What defines a high performing team? Why do some succeed while others fail? This workshop will introduce you to both the VTS method and the findings of Google's "Project Aristotle". A multi-year rigorous research study, Project Aristotle found the critical success factor to be Psychological Safety - a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust, risk-taking, and mutual respect. To succeed, each and every team member must feel confident speaking up and making mistakes. This session is an extension of my talk "Art For Agilists: VTS & High Performing Teams". During this session, you'll learn how VTS increases both critical thinking skills and psychological safety - leading to happier, more productive, and more innovative teams. We take a deeper dive into the method and also cover the basics of facilitating sessions in your own environment. In addition to in-person sessions, you'll learn how to conduct online sessions for remote teams.

Visual Thinking Strategies, or VTS, is a cross-disciplinary technique applicable to anyone working in a collaborative setting. VTS develops observation, reasoning, and collaboration skills by viewing and discussing works of art in a group. It is backed by over 30 years of field research showing its effectiveness and accessibility. By allowing individuals to talk about art - without needing a background in the field - VTS advances skills you can use to create more relevant products and stronger teams: Observing, Brainstorming, Cultivating a Point of View, and Revision & Elaboration. As you participate you'll also learn how VTS can help to create an environment of psychological safety. Because there are no right answers , VTS creates a safe space, one that encourages participation from all viewers. Empathy, Communication and Collaboration skills are enhanced along with Comfort with Ambiguity, Openness to the Unfamiliar, Civil Debate, and Willingness to Participate in Group Thinking.

During our fun interactive exercise, we’ll discuss selected works of art as a group. We’ll create an environment and process for looking, thinking, reasoning and revision - skills that are mission-critical to anyone working in a software design or development role. You'll discover new ways to engage teammates and highlight the value of diverse points of view.

After our group discussion, participants will learn the basics of image selection and facilitating VTS sessions within their own organizations. You'll discover how creating psychological safety within your teams leads to innovation and a more inclusive environment.

 
 

Outline/Structure of the Workshop

Outline/structure of the Session

  • Introduction of VTS and brief background - 10 minutes
  • Exercise: VTS session with the entire group - 20 minutes
  • Overview of VTS basics - 10 minutes
  • Discussion of Project Aristotle and Psychological Safety - 10 minutes
  • Case Studies - 10 minutes
  • Instruction on image selection - 10 minutes
  • Instruction on the "Three Questions" methods - 5 minutes
  • Instruction on paraphrasing, highlighting, and other facilitation methods - 10 minutes
  • Instruction on facilitating online sessions for remote teams - 10 minutes
  • Exercise: Image Selection - 15 minutes
  • Exercise: Facilitating a session - 90 minutes
  • Q&A - 10 minutes
  • Breaks - TBD

Learning Outcome

Learning Outcomes

  • Understanding the history & benefits of Visual Thinking Strategies
  • Introduction to Project Aristotle and the concept of Psychological Safety
  • Understanding how psychological safety leads to innovative teams
  • First-hand experience with the VTS method
  • Understanding the basics of image selection
  • Understanding the "Three Questions" used in the facilitation method
  • Hands-on experience facilitating a VTS session from start to finish

Target Audience

Coaches, Scrum Masters, Facilitators, Team Leads, Managers & Leaders

Prerequisites for Attendees

No prior knowledge of the method is required. Participants do not need to have attended the introductory talk as we will cover that material plus additional information for facilitators. Participants should come with an open mind and a desire to have fun while learning something new. This session is highly interactive!

schedule Submitted 11 months ago

Public Feedback

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  • Tathagat Varma
    By Tathagat Varma  ~  11 months ago
    reply Reply

    Alex, the topic sounds interesting. I missed your session last year, but do hope to attend one of your future sessions.

    Your entire session of 240 minutes is quite a lot! It is normally veyr difficult to hold the attention of people in a lecture-style setting. Do you want to relook at the workshop agenda and optimize it? Also, please elaborate what will happen in the 90 minute session (third-last bullet).

    • Alexandra West
      By Alexandra West  ~  11 months ago
      reply Reply

      Thanks so much for commenting! I agree 240 minute is far too long for just a lecture. That's why at least 125 minutes  (over half) of this workshop will be hands-on experience with the method - highly interactive activities. This includes the initial 20-minute VTS session I'll lead with the entire group, the 15-minute image selection exercise, and the final 90-minute facilitation exercise. This 90-minute exercise is there so that all the participants will actually get a chance at facilitating - practicing what we've learned together. 

      Once we break into smaller groups I have everyone practice facilitating a mini session with their round. Depending on the size of the round, each individual will have their own 5-10 minute practice session leading their group. 

      I hope that helps to clarify the structure - please let me know if you have additional questions or comments.

      • Naresh Jain
        By Naresh Jain  ~  10 months ago
        reply Reply

        Alex, typically 240 mins (half-day) workshops are planned pre/post conference. Which would be one option. A topic like this would be of interest for a larger audience (during the actual conference itself.) Would you consider running a condensed version of this workshop in 90 mins? 

        • Alexandra West
          By Alexandra West  ~  10 months ago
          reply Reply

          Yes - absolutely. We would just want to think about having it held for a smaller group so we'd have time for at least some, if not all, of the participants to get hands-on practice facilitating.  

          • Naresh Jain
            By Naresh Jain  ~  10 months ago
            reply Reply

            Sure. When you say "smaller group", how many participants would you be able to accommodate?

            • Alexandra West
              By Alexandra West  ~  10 months ago
              reply Reply

              If we maxed out at 50-60 people, we could break them into 10 teams and have everyone facilitate within their groups for 5 minutes each. This would be after the introduction and the entire group session I'd lead. 

              We could also accommodate more people and not have everyone facilitate. Let me know your thoughts.

              • Naresh Jain
                By Naresh Jain  ~  10 months ago
                reply Reply

                Great, thanks. That would work. Please update your proposal to reflect the same.

                • Alexandra West
                  By Alexandra West  ~  10 months ago
                  reply Reply

                  Hey Naresh - Just so I'm clear, you'd like me to change the entire submission to reflect a 90 min. format, or just add that on as an option?

                  • Naresh Jain
                    By Naresh Jain  ~  10 months ago
                    reply Reply

                    It would be great to have a 90 mins workshop proposal that we can include in the core conference program on March 19th. So yes, please update this proposal or add a new proposal for 90 mins.

                    If you would like to offer a pre/post-conference workshop for 1/2 day or full day, then that would be a separate proposal.


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