Thank You!

I am so grateful you chose to attend Design Drives Engagement: Playing Our Way to Greater Trust and Psychological Safety. I hope the workshop met your expectations and sparked some curiosities! Below, you’ll find some resources and references I mentioned in the workshop as well as a few additional ones. If you have a question or would like to talk more about how to apply engaging design principles in your workplace, I invite you to drop me a line or book a free 20-minute consultation below.

Cheers and gratitude,


Resources & References from the Workshop

Psychological Safety

Amy Edmondson defines psychological safety as the shared belief that a team is safe for interpersonal risk taking — or, more specifically, the belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. You tune in to her 2014 TEDx talk here.

The Google re:Work Study

Google re:Work is a collection of practices, research, and ideas all about making work better. A couple years ago, re:Work published these findings from a massive study of 180 Google teams positing that psychological safety was by far the most important dynamic to highly effective teams.


This was the structure through which we opened up the workshop. (Well, it’s possible we made some live-time adaptations — though at the time of this page’s writing, using 1-2-4-All in full was the intent!) You can read more about 1-2-4-All on the Liberating Structures website. As you’ll see, one of the main benefits of 1-2-4-All is that it creates safe(r) spaces for expression and diminishes power differentials.


ImprovHQ delivers interactive learning experiences for executives, teams, and organizations. I am beyond blessed to work closely with ImprovHQ co-founders Betsy Crouch and Zoe Galvez, who taught me the “woohoo!” practice of celebrating mistakes we used in the workshop. Betsy and Zoe have distilled the word improv into an acronym of these six principles that define strong collaboration and leadership.

Rule of Four

In short, the Rule of Four states that in groups of 10 to 40+ people, four or five people will do 80% or more of the talking. That is a poor distribution of participation! You can read more about the Rule of Four and how to mitigate it in the introduction to Collaborative Leadership in Action: A Field Guide for Creating Meetings that Make a Difference by Pat Sanaghan and Paulette Gabriel.

Adult Learning Theory

While there are several different theories on how adults learn, I mainly referenced Malcolm Knowles and his work on andragogy. Here is a chapter from his 1970 book The Modern Practice of Adult Education. I also like to offer the broad notions that 1) adults tend to prefer to have some role in directing or guiding their own learning, and 2) three main learning styles are auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.

Nancy Watt's Upcoming Book

Be on the lookout for Nancy Watt's upcoming book, HAPPIE: How to Apply Positive Psychology Improv Exercises, coming out on Kindle at the end of June. Visit her website to stay in touch with Nancy!

Slides & "Sticky Ideas"

Here are the slides from the workshop (in PDF form), and here are the "sticky ideas" you all as participants posted on the blackboard. It's exciting to see that the notion of increasing risk over time stuck for at least a few of you!


A Couple Extra Offerings

Risk and the SCARF Model

According to David Rock’s SCARF Model, there are five domains of social experience that can activate either a reward or threat response in the brain: status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness. One way we can think about the task of designing engaging meetings is designing to minimize the potential for a threat response (and maximize the potential for a reward response). Keeping participants' brains in a "reward" space will keep them engaged in the meeting.

Here’s how we can think about design in relation to each of Rock’s domains:

  • Status: Make everyone’s input valuable and important.
  • Certainty: Offer participants transparency and a clear sense of what’s to come.
  • Autonomy: Let participants have some control and/or create together.
  • Relatedness: Design platforms that support connections across stakeholders.
  • Fairness: Manage the distribution of participation (through activities and/or facilitation) equitably.

Tips for Meeting Facilitators

Are you a leader of a team? In some sort of position where you facilitate meetings with six or more people? Here are a few of my favorite, often overlooked tips for designing engaging meetings that we did not cover in the workshop:

  • Begin the meeting with a question that everyone can answer easily. A question like "so what did everyone think of the recent report?" might not actually feel easy for someone to answer, especially if there is low psychological safety. A question like "what's one thing on your mind this morning?" would be easier.
  • Always design with purpose first. Be clear with yourself on what the purpose of a given meeting is, then design activities to support that purpose. Is this a brainstorming meeting? A status update meeting? Understand this purpose, and then communicate it to your participants.
  • Situate the meeting within a broader context. Similar to being clear about the meeting's purpose, offer what the meeting is for in relation to what has happened before and what will come next. Doing so can help ground your participants and keep them engaged.