One of DM2009's most important cogs is emcee Michael Ciszewski, a consultant at the World Bank who is an organization development specialist who's focus is working with teams. On Thursday afternoon I caught up with Ciszewsk for this mini-interview:
Q. The finalists looked pretty intense at the opening session on Monday [photo below]. Were they?
A. Everybody was uncertain and nervous. Me included. We were all starting out on a brand new journey, although most of the participants have been on their own absolutely incredible journeys.
Q. So your objective was to get them relaxed?
A. I'm probably intially thinking, I've got to get myself relaxed. If I can do that, then they'll settle into the relaxed space they need to be in.
Q. What's your M.O.?
A. There's a huge amount of behind-the-scenes work to make this happen, and the DM2009 team has just been unbelievable, on call for 24 hours a day. Despite all that preparation, when the lights go up, and I'm on the podium, the script only takes me and the group so far. A big part of what makes this work is letting them have the space they need and want. That's hard to do with 200 people in the room. But what we've done is a pretty good job of allowing people to say what they want to say when they think it's time to say it. I'm amazed and impressed how interactive the sessions have been, how willing the participants have been to be present in the room.
Q. At the first session, you had everybody at each table throwing tennis balls to each other, then doing it again in half the time, then again in half the time. KInd of unmericiful, no?
A. The object was very simply -- to get people to laugh. When you're trying to get people to get comfortable with each other, there's nothing like a laugh and smile.
Q. What's happened between Monday and today [Thursday]?
A. It's been a complete transformation across the whole group. The feeling in the room is so much more comfortable and relaxed. The finalists are sitting at different tables and reacting with new colleagues and friends and making connections. The group has really come together as a community, which is what the planners were after.