Lockdown Power-up

By Casilda Malagon and Stephen Welch

At Archetypical, we thrive at finding new ways to help our clients and friends. Coronatimes gave us a special corona-challenge: how do you marry the experience of face-to-face events with the safety of virtual ones? How do you design a happy wedding between the two?

Something old

Sometimes, innovation lies in refreshing the old ways. In the past few months, many joined us in the #testingtimes postcard game. Every couple of weeks, a challenge landed in your home; a postcard with an riddle, an idea, or a link to an on-line tool. Turns out, you really liked the unexpected challenges and the chance to participate in an activity … and get some feedback about yourselves. Thank you for joining us in that adventure!

It turned out to be a good way to stay connected and can be adapted for remote teams who want to have a shared experience.

Something new

Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders™ is going online! With a twist. Our workshops are known for being fun, interactive and thought-provoking, moving online had to keep that part of the experience. Around the world, our players tell us they enjoyed the experience and it made them think differently and power-up their career.

We wanted go online; we wanted to keep the human element, the thrill of moving your peg up a board, the competition of not knowing what choice the other teams will made. How do you meet all that? We’re using a visual collaboration tool, and have adapted it to build a series of ‘rooms’ where teams can play. With a few other tricks up our sleeve, we can create an event that gets your team solving problems, working collaboratively, fueled by a sense of friendly competition.

Finding the right approach took a few tries. Our first attempts didn’t work all that well – but thanks to the collaborative approach of our Archetypical network and our clients, we have something new and different which can help teams grow.  

Something borrowed

Does it count if you borrow from yourself? To find a happy marriage, we combined DNA from our face-to-face workshops with on-line systems and created two ‘children’ in the shape of self-assessment tools. So far the marriage has born the RECIPE for influence and Types of Adviser assessments. More on that via the links.

We’ve got a couple of other tools in the pipeline so watch this space so keep an eye out for how we grow our self-diagnostics offering.

Something blue

In our case, blue like the oceans. We’ve invested in the last few months to grow our international team – across the oceans – and now have colleagues around the world who can deliver in various countries, virtually, and in different languages. It’s a blue planet and we can support teams wherever they might be.

…. and a sixpence in her shoe

OK, inflation has made this almost worthless but the tradition was the sixpence symbolized wealth and prosperity. We can’t promise that working with us will make you wealthy, but we can help you, your career, and your organization prosper.

A little gamification can take you far

Peter Sandbach
Peter Sandbach

This week, Peter Sandbach, Managing Director of Free Range Communications, shares his experience of using Corporate Snakes and Ladders in a large Swiss multinational. He thinks gamification adds so much value, even in the most conservative corporate settings.

Stephen:      Hi Peter. Thanks for chatting. It’s been a while since we worked together. What are you up to these days?

Peter:          I’m Managing Director of Free Range Communications. We focus on communications training and working with big corporates to help leaders with presentation training, storytelling, message development, and how to get their message across effectively. Before that, I was Head of Communication training for a large Swiss multinational, which is how we got to know each other.

Stephen:      Yes, we developed a tailored version of Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders to help you and your colleagues think about their roles as strategic advisers to senior leaders.

Peter:          Indeed. We wanted our communication professionals to be able to get close to the business. How to become a real business partner? We had training for advanced professionals and Heads of Communications, and we had a series of courses for more junior people. But we needed something in between – to help people make the leap from technical expert to strategic adviser. This is where Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders came in.

Stephen:      Yes, we were pleased to help. How come you decided to work with us?

Peter:          Well, we saw your proposal and then had a meeting. Your approach was engaging and different. You worked out how to bring a different approach to our unique circumstances. The two-day programme we developed together was received very well. We got some great feedback from senior people who were really impressed with the facilitation – not just running the game, but also giving expert insight.

Stephen:      Thank you, that’s nice to hear. How did the gamification aspect work?

Peter:          We had a very conservative culture.  But even in such a situation, having fun works. The scenarios were well thought out so people could relate to them. The gaming aspect helped the learning and people took away some good tips.

Stephen:      And what about you? What tips did you take from the session?

