August 11, 2020

Alexandra Jamieson & Bob Gower – Radical Alignment

In this episode Alexandra Jamieson and Bob Gower talk about their new book, Radical Alignment, a book about difficult conversations and how they can change your life. In it they discuss their framework for tackling difficult conversations, how to be inclusive, respectful and vulnerable, avoid the usual winner/loser dynamic, and end with radical alignment, whether that’s a “hell yes!” or “hell no!”

Alexandra a success coach for driven womxn. She has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart shows, was Elle Magazine’s Inspirational Coach of 2015, and was the co-creator of the Oscar-nominated Super Size Me.

Bob helps organizations design and build future-ready systems. He is an authority on lean, agile, and responsive org design, and has worked with Ford, Spotify, GE, and many others.


Transcript

Andy Polaine
Hi and welcome to Power of Ten – a podcast about design operating at many levels, zooming out from thoughtful detail through to organisational transformation and on to changes in society and the world. My name is Andy Polaine – I’m a service design and innovation consultant, educator and writer.

My guests today are Alexandra Jamieson and Bob Gower. Alex is a success coach with driven womxn she has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart shows was Elle magazine’s inspirational coach of 2015 and was the CO creator of the Oscar nominated supersize me.

Bob helps organisations design and build future ready systems. He’s an authority on lean, agile and responsive organisational design, and his work with Ford, Spotify, GE and many others. They’re happily married and live in Brooklyn and have together written the book radical alignment how to have game changing conversations that will transform your business and your life. Alex, Bob, welcome to Power of Ten.

Alex Jamieson
Thanks for having us.

Bob Gower
Great to be here.

Andy Polaine
So I’m married to a psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, actually, and we have a lot of dinner conversations and my most of my a lot of my work at the moment, especially during COVID is, is coaching and design leadership coaching. So we have a lot of conversations about-confidential and you know, not swapping, details conversations-but we have a lot of conversations about themes that come up, and there’s a lot of overlap. So how did this book come about? Because maybe each of you could tell us a little bit about your background, but I’m getting the sense that there might have been a kind of overlap in the kind of conversations you were having to.

Bob Gower
That’s really, it’s, it’s I haven’t thought about that in a while. But when we first got together about a decade ago, we kind of we kind of kept having those dinner conversations and we’re like, what you’re talking about is what I’m talking about. And I was talking about it in a team context inside of organisation so I was an agile coach at the time and I was managing sort of helping design and manage big trees. transformations mostly at kind of Fortune 500 sort of companies. And then Alex was coaching individual women, mostly. And then we were both just very, very interested in the science of habit change and sort of the psychology of sort of personal development and personal effectiveness. And it was like, there was just so much overlap again and again and again.

Alex Jamieson
Yeah. And that, interestingly, kind of led us to the seed of this book, which we actually led a couple of couples workshops. And it was an experiment because we realised we were using all these similar tools, and we had people in our personal lives who are coming to us for advice. So we offered a couple of workshops, a couple of couple couple of couples workshops. And, and the thing that came out of those workshops was that generally, I’ll be honest, it was like women dragging their man to the workshop. Like tell him how to do this better.

Andy Polaine
Fix him for me please.

Alex Jamieson
Right. And so they were coming with very different expectations and very different desire levels. And Bob had this great conversation tool to help everyone get on the same page. Yeah. And it grew into this now four step process, that at the time, we didn’t even realise how valuable it was. But then after those workshops, we started using it in our work more and then in our relationship more. And then people from the workshops and all of our friends kept texting and calling. What was that four step thing you taught us again? We like we just put this on a Google Doc so we can stop explaining it to people. Like “Wait a minute”, after a few years of sharing this with people, we realised this is a thing. That should be a book.

Andy Polaine
Yeah. It’s interesting, isn’t it, the kind of self alignment that happens often you’re working on something and you realise that You know, the actual work is the the stuff around the site and not the thing you thought was at work and you have to kind of make that shift. It seems to happen a lot in, in conversations and professional work, too in relationships.

Bob Gower
Yeah, I think for us, yeah, kind of a couple of things happened. One is that this was originally just a very small tool we used in order to get to the what we thought was the real work of the of the workshop, you know, like, let’s just get aligned first. Now let’s have the workshop. And then we suddenly realised that it was the most valuable part of the workshop for people because that was the thing that people kept calling us about.

And then the second thing kind of a few years later, well, one it had sort of creeped also into our life. We used it when we decided to get married, we used it to move we’d used it when discussing career changes and child rearing and all sorts of things. And you become this kind of foundational tool that we’ve just revisited again and again ourselves.

