Makers & Shakers: What if we could have a genuine view into what drives our neighbors and community?
Updated: Jun 3, 2019
One of our favorite conversation pieces is, well, conversation. We’re fascinated by the ways different people interact (so much so that we spent 40 days on the road together to research it!)
We find that one-on-one conversation and facilitated vulnerability tend to yield surprises, and when someone has the chance to open up and share, the flood of experiences, emotions, and relatable thoughts that often pours out is astounding. Getting to view the world through someone else’s eyes for a moment is a privilege we recommend.
But we notice that all these interesting, experienced, passionate people get caught in the grind, and those soul-baring conversations are few and far between when we’re stuck thinking of the next thing we need to get done. So how can we shake off the dust of the everyday and stimulate the kind of thoughts and conversations that make us introspective and appreciative of the beating hearts around us?
We asked our coworkers what prevents them from having meaningful conversation in the workplace. Overwhelmingly, they responded that they were too busy between 9-5 or that they simply weren’t comfortable opening up to coworkers.
From these insights, we knew our conversation piece had to be simple and easy to access, brief for participation to respect time, and at least partially anonymous to respect vulnerability.
So we launched an interactive art piece with the open-ended statement “I can’t quit thinking about…” for passers to complete. We were careful to place the piece near the entrance to the building and adjacent to the restrooms, impossible to miss and a convenient spot for workers to take a break. We baited our question with donuts. Obviously. Then we waited.
Responses at first trickled in. Most people trudged through the door to their offices and returned to chat after about 15 minutes, probably after a to-do list had been written or the coffee had kicked in. People answered playfully, “I just finished a book about the apocalypse, so I’ve been thinking about the end of the world a lot.” Or they were ready for the day of work, “I’ve been working on a project facilitating easier research for intellectual property.”
The game changer occurred when we abandoned our post to head to a meeting. When we returned, people had doubled the responses with thoughtful, interesting cards displaying deep thought and legitimate hopes and fears:
“Considering how I can rehash my time to allow for more learning and social activities without sacrificing the necessities.”
“What I am really meant to be doing.”
“That we are capable of anything we choose. Energy follows attention.”
It appeared as though a completely anonymous space was most conducive to vulnerability; the things most present on our minds may be our most guarded.
We learned three cool lessons from this experience:
Quiet or focused people may be humming beneath the surface with thoughts and ideas you’ve never had before.
Make spaces for vulnerability to occur if you want to get a chance to hear and understand these thoughts and ideas.
Give everyone time for coffee.