get to Renewal.
So, you step into the Denial room. Here, maybe you’re doubting the status quo. Perhaps you’re doubting the need to change the status quo, or maybe just doubting the changes that seem to be facing you in order to get through this room. Whatever it is, uncertainty reigns supreme here.
Once you manage to get through the Denial room, you step into the Confusion room. Here, you might be weighing different options for change. Different people’s opinions come to light and you debate the pros and cons of what’s before you. Perhaps emotions or attachment to whatever you accepted when you were leaving the Denial room are pressed and you feel stressed. Here is where the back and forth happens. Some ideas converge and others are cut entirely. Ultimately, the purpose is to refine things to the point where you can have a Clear Path Forward, in order to move into the next room.
After all the chaos has calmed down, you step into the Renewal room. Here, you are met with the positive sense of a clear path forward to a better future, implementation, or idea. People feel excited to get to work and so the team can now make progress.
The most important thing isn’t how quickly you and your team progress through the rooms. Don’t leave anyone behind. While you might feel you’ve already moved on to the Renewal room, your teammates might be stuck back in Denial or Confusion. When this happens, team dysfunction abounds and you have to go back and find them. You meet them in the room they’re in so you can help bring them forward.
On a personal level, this struck a cord with me. Often times, I feel I’ve seen or reached the promise land of Renewal and I’m all ready to jump in and make this bright new future happen. Unfortunately, I’d left my teammates in the dust and they are in Denial or Confused about what I’m talking about. I find this frustrating and would often feel myself wondering what’s wrong. “Why can’t they just see how great this could be?”
Now, I know why.
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