And then we were looking for, well, maybe we should do something together. Let’s you know, maybe we should. We’ve never really done any business together except for these workshops, which really didn’t last and we’re like, let’s let’s do something together, what should we do? And we had all these like wild ideas of things that we thought were valuable. And we’re like, this thing is this sort of staring us in the face that people just keep coming back to this thing that to us seems so self evident and so simple. And I think really, that’s sometimes the, actually a friend of ours, Jonathan Fields, talks about product maker fit being as important as product market fit, you know, like, and that that’s not right. And so there’s this idea that this thing was sort of coming out of us naturally. And I think sometimes the things that come out of us naturally are really valuable to the world but they’re invisible to us because they because they sort of emerged from I know natural Yeah, they seem natural. They seem self evident to you. But they’re not but they’re sort of they can be transformational for the rest of the world. They don’t seem self evident the rest of the world

Andy Polaine
Yeah, and it’s a it’s there’s a journey that is this struggle, I think between the sort of, call it the struggle between ego and humility, which I think you both of right, I think especially in, I’m sure in your world actually Alex, but in design or designers have to have a bit of both, because they need to sort of have enough ego to stand up for things that they believe in and kind of make stuff and then enough humility to have the empathy and hear from other people and also to hear from from the business but to have something like that. Was that an issue? Or was that something you had to sort of step into if you like, or accept because I can mad you’ve got this thing and you say what, it’s kind of self evident to me. And I think a lot of people then feel so what do I know that the imposter syndrome kind of creeps in? Was that was that difficult kind of hump for you to get over? Or did you just help each other over it?

Alex Jamieson
I tell you what helped actually, was the fact that we shared it with a couple of friends that we really love and respect. And actually, my friend that wrote the foreword to the book, became a huge cheerleader. She is a mother of five she’s an entrepreneur. Like this is just a saved my marriage and change how my family operates. And when there’s someone you love and respect, giving you such a strong signal you, like ignore that at your own peril…

Andy Polaine
So that you didn’t feel like an imposter anymore?

Alex Jamieson
No, I just and we we just keep getting messages and texts from people who are like teachers who are using it in their middle school classrooms. Bob has tonnes of story from using it in boardroom meetings with lots of big egos in the room that he uses this method and it totally changes the dynamic and a way of it’s just magical, honestly.

Andy Polaine
Yeah. So I have one more question about sort of how the book came into being before we get on to the book, which is… Um, you know, we didn’t we just talked about our respective marriages at the beginning… co-authoring can be difficult or the kind of best of times or a challenge, at least at the best of times. You have different views on how exactly you want to say something. How much of that was going on and how much of your, you know, presumably you’re gonna have to fully eat your own dog food, as they say to to, to go through their co authoring process. How did you align on that?

Bob Gower
Yeah, I mean, actually, it didn’t go as badly as we thought it was, we feared it might, you know, like, it was..

Alex Jamieson
I felt really graceful.

Bob Gower
Yeah, it actually I think, and I think, you know, so the end the title of the book, in the end, the process that’s just behind the book is called radical alignment. And, again, it’s sort of the process that sits at the heart of it is this four part conversation that kind of helps you have all of the, the potentially missing conversations that people forget to have before they do something important together. And so we actually had to, we had to eat our own dog food or drink our own champagne or whatever the metaphor is, but, you know…

Andy Polaine
That one’s better.

Bob Gower
But we had to, so we actually had the conversation—we used this four part conversation before we ever even started on the project—and one of the… so the four parts are really simple, its intentions, concerns, boundaries and dreams and you just kind of go through them. There’s a lot of nuance to it once you get into various topics but for so for the book, you know, we’re like, “Well, why do you want to write a book?” “Well, you know, I want to it’s books are good for your platform for your career, it also seems to be a valuable tool we’d like to get it out we’d like to make a difference make money and you know, improve our careers” you know, it’s it’s pretty simple. But then the concerns is where all that stuff started coming up. So now we so the concerns conversation is often the richest, and often where are the crazy can show up and the potential landmines all show up. And for both of us, we had we actually had the identical landmine show up or the identical concern, which was, this is going to go so poorly, that we’re going to start hating each other and we’re going to get divorced. And then, of course, the way negativity bias works, we’re going to die alone under a bridge, you know, like it’s just sort of, you know, it’s just what it is. You know, just we just sort of like shared that with each other. And then that it kind of dissipated it or I don’t know…

Alex Jamieson
Well, it really helped me to hear that you have the same fears. And we have both. We know, we knew each other well enough to know these stories, but we’ve both had previous relationships and marriages, where we attempted or succeeded at actual creative collaborations. But there was not clarity, there was not equal sharing, there was not equal credit. And it was like, I am not going down that road again. So like, let’s get clear about how are we going to treat each other through this process? And it actually helped us get to the next step, which is boundaries. And one of our boundaries became so obvious Well, okay, if we start fighting, like we don’t write the book, like our marriage is more important than a buck. And we came up with another one, which was actually very freeing now that I look back If one of us decides, you know what I got to back out of this by just, it’s just not good for me or for us, the other person has full permission to take it and create it if they choose to. So it really, it just felt so safe to go down this potentially dangerous path together. And we had very few points of friction.

Bob Gower
And I think one other piece, which I’ve just kind of, kind of had forgotten about, but I’m reminded, again, as the writing process itself, is we were both very cautious at first, you know, like, I would write a chapter or I’d be looking at something that she had written, I thought, actually, that’s more than more the use case here, like I would be looking at something that she had written, it’d be like, I should really talk to her about her intent behind the sentence and whether it’s right or you know, and I wanted to negotiate every single edit that I was going to make, and we realised like that’s actually pretty slow. And counter to what we’re really trying to counter to sort of, let’s say boldness and creative, you know, like really trying to write well, really trying, you know, and so we developed another Kind of guideline or rule or boundary for us, which was, one, we’re using Google Docs. So it’s non destructive editing. So you don’t, you know, nothing is lost, right, you can go back to previous versions no matter what. And to it was just, like, just edit the heck out of me, you know, like you, you know, like, I’m gonna edit the heck out of you, you edit the heck out of me. And we’ll just kind of keep going through until we feel like something we feel like we have to have something that we’re both really happy with. And we just recorded the audio version of the book. So we got to read it again. And I was like, This is not my voice. And it’s not Alex’s voice. It’s it’s an emergent, like, it’s a brand new voice. And it’s a voice that I prefer to my voice. You know, like, I’m like, I really, I really, really like this. And so I think it was a great lesson. I don’t know if I’ll do anything else together. But I’m I mean, we may actually but not funny that you say that. We haven’t talked about this at all. I’m like, we did a really, we did a really good job together, writing together like this might be a thing that we do.

Andy Polaine
I think it’s great when it happens. You know, is worked for Ray and Charles Eames. So you know, you never know. I mean, it’s interesting that. I love being edited actually. And I know some people hate it. But I really like that, particularly, you know, if you’ve got a good editor, and you suddenly “Oh, yeah, that rambling sentence that I thought was so philosophical, you’ve turned into this really sort of concise thing” That’s a really nice, nice moment, like you’ve kind of distilled that thought into something more pure and better.

And also listening to you, one of the things that comes out is, you know, talking about using Google Docs and so forth is of course, editing isn’t it’s not like a second final thing, you can always change it back. And I think that there’s a thing that happens often in conversations, that kind of panic that sets in when you’re having a conversation about a thing that might be but it’s not yet sort of put into motion and I think in the kind of fast paced sort of, you know, agile lean words, deliver, deliver, deliver, but, you know, there’s a big journey from a sketch on a post it note to something getting out on the market but there’s an awful lot of kind of panic that steps in and as you were talking about this at the beginning of process and doing that kind of deliberate catastrophizing, you know, in there kind of fear as part of things or the concerns, the All In Method is what this is called. AIM. It’s quite… I’m seeing the quote from Brené Brown as I’ve kind of gone on, I’ve just got your book up here as well. It’s, it’s quite kind of vulnerable thing for people to do. I can see in a couples situation, you know, there’s a vulnerability that comes up. I can also see it’s a work situation, a lot of people are used to putting on the kind of the armour of business. It’s, it’s, you know, it’s not personal, it’s business. How have you managed to create that space, that safe space for people to actually go there with?

Bob Gower
Yeah, so I’ve learned through a lot of trial and error. And both for myself to you know, like, it’s actually hard for me to get up in front of a roomful of business people you know, like in boardrooms or And ask them to be vulnerable. And I’ve had to kind of overcome, because because I’ve seen so much value in it. Over the years that I’ve had to overcome my own sort of private sense of decorum, I guess, right. And there’s a couple things I lean back on, and I’m sure it won’t be unfamiliar to you and many of your listeners, but these idea of psychological safety or psychological safety that Amy Edmondson talks about a lot and that we don’t really get to psychological safety unless we are we feel somewhat seen as a human being. And it’s very challenging I think, to to be seen as a human being unless you’re being someone vulnerable. So what we you know what one of the things I’ll say so I’ll talk about team psychological safety. I’ll also talk about some of Amy Cuddy’s work on trust the nature of trust being this dual assessment that the person cares about me, and the person has the capability to deliver on what they promise and that we really our brains sort of Unconsciously asked the care question first and the capability question second, because the cost of trusting somebody who doesn’t care, but has a lot of capability can be an existential threat. You know, we can think of some examples in politics right now, people have a lot of power, but don’t really seem to care about their constituents.

Andy Polaine
Yeah. Right. So that’s when you say capability. I mean, do you mean power? Yeah.

Bob Gower
I mean, like, they can deliver, they can do stuff, they can make stuff happen. So it could be intellectual capability could be skills, or it could be authority and power, right, a sense of, of institutional power. Yeah. And then the other side is, care. So but trusting somebody who cares. You know, we’ve all had people on our team who care a lot and really work hard, and they just don’t have the skill, you know, like, they’re just maybe in the wrong position, or they just or they’re young, or they’re early in their career. Trusting somebody like that doesn’t really doesn’t really have a huge cost to it historically, evolutionarily, in terms of our sort of social development. And I see what happens a lot and so I always bring this up and I say, look, you know, there’s a some really fun studies that I won’t go into now. But really fun studies that kind of illustrate the point, I’ll tell the story. And I’ll say, look, if you’re going to lead with something, lead with care first, which means listening, it means paying attention. It means being curious asking questions. We all know what care feels like and how it shows up. And then bring capability. And second, if you if you try to prove yourself right first, before you’ve proven that you can’t care about somebody, you might actually be generating fear. So I’m sorry, that was kind of a long winded way of saying, but I try to bring in data and I try to bring in, like, tell people why it’s important. And then I then I frame the questions really, really carefully for the situation.

So intentions, concerns, boundaries, and dreams are the buckets. But if I’m in a board meeting, like I said, board meeting at a pretty pretty big multinational nonprofit A few years ago, and I asked, you know, essentially like, Why Why are you a part of this board? Where does your values you know, like, because you probably your values brought you here. And what I had was people telling me stories, you know, people started telling stories of childhood. Actually one person told a story of childhood abuse. And this was a nonprofit that was focused on, on, on climate change. And he just said, look like I didn’t feel safe in my home growing up, but I felt safe in nature. And now that you know, and it was, and we were, and this was like a guy who was like, not the easiest person to get along with, and, and the source of a lot of strife there. But we all immediately began to feel a sense of connection to him. And I think he set the tone and I often encourage leaders to set the tone and I often set the tone myself if I have to, if I’m leading, kicking things off, I’ll be like, I’ll tell a vulnerable story that sort of gives people permission.

Andy Polaine
So in that it’s funny, it’s like a kind of cross pollination going on because in the in the business world or in the workplace, you sort of have to bring in the human mind to because this is there’s an artificial separation there as if you know, I said that, that classic, it’s business, not my it’s not personal, it’s business, but of course, it’s all personal. And yet, Alex, you know, in the in the couples are into into more of a personal relationship so much you’re having to bring some structure back in, you know, almost make it more formal in order to get through the it’s just a swamp kind of messy human emotions. Is that a fair kind of summary?

Alex Jamieson
Absolutely. And I am like many of my very driven successful coaching clients who, while they’re very successful in the workplace, in their personal life, or around personal topics, they feel overwhelmed by having important conversations, because there is no structure. Right? And actually, and I know it took me a year or two. And that’s because I’m a little slow sometimes. It took me a little while to get really comfortable with having structured conversations around emotional topics. And now I’m the hugest advocate for it because I know where to put my feelings. I know how to organise my thoughts. And I’m, I know now that neither of us has to win here. This is an exchange of information so that we together can create something. It’s not about me knowing the answers, or defending against what you think is right. It’s about us truly coming together. And that’s, that’s like the beauty of the collaborative creative process. Like let’s bring our strengths and concerns together and create something even better than one of us could have made.

Andy Polaine
I was going to ask about that actually, that that sort of tension between having something structured and having something I don’t know if it’s spontaneous but having something.. well maybe it’s spontaneous, having something that’s more more loose. So there’s a cultural thing and I don’t know if it’s more so in the in sort of Anglo Saxon world than say in Germany where I live now-and maybe I’ll get on to the cultural thing-but there’s a there’s this kind of feedback culture that has crept in kind of everywhere, sometimes not entirely healthily, you know, of, you know, “If I could just give you a bit of feedback here..” and then I’m going to say something insulting, you know, or and then I’m going to just tell you what I think that you know, which isn’t really feedback. How much do you have to do with this kind of structure to stop it becoming kind of performative, because because it can become performative, sometimes that kind of structure thing, which is, you know, “I’m going to play the role of the therapy, but I’m not really going to do it”, or “I’m going to play the role of revealing myself as a leader, but it’s a story I’ve told 100 times.”

Alex Jamieson
[Laughs] Man, absolutely. Well, there are some red flags and we have some rules around this conversation that we go about in detail in the book. And the first one for me is like, is this person coming to this conversation in good faith? Like, do I believe that this person actually wants to connect with me about this topic, and a real Easy brightline to make that, like, “Am I doing this on Facebook?” Probably like not gonna get anywhere, right? And I’ve had interactions on Facebook very recently with important people in my life. I’m like, let’s have a phone call about this topic, because this platform is not the place to have real, possibly transformative connections. And, you know, we’ve also told people look, we can’t fix your narcissist through this conversation, but we can help you get clear. I’m starting to call it aim yourself. He’s the all in method for yourself to help you get clear before you approach someone so that you feel a little bit more solid and self self correct before you decide to engage with somebody else.

Andy Polaine
It’s a classic thing of, you know, the only thing you can change is your yourself and your reactions. But when you do that, it shifts In the other person, because you don’t, you’re not producing the same response that they’re expecting to happen. I mean, happens in families a lot, because we all know how to press each other’s buttons.

Bob Gower
Yeah. And I think one thing we also do with the conversation when we’re setting it up is that it is simply an exchange of information. So this isn’t problem solving. So the promise is radical alignment, right, yeah. And that’s the promise of this problem that you know, and I, and that’s a great outcome. And one very, very possible outcome that we’re very clear about is you know… so that’s essentially a “hell yes!” you know, like, hey, “yeah, we’re, we’re aligned. We’re great, where this is perfect.” But an equally good outcome is the “hell no!” it’s like, “oh, yeah, this is not going to work.” Either the way you’re showing up doesn’t work for me, or we kind of mutually figure out that we’re, we’re so misaligned in terms of our intentions, like why we’re doing something or are different boundaries around… you know, like, we’re gonna go on vacation together and I must, you know, be in the jungle every day and you want to, you know, sip cocktails every day, like it’s not going to work, we should probably have separate vacations, right? So figuring out whether or not your hell yes, or hell no.