Peter:          To be honest, I was looking at it more from a trainer’s perspective. It was a really nice structured way of learning. You mentioned the ‘play-learn-do’ methodology which helped the team think differently.

Stephen:      Yes, we developed the ‘play-learn-do’ approach to help people access learning in different ways and appeal to different learning styles. We’ve then adapted the methodology to different functions and different levels in business, including super challenging for senior people, and entry-level dilemmas for recent graduates. Before we close … tell me more about when you are not helping clients become better communicators. What do you do outside of work?

Peter:          As it happens, I’m the Founding Squire of Ferrette Morris, one of the few Morris Dancing sides in France. You can follow us on facebook, here: https://www.facebook.com/FerretteMorris/ . Next time you are in the Basel or Mulhouse area, come and join us.

Stephen:      I will. Thanks again! Bye.

“… I got some great insights into how to have conversations with other leaders…”

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. Recently, Stephen Welch talked to Alison Brooks, Assistant Head of Professional Development at the UK Ministry of Defence.

Stephen:       Hi Alison. Thanks for chatting. First, please tell me about your job and what you do?

Alison:            I work with communication professionals across the Ministry of Defence to help them develop their skills. In our team we support their growth and development across the full communications landscape from digital skills to becoming strategic advisers to leaders across the Ministry. Previously, I worked for five years at the Cabinet Office as Talent and Professional Standards Manager for the Government Communication Service (GCS).

Stephen:       When did you attend a Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders event?

Alison:            In 2019, I was leading professional development for the GCS, running the “Impact” programme which was aimed at emerging talent professionals across government. The purpose of the year-long programme was to help them develop the skills and behaviours to advance their career. The highlight was our two-day event at Roffey Park conference centre in Sussex where we took over the majority of the venue and played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders.

Stephen:       I remember, yes.  We developed a tailored version of the simulation based around a virtual government department: the ‘Department of Public Administration’. How was the experience for you?

Alison:            It was really interesting and created a really good opportunity for everyone to see through the eyes of others. A chance to take a different perspective on the challenges we face as strategic advisers. I got some great insights into how to have conversations with HR Directors, Finance Directors, and other leaders.

Stephen:       How did the workshop help you and the other participants?

Alison:            It provided a really good way to open up and discuss how to deal with business problems. The event helped me change the way I work. I’ve always tried to consider other people’s views … but in the simulation we really got to think about how to take those different perspectives to the next level.

Stephen:       We are in ‘permanent beta’ mode. What ideas do you have to improve the programme?

Alison:            It could be a really great thing for apprentices. You could create scenarios for different levels or tweak things to help people in different functions. When I participated in 2019, it  was really nice that scenarios were relevant and timely so you should make some new scenarios around Covid-19 or working at home.

Stephen:       Good idea. Thanks for the suggestion. We’ll do that. Meanwhile, tell us about yourself. What do you do outside of work?

Alison:            Well, we used to have horses but we sold our last one recently, so now we are experiencing life after horses. We just got a puppy (see photo above) so that is keeping us busy. My husband just built a summer house in the garden so we are enjoying that – making the most of the weather!

Stephen:       Sounds like fun. Enjoy the dog (or puppy?) days of summer!

Alison:            You too. Bye!

Through the Corporate Looking Glass

A guest post by Charlie Mounter, who is taking part in the #testingtimes campaign.

When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen’s off with her head
Remember what the Dormouse said
Feed your head, feed your head

‘White Rabbit’, Jefferson Airplane

Especially in times of transition and uncertainty, it’s important to experiment and learn from others. But this can be full of hazards and distortions. With or without the help of C20H25N3O.

In taking the Through the Corporate Looking Glass test, I learned that I could often empathise with CEOs but lacked some of their knowledge and approaches. This isn’t a big surprise. I don’t always find global business news very easy to dip into, and much of it lacks meaning without a context in which I can apply it. 

I need a stake, a way to relate to the information others consume in order to see things from their perspective. To understand someone, I have to stop relying on my own models of understanding the world and learn strange new interpretations. This takes deliberate effort. We see things as we are.

