Adapting to Virtual Work – 7 Takeaways from The Grove’s Experience

In the past decade, the rapid evolution of technological advances has made it much easier for people to work, meet and team virtually. Some organizations have jumped right into the virtual space and revolutionized the way they work, while others are struggling to create virtual-work processes for a mix of co-located and remote staff. As global teaming becomes more essential and workers of all ages—especially millennials—increasingly make employment choices based on flexible workplaces, the need to adapt is no longer a choice for many organizations. As The Grove has embraced working virtually not only with our clients but also as an organization—some staff members frequently work remotely—we’ve developed our own approaches to virtual collaboration. The following is a sampling of adjustments we’ve made and lessons we have learned.

1) Good meetings—virtual meetings included—are about people first, technology second.
Facilitation know-how is even more important in virtual meetings.
If you are not getting people engaged in lively discussions that meet your desired outcomes, then your meetings will not be effective, no matter how adept you are with technology. Virtual meetings require extra care by framing discussions and connecting people to allow for collaboration to flow. Creating human connections breaks down the distance and cultural barriers that can make working in a virtual environment especially difficult. To facilitate virtual meetings, we continue to adhere to The Grove’s Facilitation Model™ and teach our Facilitating Virtual Collaboration Workshop with a focus on people processes at the core. 

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A Year of Leading Change with The Metropolitan Council

Recently The Grove engaged in a yearlong project with the Metropolitan Council (Met Council or Council) in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, focused on building internal process leadership capability. The Metropolitan Council is a regional body that oversees all of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s wastewater, metropolitan transit, housing projects, and regional-planning efforts.

One of the Met Council’s major goals is to work more systemically and collaboratively, not only internally but also regionally and with the communities they serve. The leader of the Environmental Services division, for example, is working toward an integrated and environmentally sustainable water management approach by 2050—a vision which is referred to as One Water.

The Council asked The Grove to help it develop the internal capability to support these efforts by offering a yearlong Leading Change Program for 20 of its emerging leaders from across the organization. read more…

Mapping Social Messes: A GLEN Exchange with Bob Horn

Recently Stanford scholar Bob Horn, longtime friend of The Grove and fellow pioneer in visual thinking, led a GLEN Exchange * introducing his “mess mapping” process for exploring social messes and their causes. Author of Visual Language: Global Communication for the 21st Century, he is a specialist in mapping complex social problems. Currently he is writing a book called The Little Book of Wicked Problems and Social Messes. 

Bob Horn during his GLEN Exchange

In mess mapping, a group of diverse stakeholders tackles a challenging problem by taking one set of problem-causing factors at a time, looking to understand and visually represent the complexities and cross-boundary causes. The goal is to raise awareness while also creating a possibility for new social constructions of meaning, potentially with coordinated problem solving.


Defining Social Messes

“I got the idea of ‘messes’ from (early organization-development pioneer) Russell Ackoff,” Bob explained. “Ackoff said, ‘Often many problems are systemically interrelated. We don’t have a word in English for that, so I will adopt the technical term mess.’ I liked that a lot, and I thought it was a deep insight. Because I think that messes are all social, I use the term ‘social messes’ to describe wicked problems, unruly complex problems, important or even urgent problems that affect many people.”  

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Welcome the New Year with The Grove’s 2019 Calendar: 12 Months of Visualizing Change

At The Grove we help people come together to create something new. Clients work with us to begin new initiatives, create or refresh new teams, or set a new direction.

Whatever the facilitative challenge, there are patterns in the way we approach our work. Through metaphoric imagery, this year’s Grove calendar illustrates some of the basic practices that we use to facilitate a creative group process. Please follow along with our visual story, then download the Grove’s 2019 printable calendar for your enjoyment throughout the year.

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5 Neuroscience Tips for Creating Engaging, Productive Meetings

Editor’s Note: Recently The Grove’s Tiffany Forner worked with Dick and Emily Axelrod to create a visual template and Leader’s Guide for their meeting planning process, The Meeting Canoe, which they describe in their book, Let’s Stop Meeting Like This: Tools to Save Time and Get More Done. We thought the following tips in the Leader’s Guide were so fundamental to good meetings that we asked if we could share them, and the Axelrods generously agreed.



Your brain is constantly scanning for threats and rewards. When the threat response occurs, the innovative, collaborative parts of your brain shut down. When the reward response occurs, the innovative, collaborative parts of your brain light up.

Here are five ways you can support the reward state, to increase innovative collaborative behavior during meetings.

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