And then the other thing is we’re very clear that, like, look, when you’re sharing your boundaries, you’re sharing your boundaries. And when we frame them, you know, like so in a work context, we might frame it as what helps you be the best at work, you know, like, what helps you do the best work so and I always encourage people to think about things like, you know, answering, you know, what, what, what kind of boundaries you put around answering email or answering communication, what kind of you know what, you know, I have very strict boundaries for myself about scheduling meetings, like don’t generally schedule meetings before noon, because that’s when I get my best writing work done and my best sort of cognitive work done. And, and so I just sort of, you’re just sharing this with each other. And this is not a menu that you’re creating, that you’re ordering off of, you’re not going to get necessarily everything you’re asking for, and nor is anybody giving you orders when they’re sharing their boundaries with you. What we’re simply doing is sharing our information with each other and we can negotiate later. What we want to do is get kind of everything out on the table, so we’re negotiating from a kind of a complete space. And the reason we put dreams at the end is that dreams have a way of bringing us back together and enrolling us in each other’s sort of like vision for the future. But we already understand concerns we already sent boundaries and various intentions and so now we can have maybe a rich conversation about Okay, what kind of working agreements makes sense for this project? What kind of schedule makes sense for this project? What kind of budget makes sense for this project? All of these things are now we have really really rich information to deal with.

Andy Polaine
And this this project could be any as any kind of relationship?

Bob Gower
Could be getting married it could we find it very helpful to constrain the the topic to a single topic with a reason that sits behind it. So like, let’s say, personally, let’s just let’s just go there, let’s be pretty, you know, vulnerable, we’re going to talk about our sex life, so that we can both feel satisfied and loved right, something like that. Hopefully that’s not too too outrageous for your audience. And at work, we might say, we’re going to talk about the next quarter, so we can focus on the right things and so we can kind of, you know, be the most effective team we can possibly be, or we’re forming a new team that’s going after a very specific, you know, product or a very specific, you know, maybe it’s a team that’s focused on an internal project, like, like organisational change, or it’s focused on an external project, like, you know, a new product line, or a new, a new feature set for an existing product. And we’re going to talk about that so that we can get really clear and aligned on what we’re going to do. And so we find just like constraining the topic, keeps that kind of scope creep from coming in, where we all of a sudden are suddenly talking about you know, how your mother disappointed you or so you know, like, how did we getto this? You know?

Andy Polaine
Yeah, you talk about topic topic, creep, you call in the book which I really liked because I think everyone’s had one of those conversations. So I think… well you get scope creep at work, but you get kind of, I think topic creep perhaps more in personal relationships where you know, you’re discussing where you get to go on holiday and all of a sudden you’re having a kind of fight about the thing that you said to my mother, you know, five years ago.

Alex Jamieson
And then that fear of topic creep keeps a lot of people from bringing up important topics, because they’re worried that it’s gonna get out of control, and I just don’t want to deal with a day long fight.

Andy Polaine
Right. So I was gonna ask about that, because one of the things that I could imagine happening is when you talked about is not in negotiation, which is, but my dream hasn’t been acknowledged or my fear hasn’t been acknowledged. And I want to kind of bend this, you know, this topic towards one of those two things. How do you kind of keep the rigour I suppose, in the in the process,

Alex Jamieson
Well we actually recommend that you agree to a couple of ground rules as you enter into this format. One is that people get equal speaking time. And there’s no crosstalk right. You’re not making little comments, or, or, or even asking questions like we do. We do offer you can ask clarifying question like, if you don’t understand what somebody said, you can ask a clarifying question. Don’t ask a question that’s really a veiled judgement. Like, “Oh, do you mean blah, blah, blah,” like, don’t do that? Like, really, this is just a you get two minutes to talk about your fears about this topic. I get two minutes to talk about my fears about this topic. You get two minutes about boundaries. I get two minutes like, just you guys. I promise you. It will be weird the first time you do it, but it will be revelatory in the way that you feel like I have, like I can just take a little space. I can even be quiet for 15 seconds. I think and I’m not worried about somebody else like jumping in with their next comment. That that sense of safety is actually really important.

Andy Polaine
So I’ve kind of jumped around a little bit in the book because you’ve you talked about the setting the stage where there’s a lot of that and then having the conversation there’s a… I don’t know if you know the method Stinky Fish? Do you know this method?

Alex Jamieson
Never heard of it, but I love the name.

