Season three

Asking Better Questions: What's your North Star?


Today’s guest is Robin Peter Zander, an author, strategist, and performance coach. (scroll down for Robin’s full bio and links)

The big insight for me in this episode is to ask myself a simple set of questions, often: why am I opening my mouth? What’s my goal?

Wanting the best for the other person you’re talking to is a fine place to start. But there’s a level of humility we could all benefit from: Starting from a firm belief that each person has their own wisdom, rather than believing I know better what they need than they do.

We talk about four levels of questions:

1. Fact based questions

2. Judging questions

3. Questions that elicit Stories and Narratives, ie, questions that pull at a thread

4. Loving Questions, which are present and non-judgmental

I shared a 2 X 2 framework I’m working on in my book, How Conversations Work, that contrasts these two question stances: Asking vs. Telling. We’ve all heard (and asked) these type of non-questions.

The North Star Conversation Framework

The North Star Conversation Framework

The other axis is being problem-focused or solution-focused in your questions. “Have you tried this?” is a really different question from “What have you tried?”

We reference two magnificent quotes about questions that I want to offer here in full:

In the word question, there is a beautiful word - quest. I love that word. We are all partners in a quest. The essential questions have no answers. You are my question, and I am yours - and then there is dialogue. The moment we have answers, there is no dialogue. Questions unite people.

Elie Wiesel

Krista Tippett, the host of NPR’s On Being, suggests that “questions elicit answers in their likeness. It's hard to transcend a simplistic question. It's hard to resist a generous one. ”

If we’re willing to take risks in communication others can respond in kind. The shift has to start somewhere, with someone.

More about Robin

Robin Peter Zander is an author, strategist, and performance coach. With a diverse background ranging from management consulting to the circus, he has spent his life working with individuals and organizations to maximize potential. He is the founder of Zander Media, a creative agency which works with start-ups to grow brand and culture, and Responsive Conference, which convenes annually to explore the future of work. Learn more at


How to do a Handstand

Don't Trust the Process


On this episode, I’m talking with Bárbara Soalheiro, founder of the Mesa method, a five-day process for bringing people together and solving extraordinary problems. Sound familiar?

Think again. Mesa is unlike any other accelerated work environment I’ve encountered. And Bárbara  is the first facilitator I’ve heard say “don’t trust the process.”

We philosophize about power distribution, problem framing, Masculine vs Feminine leadership and the difference between a mystery and a quest. It’s a jam-packed hour of conversation, so buckle in. 

Bárbara started the Mesa method based on a few fundamental principles, essential beliefs abut human nature and the future of work.

  1. That work is actually fun and what we’re here to do. 

  2. In the near future, the best and the brightest people will be impossible to hire. They will be busy doing their own thing

  3. If you want to solve the biggest problems you have to work with the best minds.

  4. The only way to work with the best is in short, clear bursts.

  5. The best way to work is to be 100% focused on results

The Mesa method brings together internal stakeholders with external talent – in Bárbara’s language, “pillars of knowledge” – for five days. This external talent shows up for day one with no briefing, with just the general mission in mind. And they end their week, not with user testing, like another sprint model you might have heard of, but with a prototype that is as close as possible to what the company will build.

Barabara’s perspective is a breath of fresh air and unconventional thinking, and her approach has resonated with some big names. She has been helping organizations such as Netflix, Google, Coca-Cola, Nestléand Samsung make bold moves and she’s worked side by side with some of the most extraordinary professionals of our time, people like Kobe Bryant, Cindy Gallop, Perry Chen, Anthony Burrill, Fernando Meirelles and many others.

Find more on Mesa here:





The space is in New York and New York is in the space: tokoro and three other Japanese words for space

Oblique Strategies

Facilitating Co-Creation


Douglas Ferguson is a deep and brilliant facilitator, entrepreneur and technologist. Douglas and I met at the Google Sprint Conference and got to know each other a lot better when he came to NYC to join my Facilitation Masterclass. It’s always humbling to see the caliber of leaders who come out the masterclass.

Douglas’ Innovation Agency, Voltage Control, is hosting a Facilitator Summit in Austin May 23rd and I’m excited that he invited me to do a session on Narrative Models for facilitation. We’re also co-hosting a pre-conference Masterclass. I’m really excited about it and I hope you can make it out. Learn more and get tickets here.

Douglas and I go deep on Innovation, Co-creation, sprinting and he talks about his journey as a facilitator and how he keeps learning and growing.

At minute 19, we dive into why and how diversity helps groups solve problems and towards the midpoint Douglas reveals his facilitator’s secret resource: Camp counselor activity books.

By minute 35 we muse about a leader as someone who sets the cadence of work, and who makes sure that cadence doesn’t become a rut or burnout.

At minute 40 we talk about the Austin facilitation summit and why we’re co-running a masterclass together.

Finally, at minute 53 we talk about how to talk to a CTO and how, not surprisingly, they are people.

Some other episodes you can dig into to learn more about sprints and conversation design:

Things we dig into, and some links to help you dig even deeper:

Co-Creation cultivates Advocacy, ownership and Mutual Understanding

Co-Creation builds requisite Variety/Diversity

IAP2 spectrum as a model for the spectrum of co-creation

Complexity Theory

Liberating Structures, a model for modular workshop mechanics

Cynefin (kuh-nevin)

The power of Making and Sharing Tools (The Voltage Control Sprint Scorecard)

The History of Design Sprints and the power of AWE (Accelerated working environments)

Jake’s Book:

Google’s Toolkit

Timeboxing and Raising the Stakes

More on Holocracy in my Interview with Sally McCutchion

Liberating Structures: Troika Consulting

Liberating Structures: 1-2-4-All

Note and Vote as a Modular Component (thinking alone before thinking together)

To Engineer is Human

Places to Learn about Douglas and Voltage Control: