What does agile have to do with psychotherapy? It turns out quite a lot. If you think about it, ultimately agile is about working closely with people and working closely with people requires our understanding of each other. That's where psychotherapy comes in. Psychotherapy is the science and art of working well with each other, of understanding ourselves and the other person at a deeper level. I hold a masters in clinical psychotherapy (MSW) from New York University and have worked with 5000+ clients to provide coaching/advisory. As a startup founder, I also have hands on experience of applying agile methodologies at my startup. I combine all of that knowledge and experience in this interactive session to cover concepts such as empathy, self limiting beliefs and cognitive biases and how it impacts us and our teams.

Join me for a fun session that is designed by drawing from the latest brain science research to help you learn effectively through interactivity and activities.

By the end of the session, you'll have a clear picture of the importance of concepts like empathy, self-limiting beliefs, systems thinking and cognitive biases and their significance in individual and team performance.

And you won't just learn concepts, you'll take back concrete ideas to implement in your teams starting the next day!


Outline/Structure of the Workshop

  1. Welcome and introduction to the workshop – 2 minutes
  2. Impromtu Networking - we discuss in pairs/table groups - what we already know about empathy, self-limiting beliefs, systems thinking and cognitive biases – 2 minutes
  3. Presenter writes down some key/salient thoughts that participants share – 2 minutes
  4. Presenter discusses the concept of empathy - 5 minutes
  5. Presenter invites participants to engage in an activity to experience empathy. In this activity one person shares a feeling they are experiencing right now for example they may say "right now I feel tired" and the listener simply says "I acknowledge what you're saying, thank you for sharing." - 2 minutes
  6. We think of ways we can increase empathy in teams in a conversation cafe model or an abbreviated 1-2-4-all model - 10 minutes
  7. Debrief: each table group shares a summary or key thought for the entire room to hear – 3 minutes
  8. Next we discuss self-limiting beliefs – what they are, how they hold us back including growth versus fixed mindset - 5 minutes
  9. We engage in 2 activities to metaphorically give up their self-limiting beliefs
    1. Writing a self-limiting belief and having another person tear it up – 2 minutes
    2. We walk around the room carrying a very heavy imaginary box filled with our self-limiting beliefs. - 1 minute
    3. Next they walk with our heavy imaginary box filled with self-limiting beliefs but this time we choose a place in the room and drop the box. – 1 minute
  10. Debrief - how do we feel? How can we apply this to our teams? – 5 minutes
  11. Next we engage in an activity to demonstrate how systems work – we start with an activity – where participants imagine they are connected to 2 other people in an equilateral triangle and have to keep equidistance. Then we start moving. The concept here is we are all part of a system with many interdependencies. 3-5 minutes
  12. Debrief – what did we experience, what does it say about our own teams/companies? 5 minutes
  13. Next presenter shares 15 cognitive biases in a handout form with participants. Participants review it in their teams. These are the 15 biases drawn from cognitive behavioral theories. 5 -7 minutes
  14. Then each team chooses a volunteer to give an example of that bias and others have to Pop Up and guess what bias it is. If no one can guess, then no one gets any points. If someone guesses correctly, both their team and the team that acted out the bias gets a point. The winning team gets prizes. This is one variation. If there are many participants this can be played in table groups as well where within table groups, each participant writes out any 1 bias name, example filtering etc. It’s shuffled. Then each person has to choose one card and give a scenario and others have to guess what bias it is. – 15 minutes
  15. Debrief on key learnings using one of Thiagi's debrief approaches – 5 minutes
  16. Q&A – 5-10 minutes
  17. Overall thoughts on how we will can take these insights to our workplace – Participants write out What, So What and Now What post its which is put up on the wall for actionable insights they can take to work – 5 mins
  18. Conclusion – 1 minute

Total Session Time: 90 minutes


1) The 7 Keys of Empathy by Dr. Helen Reiss, Professor at MIT

2) The Psychology of Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck

3) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) by Aaron Beck

And other books by Irvin Yalom, Albert Bandura and others.

A full references/resources handout will be shared with participants for their further reading.

Learning Outcome

At the end of this workshop as a participant you will be able to:

1) Explain concepts of empathy, systems thinking, self-limiting beliefs and cognitive biases and how it affects us and our teams

2) Understand the tremendous impact these concepts have on team performance

3) Experience various facilitation and debrief approaches drawn from Sharon Bowman, Thiagi, Emelia Breton and other people's works.

4) Take back solid ideas to improve upon each of these within your teams/organization

5) Engage in experiential learning through hands on activities that cement the concepts learned

Target Audience

Executives, Agile Coaches, Scrum Masters, Team Leads, PMO, Team Members

Prerequisites for Attendees

None! Bring an open mind and we'll go on a fun learning adventure together! Everything you need will be provided in the workshop.

schedule Submitted 2 months ago

Public Feedback

comment Suggest improvements to the Speaker
  • Balaji.M
    By Balaji.M  ~  1 week ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Arundhathi,

    Thanks for submitting the proposal, i have gone through the slides mentioned in the link http://bit.ly/TAFAC2019 and hope you will be updating the slides for Agile India 2020 and also would be uploading the same again to the proposal.

    I like these aspects of the submission, and they should be retained:

    • empathy, ei and self-limiting beliefs which are very important for agile mindset

    I think the submission could be improved by:

    • refining your slides and provide more details of how you will be facilitating the creation of concept centres to cover below points.

    We cover the concepts of empathy, EI and self-limiting beliefs through short activities like concept centers, myth or fact, gallery walk etc. (20-30 minutes)

    Activity/Experiential Learning: Engage in activities to really experience these concepts first hand. This is where the real learning happens and it's fun too! (20-30 minutes)

    • also can you map the slide no's with the focus areas for e.g. slide 6 - empathy, slide 7, 8, 9 - EI. This would help us to understand how the flow of the session would be.

    Thanks and Regards


    • Arundhati Dutta
      By Arundhati Dutta  ~  1 week ago
      reply Reply

      Hi Balaji,

      Thank you so much for the detailed review and for your thoughtful review. 

      Greatly appreciate the feedback and glad that you liked the empathy, EI and self-limiting beliefs part. I will definitely update my slides. I didn't realize that slides can be updated even after proposal submission. Give me about 48 hours please as I'm attending an Agile Games conference here in San Francisco today.

      Thank you very much again for the message. And I look forward to updating my slides shortly.

      Warm Regards,


      • Arundhati Dutta
        By Arundhati Dutta  ~  1 week ago
        reply Reply

        Hi Balaji,

        Thank you again for taking the time to read my submission. 

        I have thought through the entire presentation again and laid it out in more detail in the Outline/Structure section. Please take a look. I have marked the minutes that each activity or piece will take to give a better sense of the workshop flow.

        I have included other concepts from Psychotherapy such as systems thinking and cognitive biases and how they impact us and our teams. 

        I envision this workshop to be an experiential one with no slides. I will be using graphic facilitation techniques (Dan Roam, David Sibbet et all) to explain some of the key concepts like Empathy and Self-Limiting Beliefs. But the focus of the workshop will be experiential and interactive learning. 

        Hope this helps. 

        Please let me know if you have any other clarifying questions. And thank you very much again for your time in reviewing this.

        Warm regards,