Andy Polaine
I think it comes from Hyper Island in Sweden and there’s an expression which is “the fish stinks from the head”. I think that’s a German one but there’s there’s this thing that if you carry around a stinky fish, or there’s a thing that you kind of try and hide, if you carry it around with you, it just thinks more and more and more so the stinky fish conversation or activity is at the beginning of you know, could be anything could be like a leadership development, you know, workshop, it could be a project works repenting where people lay their stinky fish on the table, and kind of get that stuff out going, “I think this is kind of a loaded kind of bullshit and it’s never gonna, it’s never gonna work” or whatever it is, so that you do at the beginning instead of kind of hanging on to it throughout the project. I’ve done this a few times and one time it really, it kind of blew up, right? It just, we actually had to… well fortunately, it kind of came up to lunch better took up most of the morning, or just people quitting really kind of angry. It was very, very hard to close it down. So can you talk about that bit because you talk about after the conversation and you know in some ways, it’s sometimes easier to open up that can of worms than it is to kind of push them all back in or not even push them back in but to kind of settle the can of worms.

Alex Jamieson
I think our I think our all in method has a very has a very different energy to it than stinky fish. When you started talking about stinky fish and like that sounds like an invitation for people to bitch and complain.

Andy Polaine
It can get like that if it’s not properly manageed.

Alex Jamieson
When we’re talking about our concerns the like the question, we give tonnes of examples of questions to help you get clear about what your concerns are or how to frame it. It’s like, no, my concern is that I’ll do a lot of work and not get any reward. My concern is that we won’t sell as many units as we want to. Yeah, it’s not like the stinky fish sounds like rehashing the past. And that is not this is actually very different. And that is intentionally very different.

Bob Gower
We also frame it as… we point out, I think accurately that humans have a very strong negativity bias. I mean, you know, we just our brains are naturally attuned to notice something. So and the reason it comes after intentions, as soon as I set an intention to doing to do something, most of us are going to think about how that thing is going to fail. Or, you know, like, that’s really and there’s, there’s, there’s good evolutionary reasons for this, right that we notice things that are wrong in our environment more than we notice things that are right in our environment are something our brains just naturally do. And many of the things if not most of the things we notice actually aren’t… we don’t actually need to fear them. They’re actually inconsequential because our brain is actually kind of flipping through these this sort of list of things, could this go wrong? Could this go wrong? Could this go wrong? Could this go wrong? And so that we invite people to be crazy, you know, we invite it, we like that. Just because you state a concern doesn’t mean it’s a real concern that you have is actually going to come true, what you’re doing is you’re sharing with us, what’s going on inside of your brain that comes up as soon as you went when you went at the start of the project. And I think that does two things. One is that it personalises it, it makes that like if I share a concern, it’s my concern. And then likewise, I’m it’s requires a little bit of vulnerability because I am sort of sharing things that I fear, you know, my own sort of fears and we encourage people, you know, modulate yourself for the environment you’re in, you know, these, you know, allow yourself to feel safe, you know, feel safe, but maybe take a risk as well and share something kind of that seems kind of silly. that pops up in your head. And I think too, is it it just sort of gets everything out on the table. And it doesn’t. And it’s because I think in stinky fish I haven’t I actually have run it a few times when not quite remembering it now. But we don’t engage with the concern. We just listen to the concern that somebody brings up and I go, you have that concern. That’s interesting. And then somebody will say, you know what, I got that concern, too. That’s crazy. That’s it’s a stupid concern, but I have it too, you know, and then it kind of it can actually sort of bring people together rather than pull them apart. Yeah,

Andy Polaine
Yeah. No, I think it’s a really testament to this idea of actually structuring this process and designing the kind of full arc of it, I suppose, rather than just sort of unleashing of how you talk about when I’m talking, obviously, I guess most people listening to this. I mean, I’m making the false division here anyway, and I’m guessing most people listening to probably into the business and design in some way because that’s mostly what the podcast is about, but we’re all human beings to that They all have these kind of issues. It’s a talk about kind of, you know, parenting you talk about love, sex, money. Do you think some of the relationships that you have have at work, mirror some of those kind of patterns that you have in your personal life?

Alex Jamieson
In the first few years of our relationship, Bob would tell me about just the dynamics in these high powered executive boardrooms. And I was like, Wow, really feels like people are just reenacting their family systems from childhood.

Andy Polaine
Yeah.

Alex Jamieson
And it’s like, Yeah, absolutely. And I see it, I see it with parents all the time. I see it with my own clients who are themselves leaders. And they, they see their own foibles and their own patterning show up like oh my gosh, this thing that I grew up with, I’m now doing this with my employees. Or I’m, you know, I’m bringing my stuff from home into the workplace, and that is across genders. Humans are emotional creatures of habit. So to think that somehow, because you have a certain title that you are now a logical rational person, I think is an accurate. Anything else about that?

