24 February 2011

Designing The Silver Bullet Workshop: Making Wishful Thinking Work

David Allen & Charlotte Pell, Joint Convenors (NET2)

“To know what to leave out and what to put in, just where and just how—Ah, that is to have been educated in the knowledge of Simplicity.” Frank Lloyd Wright

You can’t design a one-day workshop that will transform your organisation. But what if you could? What would you leave out and what would you put in?

These were precisely the questions we explored at our meeting on 24 February 2011. Not, you understand, because we secretly believe it’s possible to design the Silver Bullet Workshop to fix everything that’s wrong with your organisation. It isn’t. No, rather because we understand the power of constraints as a spur for creativity. Anybody’s creativity, especially when faced with the impossible.

There was no expert up at the front offering certainty with colourful diagrams and case studies. Three groups set to designing their own Silver Bullet Workshop, facilitated by Joint Convenors, David Allen and Charlotte Pell. We used a process closely based on Idealized Design.  Starting by agreeing what makes the ideal workshop, what are its basic specifications, and moving on from there towards an ideal and away from perceived obstructions.

Wondering what was the point…?

Well, faced with the complexity of the challenge of changing our organisations for the better, most of us naturally struggle to know just where to start, what to do exactly, who to engage with. It’s easy to get stuck. Sometimes years pass.

Using the arbitrary constraint of a one-day workshop to engage the collective wisdom and diverse experience of NET2 members (and anyone else who wanted to come), threw light on these challenges. It helped us consider what matters most.


For our basic specification, we jointly created a checklist for the ‘ideal workshop’. We don’t have everyone’s outputs from the session, just what one group produced. They used the specification and generated two lots of notes: set one and set two. They then produced this plan for their Silver Bullet Workshop. Finally, they even produced some marketing material.

What participants said…

Read what Geoff Roberts blogged about his experience in Finding that creative spark.


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