Photo: Blindfold tasting / community conversation with Stacy Sternberg

Putting the Feel Good into Failure

Posted on December 02, 2022 by Stacy Sternberg, communications coordinator for The Patterson Foundation
Author’s Note: Individuals and organizations have the power to realize shared aspirations by connecting and engaging within communities. The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation’s time-tested and proven techniques provide an opportunity to evolve community dialogue into positive actions. Shared through The Patterson Foundation's Aspirations to Actions initiative, Harwood’s teachings are used personally, in the workplace, and in communities. This is how it translates into your editor’s personal life. Enjoy...

In early 2021, I asked myself what my perfect life would be. After thinking about it for more than a year, it finally solidified. I felt alive. I realized I could use Harwood techniques to inform my business plan aspirations. So for the first encounter, I invited sixteen creative friends and coworkers to share their thoughts and experience my blindfold tasting -- in collaboration with Mary Gammon, co-founder of Gourmet Vida. The blindfold tasting and the Harwood technique proved to be the perfect recipe for progress.

Putting the Feel Good into Failure: The second interactive experience + conversation
I know myself. I have big ideas, but I’m a details person. I also have a growth mindset and am aware of my desire to acquire tools to try to think more high level. It doesn’t come naturally, so I aligned myself with two brilliant thinkers and facilitators I’m very fond of and trust: TPFers Maria Schaedler-Luera and Michael Zimmerman.

Obviously, I would not know the outcomes of the conversation in advance, but I knew my choice to ask Maria and Michael to help was wise. The event was successful in some ways, but I observed all 19 guests needed clarification about how to be purposeful in their sharing. Overhearing the conversations, Maria and Michael were incredible at keeping to The Harwood Institute’s practice and standards, but they were also a little lost in my purpose.

While I didn’t get the feedback I was hoping for from my follow-up survey, Maria and Michael shared their astute observations. Michael helped me understand that I needed to work backward and share my specific goals and purpose to provide boundaries, then open the space for input. In his blog, The Power of Facilitation, he shares a tool from the Exponent Philanthropy conference called The Fabulous POP Model.

“This model is derived from three parts: Purpose, Outcomes, and Process. Understanding the purpose and intended outcomes drives the process. Before initiating any facilitation, addressing these three questions can help define the direction. For purpose: why are we undertaking this? For outcomes: what are the specific outcomes we want to accomplish as a result of this action? For process: what steps will we take to achieve these outcomes and fulfill the process?

By incorporating the POP model into the planning, the facilitator and the participants gain a clear sense of the purpose and outcomes of any intended action, helping instill in individuals, teams, and organizations an ongoing discipline of focusing on results rather than activity. Since time is a nonrenewable resource, tools like the POP model help our organizations function productively with focus and intentionality.”Michael Zimmerman, TPF Fellow 2021/22

In hindsight, I realized I was so concerned about not arriving with the answer that I didn’t give enough structure to make an intentional event purposeful.

Blindfold tastings started as a way for guests to develop a baseline of trust through a shared experience prior to the community conversations. The tastings are developing into something extraordinary, and I am treating them as a form of experiential art in conjunction with the discussions.

Maria Schaedler-Luera, a TPF consultant with the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and an accomplished teaching artist and Ayurvedic practitioner, shared suggestions to help me dial in the tasting experience so that people attending more than once wouldn’t feel like they were experiencing a one-hit-wonder. She suggested adding boundaries to help participants be more intentional in processing the experience of being present. She also asked me to think more about how that exercise could prepare guests to benefit from the conversations. We plan to explore these ideas further.

I already feel a sense of accomplishment for putting myself out there. The most surprising thing so far is that it’s never felt so good to fail as I discover how to make this project a ten.

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