Bob Gower
Well, you know, one of our favourite relationship therapists, we don’t know him personally, but his books have been been really influential is a guy named David Schnarch. And one of… who wrote passionate marriage and a couple other books… anyway, one of his things that he points out a lot is that we we get into a personal relationship often because we think it’s going to be a source of pleasure and fun and support. But we find out that actually all of our old family pattern come patterning comes up and we think of that as like a bug. Like oh, if only we can eliminate that we can get back to the love and the fun and the support. He’s like, that’s actually kind of a wrong way to look at an intimate relationship. So the way we’re what we’re what we’re actually trying to do is become better people. And we’re, and by being in the intimate relationship, it forces you to kind of up against your own sort of rough edges. And it becomes a sort of a people growing machine, it becomes a way of becoming a better person. And I think I over the years, I’ve actually come to look at my business partnerships in very much the same way that I you know, Okay, come to a business partnership, because I want to make something I love product and I love creating stuff. It’s also a place where I want maybe some partnership and I want to make some money, right? Like, that’s why I’m, you know, I’m making a living and I’m trying to make a difference. That’s why I come to business. But the reality is that no, that I look at anything that gets in the way of that as a bug, you know, like, my partner will have want something differently than what I want, you know, or something like that. And then I’ve realised like, actually, over the years that that instead of looking at, at those, those those opportunities for those things to be gotten rid of, they’re actually things to be leaned into, and they’re places where I get to become a better leader, a better partner, a better creative, a better person, through the relationship and through the business problem. And I think that kind of inversion is something that I come back to again and again. And I really try to also share that with people as they’re entering into this conversation. This conversation doesn’t precede the work. This conversation in many ways is the work.

Andy Polaine
Yeah. It’s interesting as I’m reading through it, and kind of thinking about some of the, well, some of my wife’s work for example, but also you know, my my work. I’ve been saying for ages that as you get more senior in the design world of 99% of what you’re doing is not this design problems, hard to crack. It’s all just kind of people wrangling. I was really kind of surprised how much of that when I sort of realised that that was not what was going on. I just thought no hang on. It’s just all people wrangling actually did the actual kind of doing it is, is really easy. We just get in the way of ourselves all the time.

Alex Jamieson
Part of the people you have to wrangle is yourself.

Andy Polaine
The first one, right? I wanted to ask you something. Alex, you coach a lot of driven women, as you’ve put it in your bio, there’s, you know, since your book’s come out, we’ve had this whole kind of shift with Black Lives Matter plus this, you know, there’s there’s a lot of conversation about gender, of the complete spectrum. Have you… we’re talking about kind of patterns.. have you noticed anything that you know, you know, shift in terms of, or get repeated in terms of kind of gender patterns. And, you know, you’ve got all these smart, strong women… successful women at work, you know, do they you what kind of patterns do you see and what kind of things are coming up for them? And also, I guess racially too.

Alex Jamieson
I have two quick stories. One is that I happen to be working with several women who are leaders in tech sales. Like they’re at the top of their sales team, and it’s all around tech. And there’s a lot of focus now on inclusion and diversity and equity. And yet, the, you know, the women are kind of being invited to rise in the ranks, but then not really. And they’re seeing, they’re just really coming up against old structures, patriarchal structures that have been in place since the company was formed and founded. So there’s a lot of, you know, people are making these big declarations for their companies right now. But internally, people in the system are not seeing those changes really lived out. So that’s a huge frustration. And I’m actually you know, helping them get clear and make pitches and presentations using the All In Method to help them formulate their, their solutions. But here’s a story of hope that our own son who’s 13, we were talking about empathy and tactical empathy at the dinner table a couple weeks ago. And out of nowhere, he says, “You know, I’m really glad and being raised learning how to care about other people’s feelings.”

Andy Polaine
Very nice.

Alex Jamieson
So here’s a 13 year old boy who is a big time skateboarder and he’s recognising how important it is to listen and have empathy for you don’t have to agree with the person’s feelings, but you have to understand how they feel and listen. So that gives me hope that change is possible. And it may take a while.

Andy Polaine
I mean it is encouraging and it is hopeful. I think one of the kind of terrible situations that we’re in is that we’ve shifted from, you know, “I disagree with your, you know, point of view and your opinions and your philosophy, we won this time, you know, good luck next time” to, you know, “you have to be destroyed” You know, for me to feel okay and uncomfortable of having won you have to be destroyed and it feels like you know, you know, hearing that story as a as a pretty good… some hope that that’ll that’ll change.

Bob Gower
And I think the way so I work adjacent to diversity inclusion consultants a lot and I’ve worked adjacent to that space. And it’s something that I care about quite a bit, you know, like that, like that sort of a change in let’s call it access to power, you know, I think access to leadership within organisations. And, you know, there’s a lot of data out there that says that it’s not the hiring pipeline, that’s the problem. It’s the environment that people get into once they get hired, you know, like that. You had a lot of attrition from people who kind of who come in. And the way I interpreted Is that really the way power is thought about and wielded and structured in our society, whether its financial power, political power, or sort of positional power in an organisation is of is was designed by people who all share a very similar identity in a very similar way of looking at the world. And so just to sort of say that we’re going to change, you know, to get more women in power, that we’re just going to put women in power, and then they’re going to behave the way men behaved in power, you know, like, that’s not really what we’re actually trying to do is together and i and i really, I’d like to consider myself as like an ally and, and kind of part of the process, but like, what we’re trying to do is create new ways of running organisations, new ways of running teams that are much, much stronger, much more inclusive, much more inviting, and naturally welcomed much more diversity. It’s not complete. It’s not all this not the only work that needs to be done. But I do think it’s a key component of the work that needs to be done.

