I remember when the pandemic hit Europe and every country went into lockdown, jobs and projects got cancelled, my first thought was “And what do I do now?”
I worked the last 10 years mostly as a facilitator in face-to-face workshops, trainings and projects. Supporting a group of people to solve their challenges and creating space and trust for experiences and experiments. And now it seemed everything was about to change.
Luckily, my project team decided to move fully online and I could continue my work — which included to facilitate 10+ service design workshops, a full design sprint and other follow ups.
I read many how-tos about facilitating remotely, about creating the same atmosphere, I checked out articles like the 10 best tips for Zoom workshops and I even wrote my own thoughts into a short blog post for Circular Berlin.
Yet, the more online workshops I facilitated the more I became indifferent, almost annoyed about them. I still had enough paid days to get by which was great in a time where many of us were struggling. I still got positive feedback from great participants. It seemed I was doing a good job, so why wasn’t I happy?
„I don’t like to facilitate anymore,“ I told my girlfriend like a stubborn child who doesn’t want to do the Sunday walk with their parents. „But you love facilitating,“ was her honest answer and I couldn’t say anything against it. Just that it felt differently.
It took me a while to figure out.
I realized I never did my job because I was so excited about the topic or the challenge. It is not about how-to’s, it is not about learning new methods and skills. I love facilitating because I can be in a room with humans and build empathy for and with the group. There is nothing as fascinating like feeling unspoken changes in the setting, getting answers without words and building trust between strangers from different companies or departments.
Well, to be fair: There were definitely workshops where I was thrilled by the challenge and the content — mostly when it was about the user and creating a better user experience. I was thrilled almost every time about the group and the individuals.
Once I had the result of my longer thought and reflection processes written on a sticky note in front of me — because, you know, I also miss writing sticky notes — I could finally figure out what excited me despite being with humans in a room.
So, I found my way back to writing. Writing blogs and short stories but also thinking about the writing process and the words we use in everyday interactions, in services and applications to help users solve their challenges.
Creating a different kind of empathy, I guess.
It makes me smile.
Although I still miss all the strangers I didn’t get to know because of the pandemic.