21st Century Breakthough Workshop

Fundamentals of Role Modeling and Risk Taking


20/20 Leadership discovered through experience and insight a creative means for developing and delivering effective and innovative breakthrough workshops.  There are some primary key requisites such as a client who has an urgent and vital need and is a willing participant. Secondly, it will require a true collaboration between the internal constituency and external collaborators. Role modeling and risk taking are two key fundamentals for the leadership of the enterprise.


Given the above criteria and scenario, the fundamental foundation for an innovative workshop starts with design principles which begin and operate throughout the preparation and the delivery of the workshop. Our desired core principles generally include:   


  • Customer focus, teamwork, open communication, challenge conventional wisdom, continuous improvement

The team must create a setting and environment from the start and then, maintain this environment through completion.  Invention and creation occur in the subliminal, thus metaphors and symbol assist the process by offering stimulation. In addition, participants must be willing to explore and test new ideas or express themselves. This requires visable expression or risk-taking and must initiate with the leadership team.


Thoughout the workshop, participants and designer must use a process to support the principles such as expressed rules, expectations, and norms. Below is a sample of a very innovative and invigorating workshop that earned the company millions of dollars. As you can see, there are specific steps and actions from the first moment of engagement that embrace the design principles.


Design Principle Mapping


One pharmaceutical client led by an Executive Vice President and his SVP's deployed our design concept to       align and inspire a global product team in Phase III Development. They were challenged by both the science, the regulatory environment, and the work processes. The team and key support personnel attended the two-day       workshop. At the conclusion, they were prepared to overcome all difficulties and, in fact, receive full label            approval for all indication. Below are the specifics of the design and activities that lead to a conclusion.                                                                                 


Design Principles


Community and shared experience

  • Metaphor
  • Brochure
  • Agenda outline
  • Transportation – Bus ride
  • African Queen Tape
  • Guide, Humor, Props
  • Hotel Selection
  • Dinner
  • Family Award
  • Show
  • Brunch
  • Early engagement
  • Structure to remove some mystery
  • Safe environment
  • Set the tone – humor, creative, fun, light, respectful and honor the person
  • Coaching Leaders
  • Bring the metaphor to life early


  • Jungle setting, scenery, trail
  • Survival Kit
  • Sound
  • Slides
  • Subtle announcer

Jungle Metaphor – Customer Focus

  • Shared experience and journey
  • Self-selection for tables
  • Community intact, round tables, no breakouts, room size just enough to accommodate communication and physical requirements

Scene One


  • Hitchcock pantomime, props – gun, hat, vest, salute by leader, music, slides,
  • Seque to metaphor
  • Hunter looking for something special, cheese – new opportunity
  • Leadership reflections – choreography, use of metaphor

Theme of Humility, Humor, Fun

  • Reference cultural norm (cheese)
  • Story telling – vulnerability
  • Parallelism – then and now
  • Application to current situation
  •  Respect, Honor, Gratitude, Risk taking, Teamwork

Scene Two


Entrance Tour Guide

  • Consistency in theme, props
  • Acting the part
  • Explains the metaphor scene and trail with relevant Team events

Peak Performance Experience

  • Post –it notes, table activity, signature on cards, star major events
  • Learning from each other
  • Participation and Physical engagement
  • Post on metaphor and discuss openly


Summary Questions

  • Strengths of team
  • Customer focus learning

Continue the shared experience as a journey together, a sense of adventure, light, fun atmosphere

  • Use of symbolism

  • Customer focus theme introduction

  • Acknowledgement of contributions

  • Open communication, candor, participation,

  • Sharing and learning, empathy

  • Team building – decision making, equality with leaders

  • Continuous learning
  • Building up a community through strengths
  • Reflections and common wisdom
  • Encouragement

Scene Three


Introduction of Customer Guides (FDA)

  • Props
  • Preparation – Interview panel (talk show format – Q&A), style of interaction - joint sharing between guides, use of metaphor
  • Full disclosure of status with consultants, orientation of purpose
  • Questions- draft with comments
  • Opening storyline
  • Test veracity of consultants in forum with tough question

