Using The Kitchen Table At Work
The Kitchen Table is where lively chatter, interruptions, disagreements, heartfelt stories, and bad jokes, come together for almost any family. It is where everyone can participate in thoughtful, skilled and enjoyable discussion, because it is virtually hardwired into our DNA. The challenge is to find a way of using the Kitchen Table at work. To achieve this type of rambunctious, but productively fluid discussion consistently and predictably in a business setting.
Whether it is a single 2-hour session, or a large group intervention lasting several days, Kitchen Table Conversations (KTCs) can be used for a variety of business needs. KTCs can be the driving force for project planning and in creating a project vision. KTCs can be led by trained, in-house moderators, and used to accelerate and evolve designs. Kitchen Table Conversations are used to….
Create ground-breaking discoveries ¦ Brainstorm mutual opportunities ¦ Identify program development opportunities ¦ Develop themes for action plans ¦ Design/assess sustainable business practices ¦ Innovate ¦ Inform strategic planning
Share/identify issues, challenges & concerns ¦ Perform stakeholder research ¦ Conduct brand research ¦ Gather customer experience feedback ¦ Create strategic plans
Define value-add ¦ Assess product mix ¦ Pinpoint differentiators ¦ Identify significant trends ¦ Drill down into important topics
Engage stakeholder groups ¦ Define or improve the customer experience ¦ Improve customer service ¦ Assist in transformational change ¦ Catalyze business planning and development ¦ Elaborate performance metrics
Grounded strongly in Appreciative Inquiry and Solution Focused Coaching, the Kitchen Table Conversation goes beyond the ‘positive focus’ of what is working, and into collaborative disagreement. This intervention style acknowledges that conversation is a system for misunderstanding. It aims to take advantage of that element by sparking new ideas. And, in turn, bring depth and breadth to the discussion.
Using the Kitchen Table at work, leverages our ability to engage in lively and fruitful discussions in a business setting. It systematically produces the most enjoyable and productive discussions many business people have ever experienced.
Storytelling and easily understood metaphors are employed to support the Kitchen Table Conversation. Both the spontaneous and the structured side of the equation use this framework to unlock the vocabulary that allows the conversation to be naturally passionate, free flowing, and contentious, while at the same time, cool, reasoned and considerate.
The Three (3) underlying principles of Kitchen Table Conversations are simple.
Virtually everyone can play. A kitchen table conversation is easy.
- Ground rules allow everyone to participate fully, and to the best of their ability
- The results are usually beyond what anyone would have expected
Focusing conversation on a good question makes people curious. It allows participants to …
- be faithful to the principles of inquiry
- become so absorbed in the conversation so that the outcome is honest and robust
Creativity is normal. It’s going to happen. The moderator guides creative conversation; the participants do the rest.
- Even misunderstandings lead to fruitful discussion
- Disagreement is integral to growth and idea expansion
- Interruptions make the conversation stronger. They add energy and ‘meat’
Moderating the Kitchen Table
The KTC moderator always takes an assertive but collaborative approach. The goal is to use the process steps to achieve the highest quality output possible for the client. The Kitchen Table Conversation principles and standards guide the process. The KTC Moderator acknowledges and adheres to the principles and scripting rigorously. This creates a safe environment and allows participants to bond rapidly. Which, in turn, sets the stage for the positive interaction and the rich output. This structure allows the moderator total flexibility to tighten or loosen the reins moment by moment. This is especially important with in-depth or large kitchen tables. There is no need to change the process as the needs change, you just change your ‘grip on the reins’.
We’ve seen this pattern repeating itself all over the world when people come together. Invigorating, thought-provoking sessions are repeatable, and produce robust results that energize participants and involve their organization.