Andy Polaine
Yeah. I mean, it’s it’s classic in a way when I kind of think about it now hearing that, you know, in the context of our conversation, there’s the perennial problem, whether it’s design, innovation, whether it’s diversity and Inclusion, whether it’s in a rich poor divide-all of those things-is, is what you’re saying, Alex, which is you’re inviting us or you’re inviting that verbally, but you’re not changing any of the structural stuff. And what I see in, in your approach in your early method is actually to bring the structural stuff right up front, and say, let’s kind of have a look at this structural stuff. And let’s put some structure around it and create some new new rules, really, I guess, so that we can kind of continue to have that conversation. It’s not just going to snap back into its old patterns.

Bob Gower
The metaphor we use a lot is that this is this is playing scales. But we’re all but we’re all jazz musicians, right? So this so that so the methodology itself, is not the be all and end all what we’re actually trying to do is instal a new way of communication and a way of thinking about communication. And you got to put the reps in, right, you know, great musicians, great musicians play their scale. So great communicators should also play their scales.

Andy Polaine
That’s a very good good metaphor, I have an album somewhere of Charlie Parker’s recording sessions. And there’s a bit at the beginning of where they happen to be recording. He’s playing scales, quite badly at some point as well. I think, oh great, it’s really good to hear Charlie Parker kind of try and play a lick and then screw it up and just keep going over and over and over.

Bob Gower
It’s what Coltrane would do right, he would record himself, find out where he was bad and then play where he was bad. over and over and over again.

Andy Polaine
Yeah. So listen, we’re coming up to time. It’s called Power of Ten, this podcast, because of the Eames’ film kind of zooming in and out. And so that the final question for our guests is is and I’ll ask you both individually. What once more thing do you think has a has an outsized effect on the world and either is overlooked, or should be redesigned? Or rethought?

Bob Gower
We’re looking at who’s gonna go first. I’ll go first. So you can you can take it home. For me, I think, sort of the most powerful thing and I’m going to again, correct Take it back to identity a bit, right? So like I’m a middle aged white guy and one of the and who was promoted to his level of incompetence many times in his career, he went home and found myself feeling like I needed to show up as the person who knew everything and I didn’t know everything. And what really has changed I think what really for me and what really is sort of the overlooked skill for people who are leading and, and, and looking to lead organisations is listening and is sort of calming down slowing down especially and especially when things seem counter to what I want or or counter to what I think or challenging ideas to really deeply engage with them from a kind of humble listening, really trying to understand space, you know, I mean, it’s This is Stephen Covey, right seek first to understand before you are before you’re understood, I think isn’t that Covey? Anyway. But yeah, try to try to understand, try to listen

Alex Jamieson
And I’ll say that we need to people who haven’t been listened to, to now be the leaders. And for for the women that I work with specifically, learning to lead is starts with learning to lead these important conversations in a way where everybody feels included and safe. And I have I have just seen this is by far the best relationship I’ve had in my life. My business and our businesses are thriving. Our child is thriving, like I’m just seeing it in every area of my life, we’ll and it’s because finally in my 30s and 40s, I’ve learned how to address tough topics. And I really hope people take up this invitation to try it on themselves.

Andy Polaine
I hope they do too. That seems like a very good place to stop. Thank you so much. You can find Alexandra on alexandrajamieson.com and Bob on bobgower.com. Where else can people find you on the interwebs?

Alex Jamieson
Radicalalignmentbook.com. You can order the book get a free chapter.

Bob Gower
You can even get a free course it’s coming out soon. So yeah, so if you order enough books, we’ll invite you to a free course.

Andy Polaine
Okay, so yeah so on radicalalignmentbook.com you’ll also find courses that you do workshops that you do, as well as the book. And what about on any other toxic social media?

Alex Jamieson
I love Instagram. I’m @deliciousalex.

Andy Polaine
Okay, very nice.

Bob Gower
And I’m @bobgower on Instagram and LinkedIn and I am not on Twitter. I’m not on Facebook, I guess smart. I dabble in Reddit occasionally, but only a couple of subreddits

Andy Polaine
Yes, I’ve got back into Reddit recently too, but for bonsai trees, to help to help me gain the long view of things. Thank you so much for being my guest on Power of Ten.

Alex Jamieson
Thanks for having us.

Bob Gower
Thanks, Andy.

Andy Polaine
As I’m sure you’re aware, you’ve been listening to Power of Ten. My name is Andy Polaine. You can find me at @apolaine on Twitter, or Polaine.com where you can find more episodes and sign up for my newsletter Doctor’s Note. If you like the show, please take a moment to give it a rating on iTunes. It really helps others find us. And as always get in touch. If you have any comments, feedback or suggestions for guests, all the links are in the show notes. Thanks for listening and see you next time.