How can we see through another’s eyes? It’s easy to assume we know what someone means, but we overestimate how much we understand from facial expressions, tone or body language (it’s called the illusion of transparency). On top of that, most people speak – at least in the UK — indirectly, and it can be hard to gather others’ meanings, especially on email, audio or video calls.

We all apply heuristics when processing information. Cognitive shortcuts with potentially alarming consequences include: 

1) complexity bias, or preferring difficult solutions to simple ones, which can lead us to concoct conspiracy theories to cover our fears and explain gaps in our knowledge; 

2) self-serving bias, which has us own our successes but disown our failures; and 

3) fundamental attribution error, when we give too much weight to personality or disposition and not enough to situation or context in judging a person’s behaviour. 

Perhaps the worst is the Abilene paradox, when a group makes a collective decision that none of its individual members believe in! But there are some ways we can try to overcome such automatic inclinations.

In a nutshell, we have to step back and be rigorous. Our ability to understand others will always be partial, but we can try to be explicit, pay attention and ask for clarification. In the process, we must resist pasting over strangeness and unfamiliarity with our own beliefs or stories, because those carry cognitive biases. Knowledge builds slowly – it’s a long game. The point of collecting different perspectives is to identify common interests we can meet and build upon. Successful CEOs and senior leaders triage where to focus their energy, just as medics do.

Taking part in this, the fifth challenge of the #testingtimes campaign – alongside a bit of introspection and lots of walking – reminded me:

1) that irrational thoughts will surface to fill what lies beyond our knowledge;

2) to focus on improving what matters most rather than dwelling on what doesn’t; 

3) and to thank our contingency plans (you had some, right?). 

It’s an adventure to learn from those who see life differently from you, but when we ‘Go ask Alice’ we need to keep our wits about us. On the other hand, there are those who ask this question…. Who is Alice?

If you’re interested in learning more about cognitive biases, here’s a primer in the form of a spectacular chart which aggregates many of them into types.

“Keep the gameboard. This recalls childhood games, and is fun!”

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. Recently, Alberto San Pedro, from Archetypical’s Barcelona office, spoke with Debra Capua of Davis & Company in New York to get her perspective.

Alberto:         Hi Debra. Thanks for agreeing to this interview. To start off, please can you tell me where you work? What is your job?

Debra:            I’m a project consultant at Davis & Co, a 35 years old Communication Consulting firm (internal mainly) with a strong reputation.  We have about 30 people and a strong client portfolio (pharmaceutical mainly), with clients all over the world (particularly Germany, Switzerland, etc.) .

Alberto:         What is your day-to-day life these days?

Debra:            I’ve been isolated at home, since 25 February. No client calls these days. I’m concerned but have hope for the future. Due to the absence of requests from clients, our main contribution is creating content and translate into marketing flow, in order to get prospect clients.

Alberto:         When did you attend a Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders event?

Debra:            It was in June 2019, hosted by IABC with a mixed audience of students and professionals. Stephen Welch was the facilitator. We had about 15 people, with lots of great feedback. I loved it!

Alberto:         What do you most remember? Your main learning points? What did you find most useful?

Debra:            Where to start? The discussion in the team. The competition. The conversations happening during the game: everyone had a take on it; a different angle. The facilitation was good: Stephen was particularly good at keeping the conversation up.  Mainly I learned that, to become a strategic advisor, to take a seat at the table, is definitely worth it and there are different routes to consider.

Alberto:         What 3 words would you use to describe the workshop?

Debra:            Fun, interesting, valuable.

Alberto:         As we are developing an on-line version, which should be 2-3 things to focus on, to ensure a great experience to participants?

Debra:            Keep the gameboard. This recalls childhood games, and is fun! Be sure to give an opportunity for people to introduce themselves- find out who the other people are. Have breakout rooms discussions and then everybody shares. Oh, and keep the character personalities.

Alberto:         Great, thanks for that. How, if at all, has your attendance at the Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders event helped you in your job?

Debra:            Due to the fact there were several people from Davis, that has helped to have challenging conversations internally, keeping the conversation up and exploring other ways to being more strategic in our different roles.

Alberto:         If you could travel in time, what advice would you give to your junior self?

