Lessons Learned: Building Belonging at Work

“That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.” — Doris Lessing

Now that the Building Belonging at Work event series is over, I wanted to look back before moving forward to draw some insights from this ambitious experiment. ICYMI, I designed 10-session event series from January-March for anyone interested and curious about futures thinking, the future of work and/or the future of belonging to join in a collaborative social experiment to imagine transformational scenarios of the future of belonging at work along with a set of artifacts from those futures.

So here’s the report card version of what this intrepid collective identified and imagined:

  • Several ways that the future of belonging at work could be dramatically different

  • Dozens of drivers and signals of change

  • Five “headlines of the future”: one sentence forecasts that present plausible, internally consistent, provocative narratives of the future based on drivers and signals

The second half of the series built upon these headlines, exploring the implications, narratives, and worldviews within the worlds suggested by these headlines. Then we turned to using the methodology of alternative futures to spark seven scenarios of the future of belonging at work, all still works in progress.

Although we don’t have final scenarios ready to go, the group agreed that the series was a wonderful learning experience and suggested some feedback for the future:

  1. Each session was good for talking to different people about different topics through co-creation, learning and facilitation. There’s a fresh energy to hearing different perspectives and the constraints of activities is useful in thinking through ambiguity.

  2. Jumping into futures thinking with no background or methodological knowledge can be difficult. In the future, it might be great to structure the experience to have two different parts. Possibly one part for more casual, divergent exercises that allow participants to orient around a futures topic and meet cool people. Exercises like identifying drivers and signals of change, revealing unexpected possibilities and headline the future were great for connection and imagination.

    The second part cold be a separate smaller dedicated group that more process-driven and focused on achieving specific outcomes. They would likely meet for a longer session, like 2-3 hours, over a shorter span of time like 3-5 weeks to allow adequate time to consume, process, and analyze information. It also an opportunity to build a rapport with your group as you get to know everyone better. Exercises like Causal Layered Analysis and working through the four archetypes of alternative futures methodology needed more time to get into the weeds.

  3. The best comment I heard about the series was calling it “Brain Crossfit,” really underlining how thinking about the future can be mentally challenging. That said, this same attendee said that even participating with a tired brain still had a certain beauty, like completing a mental obstacle course when you see new things in a new way. So basically tiring at first but more exhilarating as you continue.

  4. There were a lot of suggestions about the right level of specificity. One was crafting more specific prompts would reduce the mental weight of Brain Crossfit and not require additional explanation or expertise. Another suggestion focused more on simplifying processes to better handle the complexity of information. For example, designating a certain number of drivers to use or directing a “order of operations” can make it easier to work together with people you don’t know by knowing when to move forward. Another sequencing suggestion could focusing sessions on only one or two variables such as the story elements and a final session to build a narrative that synthesizes everything.

These are works in progress that have an abundance of rich creativity, research and imagination to support greater refinement. I’m so grateful to each and everyone of you who have given of your time and genius to contribute. Check out the Miro board to see what they’ve done. I’m hosting one closing session on Thursday, April 15 at 5:30 pm PT to select four scenarios, with one for each archetype, title each scenario, and complete the narratives.