Customer Focus Experience and Understanding through a shared experience

  • Joint participation between guides
  • Humor and fun
  • Implement metaphor to form experiential learning and validation of customer needs
  • Storytelling and sense of realism
  • Affirmation of team, hopeful and encouraging
  • Honest, practical, forthright, clear signals



Scene Four


Operating principles

  • Formation of customer focus into operating principles
  • Time adjustment to maintain tempo
  • 10 table exercise, list top 3, 2 minutes to report out
  • Expedited work effort with benefit of addition personal time

 Future direction – metaphor, watering hole

Codification of learning into future oriented operating principles

Building up the team and community

  • Sense of urgency
  • Teamwork, decision making, customer focus
  • Quality orientation leads to customer satisfaction

Segue to new metaphor (mountain climbing)

Cocktails, Dinner and family award

Special guest – expect the unexpected

Leadership observations and summary

Celebration, acknowledge family sacrifice


Alignment, support, encouragement




Design Principles

Return from show to find CD of show, wine and cheese

Acknowledgement and celebration

Day 2

Breakfast 7-8 am

New metaphor with sound and props

Tease a new metaphor and maintain suspense and fun environment

Scene Five



Leadership participation

Slides, props, sound, videos

Script the introduction

Unobtrusive moderator to facilitate start


Guide’s entrance- props, interpretation of metaphor, setting the stage

On time delivery and managing meetings

  • Maintain continuity, connection, and community

Create the setting and environment

  • Humor and Humility
  • Teamwork with leaders, fun, encouragement, confidence
  • Metaphor and symbolism
  • Technology to support environment
  • Connect to the past (video) and enable reflections early in meeting

Explain the lack of key leader – video

  • Confidence, encouragement
  • Humor and humility
  • Expectations

Scene Six


Identification of hurdles and challenges utilizing metaphor of Mountain with varying levels

  • Post-its on metaphor
  • Multiple perspectives
  • Discussion
  • Internal and external points of view



Summarization by guide

Build community to confront common challenges with common understanding

  • Teamwork, decision making, open communication, brain storming
  • Forward thinking
  • Participation and early engagement through reflections of conquest and customer focus requirements


  • Awareness of differences, similarities, create a basis for understanding


  • Create a norm for understanding differences


Scene Seven


Application of Operating Principles to Challenges

  • Directions, rules, example, pick any two challenges
  • Introduction of  new role model, curmudgeon to facilitate openness and creative thinking
  • Leader role models transparency by disclosing process of consolidation and gaining group agreement
  • Process to support principles (rules, norms, expectations) table sharing, confrontation for continuous improvement
  • Resource flexibility with community




Group validation of curmudgeon and operating principles





Summary by Leader

Achieve a sense of unity, power, and community through a shared experience

  • Teamwork, brainstorming, sense of urgency, shared objective, build trust, leveraging resources
  • Role model transparency, confrontation, continuous improvement

Maintain momentum

  • Create a safe environment to facilitate accountability, non-blaming, new behaviors, visibility
  • Self-reflection, learning, discovering
  • Open communication, role modeling with curmudgeon, table sharing
  • Apply lessons learned

 Create new norms and cultural shift for team and organizational effectiveness


Live the principles in design – customer focus and adjust agenda


Gratitude, confidence, encouragement, acknowledgement, hard work – effort, perseverance


Scene Eight


Introduction of motivational speaker

  • Script for introduction
  • Avoidance of negative energy
  • Slides and sounds



  • Extensive preparation and interviews to ensure alignment – Leader and knowledge broker, early attendance to calibrate
  • Metaphor alignment
  • End with Gratitude and Confidence

Crescendo: Locker room finale – enthusiasm, encouragement, realism of potential, metaphor and symbols, appreciation

o       Humility and Humor to ensure relatedness

o       Confidence, relentlessness, teamwork, motivation

o       Apply metaphor

o       Adventure and parallelism

o       Non-work related

o       Empathy

Transfer of values of life experience (speaker encapsulates) to the group


Leisure Lunch & checkout


Bus return