Debra:            Having a better understanding of how other people think, and make decisions, maybe I did not consider this while interacting with others before. There are linear thinkers (such as financial, operational people), and that gives them a perspective on how they see the world that has nothing to do with mine (more circular and transversal). This reminds me of the need of behaving in a more flexible and adaptable manner.

Alberto:         Great, thanks again for your views. Bye.

Debra:            Bye.

If you want to get to know Debra (we recommend it!) connect with her on LinkedIn

Through the Corporate Looking Glass

Welcome to this week’s blog … a quiz!

If you are playing our #testingtimes game, you will soon receive (or perhaps you have already) the latest postcard with your latest challenge: a quiz. This challenge will encourage you to think about things from a different perspective — through the looking glass if you will.

If you’re not playing the #testingtimes game, you can still try the quiz.

We’ve set up a special page to tell you all about it. Click here to go through the looking glass.

Good luck!

“The gaming element lifted it to another level.”

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. Recently, Stephen spoke by video with Paul Stamper, Senior Client Officer at Ipsos-MORI. Paul was a participant in a new version of our workshop — one designed specifically for agencies or consulting firms who want to improve their client partnership skills.

Stephen:       Hi Paul. Thanks for agreeing to chat. It is hard to believe it was six months ago we ran a customized Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders workshop for you and your team. So much has happened since then!

Paul:               Yes indeed. We’re all getting used to working in a different way.

Stephen:       As you’ll recall we built a special version of our workshop to help you and your colleagues think differently about how you advise and support clients. What was the highlight for you?

Paul:               The thing I particularly liked was the gamification and the interactions with imaginary clients. This triggered a lot of conversations and was an excellent and engaging way of getting a discussion going. The competitive element added a frisson to the room.

Stephen:       Tell me more?

Paul:               Good content and clear learning objectives always help create a great session. But the gaming element lifted it to another level. It made the session memorable as a training experience and helped cement the learning. Individuals, including me, found themselves being challenged in their own thinking and not always reverting to default behaviour, which might not always be the best approach.  The concept caught my imagination and was a real eye-opener. It has made me rethink how I deliver training.

Stephen:       Thanks, that’s nice to hear. As you know we are working on developing an on-line version of the simulation. What are the key elements you think we should focus on to ensure a similar experience?

Paul:               The small group working was a key part for me, and very powerful discussions. There may be things you can simplify to make it easier for people. And I know it sounds strange, but maybe you don’t need the actual Snakes and Ladders board, just keep track of points in a different way.

Stephen:       Interesting ideas. Casilda and I will consider them. We’re still in the qual research phase for finding out what works well so watch this space! Meanwhile, can you tell me what is the one tool or approach that stands out for you so far?

Paul:               The Trust Equation. It has helped me think about my relationships with clients, and how I develop them to go beyond being a great researcher, to become a great strategic adviser.

Stephen:       Glad it was useful. Thank you. In the meantime, tell us a bit about Paul. What do you do outside work? What do you do when you are not working?

Paul:               I live in West London and – as you can see behind me via my webcam – I’m a big player of Board games. My current favorite is Terraforming Mars, where you have to develop the Red Planet, while balancing different resources. I guess there’s a parallel with Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders where you have to balance your position on the Board and your reputation with different stakeholders!

Stephen:       I’ll have to check it out. Meanwhile thanks again for your time and hope to meet in person sometime soon.

Paul:               That would be good. Bye.

I am Salma

Many of you are participating in our #testingtimes postcard game. If you playing, watch out for round 4 which is coming out next week. You will be able to explore your preferred influencing style, according to the RECIPE model.  Meanwhile, round 3 was all about the different types of strategic adviser, and here are some reflections from one of our participants, Charlie Mounter.

My adviser archetype is Salma the Sommelier (with a dash of Martha the Maître d’ and a soupçon of Christiane, the Chef). I have ‘a strong sense of client focus’ and my approach balances ‘expertise and relationship building’. I recognise that such exercises can help us think through the more nebulous aspects of our work lives and give us something to chew over. After I met my deadline this week, I did just that – with a glass of wine, naturally.

