The Virtual Experience is a Human Experience: Interview with Rachel Smith

Rachel Smith, The Grove’s director of digital facilitation services, is finishing a book about facilitating remote collaborative work. We chatted with her—virtually, of course—about the key themes she’s working with and what she’s learned along the way.

Grove: Your book is about how to be more facilitative in virtual settings, whether your role is as a facilitator, a team leader, or a team member. Why did you decide to write about this?

Rachel Smith: Because the virtual experience is a human experience, and ultimately humans are what will make it or break it. People tend to think virtual work is all about the tools, but it isn’t. It’s all about human interactions and relationships, and how to work effectively with people when you can’t be in the same room together. Skilled facilitation makes virtual work better, shorter, more engaging and more effective.

Grove: Why is a company like The Grove that specializes in highly engaging face-to-face meetings interested in virtual work?

RS: Let’s face it—a lot of virtual meetings are pretty painful. We know how to make these meetings engaging and productive. Most of our clients have teams or work groups that are not co-located, so incorporating more virtual facilitation into the mix is a natural next step for The Grove.

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A Grove Update: Connecting Purpose, Core Values & Leading Change

In these turbulent times The Grove, like everyone else, is heading into rising levels of uncertainty. We know that uncertainty is also a challenge for all of our clients as well as the visual practitioners and change leaders we support. It feels like a perfect storm *, and we’re preparing for the big waves.

Navigating Waves of Change

When change comes quickly from external forces that you can’t control, there are some imperatives. It is vital to support your people aligning on core values and competencies—the hull of your organizational ship. It’s also important to take down some of the tall sails, batten down the hatches and be more conservative.

On the other hand, you need to be moving decisively in the right direction, with full-force energy powering your motivation engine so you are pointed straight into the waves of change and are not in danger of being broadsided. You also need an internal compass that orients you to your deeper purposes for reaching the other side of the waves.

This is How The Grove is Responding

The GLEN. We are preparing to launch the Global Learning & Exchange Network (the GLEN). Its purpose is to evolve the methods of collaboration to address the big challenges of our times. What timing! Our founder, David Sibbet, and Gisela Wendling, vice-president of global learning, are co-directing this effort. The GLEN is organized around core values of collaboration and mutual respect. We intend to support sorely needed action-learning projects and accelerated professional development. read more…

The Power of Fluid Teaming

The landscape of teaming no longer centers around just a single team working on one challenge for a period of time. Yes, such teams still exist, yet increasingly teams are as fluid as flocks of birds that fly through the sky, separate into pods, swirl back together and re-form again. Although every bird is more or less flying in the same direction, the configuration that any one bird is flying in and the group that is its flock differ from moment-to-moment.


Learning from Flocking Birds

Individual contributors are often called together quickly to do teaming, either for short periods of time or around particular projects in which collaboration is needed (1). Effective teaming supports a group’s ability to join in doing the work within whatever configuration best serves the goal at hand. This occurs across a continuum from loosely linked individual contributors to work groups to true teams requiring a high level of interdependence.

For this more fluid form of teaming, the ways in which birds group together in flight are instructive (2). Boids, a computer modeling program created by Craig Reynolds, simulates flocking behaviors via the interplay of alignment, separation, and cohesion. In other words: stick together, don’t get too close, and move in the same direction. Using just these three simple rules, Reynolds created successful computer simulations of flocking birds and schooling fish.

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Happy New Year from The Grove! Download and Print Our 2017 Illustrated Calendar

For many years, The Grove has created an illustrated calendar. This year we’ve decided to offer a digital version to any and all. Artists Tiffany Forner and Malgosia Kostecka have integrated words and imagery in meaningful and metaphoric ways—much like the way we work with clients.

Two calendar formats are available:

Download/Print a one-page 11″x17″ calendar PDF.

Download/Print a 14-page 8.5″x11″ calendar (one-page-per-month) PDF.

We hope these whimsical combinations inspire you in the new year!


2017 Grove Calendar