On March 9th, 2020, we delivered a Failure Toy® workshop for 100 people, attended a Global Summit where we met the Prime Minister of Canada, and were about to book flights for our facilitators to run Empathy and Failure Toy® workshops in California, Illinois, the UK, Hong Kong, Peru, and beyond. A week later, we had closed our office, moved out all of our inventory, and were having our Monday team meeting on Zoom.
Not only were all of our in-person workshops and training sessions postponed, but we weren’t sure that anyone would feel like playing with the Empathy Toy® or Failure Toy® for a while. We weren’t even sure that we felt like playing.
Then a number of our clients that had been looking forward to in-person Empathy Toy® workshops reached out to see if we could help them, specifically around empathic communication for their new remote teams. Luckily, our Director of Training and Facilitation, Ryan, jumped at the challenge and within 24 hours he was prototyping this Online Empathy Toy® Workshop with our own team!
At first team members were feeling scared, overwhelmed, tired, sad, and confused, but it only took a few minutes for us to get laughing and playing, to be a little silly and vulnerable. By the time we finished our last game, we all felt more ready to tackle the next big challenges we were facing.
Shortly after that, we started hearing from people hoping that we could help their teams bring more empathy and better communication to their new online workplace.
So we started inviting our friends to play with us
We couldn't keep an idea this good to ourselves, and we were excited to experiment; we wanted to help some of our friends feel more like we did after that first game. We also had a new opportunity because the location wasn’t a factor anymore. Instead of starting locally, we decided to invite people that it would ordinarily be impossible to play with on a random Wednesday. We got on Zoom to play with some friends in Hong Kong, the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
We were learning so much from our own online workshops and our larger community, and having so much fun doing it, that we kept playing! We have now run Online Empathy Toy® Workshops for remote teams around the world, and we’re hosting free online sessions called Empathy Toy® Global Play Sessions twice a month so that anyone can join us to play the Empathy Toy® online. All of that play has led us to some powerful insights that we want to share with you!
So what have we learned from playing the Empathy Toy® online?
1. Start from where you are
Whether you’re a novice or an expert, everyone’s perspective is valuable. Take time to figure out what people know, and use that as your starting place.
2. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable
Uncomfortable conversations are the key to learning and growing as a team. If you’re comfortable then nothing is changing.
3. Sometimes it’s not wrong, it’s just different
When you’re working on a complex problem, it can be easy to get lost when everyone's seeing different things (or seeing things differently), and to see that difference as “wrong.” Take a step back to see how that different perspective can help your team succeed.
4. Building the plane as you fly is no easy feat
When things are changing, we don’t always have the opportunity to strategize or get acquainted with new technologies and tools. Leveraging creativity and technology can be both helpful and confusing, so we need to be understanding as our team members figure things out on the fly!
5. You don’t know what you don’t know
Sometimes you don’t know what question to ask to help you to get “unstuck,” because you don’t know what you need. This can be hard for us to articulate or admit. On the flip side, when we don’t hear from people we might assume they’re okay when that isn’t the case; they just might not be able to articulate what they need. Take the time to pause, ask questions, check-in, and make sure no one is stuck on how to get support.
6. Everyone's got a plan… until someone punches them in the face
When we're able to roll with the punches (pun intended), we often end up with rich insights and learnings that we might not have had otherwise.
Think your team could use some of these insights?
Book a call to learn more about our Online Empathy Toy® Workshops for remote teams!