In the advisory part of my work as an editor, I can be a lot like a sommelier. The first thing I do is to listen, as carefully as I can, to the clients (who tend to be the author and the publisher). I need to stay approachable and really concentrate to learn all I can about their project, but also their styles, preferences, and to what extent they want to take the lead or follow mine. Some clients are certain of their taste, they know exactly what they want and will entertain no deviation. If that’s the case, I serve their vision – after all, it’s their wine. With others, there’s more opportunity to innovate. This can change along the way – one has to stay open minded and adaptable.

The chief concern as editor or sommelier is that the readers or guests understand and enjoy the result. There might be dozens of people at the table, each with their individual wants and needs, and they can disagree vehemently. When I bring together the content for a complex book (which might have maps, photography, illustrations, captions, peer reviews, etc.) I have to work within limitations. Ultimately, whoever is paying has the upper hand, but the best way to mollify concerns is to give sound, evidence-based advice that I have already adapted for the client. Both editor and sommelier deal with complex products but we don’t bring the entire wine list, or content, to bear at once, or it would be overwhelming. The introduction and conclusion – or aperitif and digestif – can carry a lot of this weight by framing the experience. Everything in between is just as important, but people remember bookends. So, like the sommelier, I’m a mediator realising the qualities of the wine and its terroir, communicating the relevant parts of what I’ve learned and the context of the ideas and their implications, and trying to please the end consumer – if I lose sight of that, all is lost!

Editorial projects, and especially books, can take yonks to come to market. Just as a sommelier needs to manage the fluctuations of guests eating a meal, I have to maintain  energy and spark inspiration along the critical path. An author must keep sight of the story they’re telling, but some want to learn all the editorial nuts and bolts, too. Giving that advice is as much an experiential process as a results-driven one. Like a sommelier, I explore in order to discover; I judge when to interrupt, when to step back. The proof might be in the pudding but, as my Archetypical feedback noted, I can become demotivated if metrics outweigh all other concerns. Editorial margins and mark-ups don’t only apply to budgets.

Just as in the world of wine, independent study and research forms the basis of my trade. There’s always so much more to learn. Augustus, the virtual restaurant we advisers work for, might be closed for the pandemic, but that’s my takeaway.

 

Looking at things from a different angle

“It is a very inconvenient habit of kittens (Alice had once made the remark) that whatever you say to them, they always purr.”
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Welcome to the second challenge of our #testingtimes campaign. If you’re reading this, you might have successfully completed challenge one; if not, it’s not too late to sign up, just send us your physical address and we’ll pop a card in the post.

Today we’ll focus on taking a looking at things from a different angle. We think it’s a useful skill to have if you want to grow your career. Because to be a senior adviser you need to be better than a lawyer that only sees legal problems or a human resources expert that only sees people issues. What you want is to be is an enterprise-wide thinker, who solves business issues bringing in a wide range of perspectives. Alice, in the quote above, is sharing the frustration we sometimes hear from leaders, so don’t be a kitten to always purrs; sometimes you need to roar — or even bark or chirp from time to time.

A first step is to step back and learn to see things from other angles. Exercise your creative muscles. Artists do it, philosophers do it and now you can too. Creativity can be focused and learned, just like any other skill.

So here’s your second career workout:

  1. The warm up 

Full disclosure, we borrowed this idea from London’s premier contemporary art gallery, the Tate Modern. They use it in their creativity for artists class. We asked you to pick and object, and then photograph it from an entire different angle.

Check out our Twitter feed for our own examples, in the meantime here’s what we did:

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In this example a sculpture became a candle holder and it made me think of Frida Khalo and my travels through Mexico. And then, looking closer a cactus turns into barbed wire.

2. Exercise your core

The key learning comes through reflecting on the process:

  • How did the search for a new angle made you feel? Energised? Stressed?
  • Was it hard? Was it easy?
  • Did it invite you to create something new?
  • Could you find a new use for the object after seeing from a new angle?

Through this objects take a new life; ideas expand and even sparks of joy flow in the process.

