Written by Stacia Aylward and Stephanie Spence Diamond
The Zelos team recently had the immense pleasure of collaborating with Steve Ressler, Founder and President of GovLoop, in executing his vision to engage participants in an energetic way at the 2013 Next Generation of Government Summit. Steve said something like, “let’s have something in the hallway for people to do in between sessions—something where they can tell us what they think.” Zelos took Steve’s basic thoughts and ran with them, and we certainly appreciated Steve’s trust in us to deliver.
We created a hallway exercise that would capture participants’ thoughts on a variety of questions that focused on attendees’ perceptions and opportunities for change. After brainstorming, the Zelos team came up with the following areas for discussion:
- What is one thing within your power to do to change your agency for the better?
- Top idea for government to be more responsive to customers;
- How long do you plan to stay in government?
- Share one word for career civil servant and one for political appointee (these one words were used in a breakout session later in the afternoon); and
- What else? (a potpourri of thoughts/suggestions)
We set up our “wall of ideas” outside the main ballroom at the Summit so we could be easily visible to participants as they entered and left the plenary and lunch sessions. We hung flip chart paper on the wall with each of the questions and provided sticky notes and sharpies for people to write their individual responses to some/all of the questions and to post them on that specific flip chart, anonymously. During the entire day, we also individually approached people to personally encourage their participation, and after Steve shared what we were doing at a plenary session, the traffic increased dramatically! What we saw evolve was interesting and somewhat surprising. What we saw was:
- Individuals walking by stopped to look at the flip charts to see what “others” were saying. After a little “nudging”, they would add their own thoughts.
- Lots of folks took pictures of the responses and the wall–we could never figure out why!!
- As small groups stood in front of the wall, people started to talk and laugh, strangers and then colleagues with something to share;
- The space resembled a small community of strangers who came together to learn what each other was thinking and to talk to us about who we were and what we were doing;
- Some of the answers were surprising!
We used word clouds to capture key words, and we summarized the themes into a few slides for Steve to share with all of the participants the next morning. By all accounts, the exercise was a success; both GovLoop and Zelos will continue to collaborate in future efforts, and we look forward to working with Steve and his team, including the ever-professional and highly competent Megan Price, without whose logistical and troubleshooting expertise, this exercise would not have been successful.
Steve’s note of thanks to Stacia appears below:
Thanks again for running the exercise – I presented the results first thing on day 2 and it went really well. Also I know people loved the exercise as many people came up to me to comment on how they loved the wall with post-its and ability to share ideas. Thanks for helping out!
Steve Ressler, Founder and President of GovLoop
About Zelos: Zelos is a team of people working together toward one goal: to help our clients achieve better results to accomplish their mission. And we try to have some fun while we do it; after all, “Zelos” is the Greek term for “zeal.” Author Stephanie Spence Diamond is Senior Advisor to the CEO at Zelos: Stacia C. Aylward is the CEO of Zelos.www.zelosllc.com