How do you value your time, your expertise and your insights?

By Pablo Picasso, aged 43. He drew this horse whilst talking on the phone. FACT.
Little Horse, 1924(?). Indian ink on paper, 21 x 27.2 cm, The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

You might have heard this classic, apocryphal story about Picasso, five minutes, and a priceless napkin:

Picasso was having a drink in a restaurant — probably a traditional French pavement café.

He doodled on his napkin as he drank his aperitif.

The admirer recognized his doodles and his face and exclaimed “Oh my goodness, are you the famous Pablo Picasso?”

The painter nodded nonchalantly.

The admirer looked at his napkin and asked if they might have it.

The artist was happy to oblige and handed over the napkin…but asked a considerable amount of money in exchange.

The admirer was horrified…

Start with drawing a circle

This essay first appeared on my blog.

Some of these ideas are extracted from my recent book, Good Talk: How to Design Conversations that Matter. You can find free chapters and downloads here.


“A dialogue is a conversation with a center, not with sides.”

William Issacs

Being able to facilitate and lead such a conversation is no trivial task.

Conversations can easily become what Philippa Perry, in The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read, calls fact tennis: Each side lobs their own facts back and forth trying to score points…what those points can be later cashed in for, no…

Build protocols of protection instead.

This essay first appeared on my blog.

Some of these ideas are extracted from my recent book, Good Talk: How to Design Conversations that Matter. You can find free chapters and downloads here.

I believe that psychological safety is essential for groups and organizations to do their best work. And I’m not alone. Google has studied it, books have been written about it. Even little old me has written about it. In my men’s work we talk about creating safety for ourselves first, so we can do it for others. And I stand by that point of view.

I also…

Don’t set New Year’s Resolutions. Use Design Thinking, Lean and Systems Thinking Instead.

Originally posted at

New Year’s resolutions are declining in popularity — A Forbes survey showed that about 75% of people over 45 don’t bother with them anymore. And good riddance. Research shows that resolutions are not very effective at changing behaviors — after a month, nearly half of resolvers had failed at whatever they were resolving to do.

Resolutions are driven by what we think we should do

The top ten resolutions should look pretty familiar to you:

Exercise more, Lose weight, Get organized, Learn a new skill or hobby, Live life to the fullest, Save more money / spend less money, Quit smoking, Spend more time with family…

Where Does a Conversation Happen?

What is the medium for the conversation…and does it support the conversation you want to have happen?

All the other elements of a conversation converge in one place: the interface for that conversation. (Learn more about the other elements of the Conversation OS Canvas here)

The interface can be physical. The interface of regular, everyday conversations is the air we breathe. We vibrate that air with our vocal cords, those vibrations strike our ears and we convert those patterns to sounds, sounds to language.

The interface can be digital. We also communicate through texts, emails, Facebook, Slack, Twitter. Some of…

Exploring the Conversation OS Canvas

Meetings are Group Conversations

My work over the past several years has been in learning and applying the principles of conversation dynamics, found in studying one-to-one conversations to complex group conversations. You might call these group conversations by another name: meetings or workshops, teamwork…even cultures and communities can be understood through this lens.

The size of the conversations (in number of participants) is different, but the essential structures are the same.

Conversations have Structure

Understanding the patterns behind things is an intellectual pleasure. But there’s practical value, too. If we know the principles on which something is built, we can build it…

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

And what to do about it

Zoom Fatigue is a term that didn’t even exist in the beginning of 2020. And while the flurry of google searches has gone from a blazing fire to a slow burn, you are still exhausted at the end of the day from all the video calls.

The secret of transformative facilitators

When I coach facilitators, one thing I notice is how overwhelming the job can feel. There’s a lot to keep track of: Stakeholder requirements ahead of a session, bringing together people for a working session (cat herding!), keeping your eyes on the goals and outcomes to make sure that the time was well spent…all while making sure that all voices are heard and included…*and* while keeping an eye on the agenda, flexing and shaving time where needed.

It’s a lot.

If there’s one thing I want facilitators, leaders and coaches of all stripes to remember is this: Never do anything…

a radical approach

I’m going to make this as simple as possible…don’t try to engage with people you disagree with unless you really really have to or really, really want to.

You have other options besides conflict

How I keep it simple for online facilitation

Like many of you, I’m doing a lot more facilitating online. I’ve posted about my set up elsewhere and people keep asking! So, here it is, plain and simple.


When I facilitate in person, I don’t sit much, if at all. Standing keeps my energy up and helps me engage folks. But…sometimes I need a break.

I found this gem and I love it to pieces. It’s really fun to use. Seriously.

Oh…and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.


Since I used to travel so much for my work, I don’t really have a desk. And so, while…

Daniel Stillman

Host of and @gothamsmith co-founder. Often riding bikes to the ocean.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store