3. Stretching

Now let’s put it into action at work. Is there a piece of work on the ‘back boiler’ that you could re-purpose to address a current need? For example, we had an old competitor analysis that we never properly finished, and we’ll now use it to help us figure out how to take Archetypical from a face-to-face business into a virtual facilitation one! (Watch this space for more.)

Creativity is a journey and we thank you for joining us in this #testing times

If you really like the idea of flexing your creativity muscles, here a few things we really like:

As always we would love to hear from you in this #testingtimes.

Your career workout for #testingtimes

Great! If you are reading this, it means you’ve completed the first postcard challenge.

We are all going through extremely testing times. Work is fluid, merging into home life. Some of us find ourselves looking for new ways to fill up the time we’ve recovered from no longer commuting, others face the challenge of even less time to spare, either because they play a role in their organization’s COVID response (more work!) or having to balance work with looking after children at home; or in some cases, both.

There is flurry of articles on how to deal with working from home and about looking after your mental and physical health while keeping the trains of work and home life running. Some of the ones we’ve enjoyed are at the end of this blog.

However, we have declared this space to be COVID-free space. Our mission is to bring you a little bit of joy and inspiration, while continuing to grow your career as a strategic adviser. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably signed up to our postcard #testingtimes campaign and so your challenge is to try to put one of these suggestions into action in the next two weeks. If you’ve not signed up: email us your physical address for the next few weeks. It’s not too late to join the game.

Here’s three ideas that might help you flex your strategic muscles.

  • 1. Play outside your sandbox – To jump from being a technical expert (in comms, legal, human resources, or other functions) you have to leap into a wider body of knowledge, to understand how other professions see business. This is the time to open up your mind to new fields with the strategic intent of improving how you perform in your own.
  • 2. Learn to look at things differently- The world was already volatile before COVID, now we need to be even more flexible. But to a hammer all problems look like nails. So how do you step away from the hammer? Try approaching a familiar situation from a new perspective. 
  • 3. Nurture your boundaries – Healthy boundaries – permeable, flexible ones, are the key to a healthy life and a healthy career. Limits are good. Know what yours are, only then can you decide which limits to push. 

But how?, you might ask. Keeping our promise to be fun, without further ado, we present the #testingtimes bingo: a quick reference guide to keep growing your career without leaving home.

Tip If you have more time than usual If you have less time than usual
Play outside your sandbox
  1. Sign up for a free online course in something unrelated to your field (Accounting and Design Thinking come to mind).
  2. Follow the news, stock price and commentary of a sector you are not involved with. Fashion? Aviation? The Arts? (Stephen  is a member of the Royal Academy in London: you can sign up to regular emails here.)
  3. A couple of years ago, Casilda did a creativity course at the Tate Modern. Here’s a new idea.
  1. Call up someone (a friend, a new colleague) who works on a different area and just take 10 minutes to ask what their regular day is like. 
  2. Follow a company outside your sector on social media or on the digital newspaper of your choice. 
  3. Talk to your children about what you do, pay attention to their questions. They are very revealing of what’s important.
Look at things differently
  1. Try doing “opposition research” on your organisation. If you were an NGO, what issues would you raise?
  2. Now do “opposition research” on yourself, how would you turn your weaknesses into strengths?
  3. Read an interview with Karl Rove and David Axelrod on opposition research. 
  1. Get a friend or your partner to give you feedback on a piece of work they’ve never seen before. Don’t explain, just listen. 
  2. Listen to an episode of Cautionary Tales by Tim Harford
  3. When/if you are out for your daily exercise: think about the first car you see and create an imaginary biography for it.
Nurture your boundaries
  1. Understand what healthy boundaries look like. We like Brene Brown’s advice
  2. Try setting a schedule put your phone on “flight mode” no interruptions for an hour or two a day. 
  1. Block a 30-minute pause time in your calendar a day. Just for you.
  2. Try saying no to at least one non-essential request. Read our tips on how to say no. 
  3. Unsubscribe from redundant mailing lists.
  4. Turn your phone off for an hour. Go on, I dare you.
Three of the many, many resources for working from home and mental health

The next instalment of our #testingtimes campaign will come in two weeks.