If You Like Intensity this is a Great Place to Be
Interview with IdeaConnection facilitator Susan Velasquez
By Paul Arnold
Susan Velasquez loves reading about new ideas and when she came across IdeaConnection on the internet, decided to sign up to the newsletter. On seeing an ad for facilitators she sent in her resume and was promptly snapped up.
Susan has more than three decades’ worth of experience of writing and facilitating personal development seminars and was one of the founders and first woman facilitators of the human potential movement's training seminars. She writes a bimonthly column - Wisdom Workout - for the Laguna Beach Independent News, and in her book - Beyond Intellect: Journey into the Wisdom of Your Intuitive Mind - she puts readers in touch with their inner intelligence and intuitive wisdom.
Being a facilitator at IdeaConnection seems a natural fit, and so far Susan has facilitated two challenges. In this interview, she talks about her experiences of working with the problem solving teams and her motivations for taking part.
I said 'yes' to IdeaConnection because if you know too much about the area you work in - I have over 45,000 hours of hand-on facilitation expertise with people in front of me - you can get stale. You lose your innocence. Now my first challenge was with two biologists and two chemists. So there was no way that I could answer the challenge in any way because I have no expertise there. But it didn't stop me from dreaming about it and coming up with solutions that would make me laugh, because I was like the kindergartner in the room. My intent was to get my innocence back and it came back in spades.
Were you stretched in this unfamiliar environment?
Yes. Definitely. Many people stop their development once they have a certain amount of money, a certain amount of fame, a certain number of people they get to like them. But then there are other people who through circumstances - either they have been thrown off the bus or they've had some experiences that have tested them - are able to deal with the unknown. And to me these challenges are the unknown.
What were some of the enjoyable aspects of facilitating the teams?
I have done two challenges and with both of them I was so impressed with the kindness and respect that every team member had for each other, and how positive they are. It's one thing to be with people who are positive because they can’t see the forest from the trees, but on the teams it is positivity with skills behind it. I am so appreciative of this brilliance. During my conversations with solvers I would ask whether or not we’re focusing on part of the challenge that perhaps can’t be done. They always came back with of course it can be done, which was a nice thing to hear. But to have a skeptic in the room doesn’t hurt.
In a side conversation on the first challenge, one of the solvers said something to me that was so brilliant. He said that we can’t afford to be bipolar on this, we have to be poly polar. There's not just one solution to this thing, there are so many solutions if we just stay with it.
This was a four-month challenge and the solvers worked hard. Actually, it would be inaccurate to say they worked hard. They worked brilliantly and with gusto.
Nicole [Senior Open Innovation Project Manager at IdeaConnection] plays a big part in this because I think she's brilliant at putting teams together. And she just threw me into it. I feel very fortunate. When I look back, the first challenge was a pretty hefty one with a lot of aspects to it. The solvers were so competent that they had enough skill to come up with three solutions. They came up with three not because they couldn’t agree on them, but to provide a better service to the seeker.
Firstly, there was the go-to solution, then there was the solution that would challenge the seeker a little more and finally, the out-of-the-box solution. We could have honed everything into one solution, but there was so much good stuff that came from the team’s work that we made a decision to deliver three.
You clearly enjoyed working with these brilliant minds.
Yes. Very much so. The set up at IdeaConnection must attract people for whom money is the end result, not the motivator. In my professional life I work with individuals, and the intent is to take people who have position and power in whatever field they're in and marry it with increased personal power. That's my focus. Bring your mind and heart to whatever it is you're doing, which really boils down to intentional living rather than doing things by just putting your attention here and following this and following that. And I found that the solvers on the challenges are naturally intentional.
And they’re motivated by the thrill of the intellectual pursuit, camaraderie and coming up with something new – creativity?
Don't you think? I really do think those are the three things that they sign up for, and they have enough graciousness already to truly be able to entertain more than their own ideas. So there's a generosity that runs through everything and I like that very much.
I really believe that if you're going to survive you might as well thrive. And thriving really requires some skills that surviving doesn't. Thriving requires a better sense of humor and it requires letting go of being perfect so you can bring yourself to the table. And that having something bigger than you to focus on brings to the table creativity and self-actualization. I think that's what we're dealing with here. And so far the people I've worked with on the challenges have enough self-esteem to really naturally move to self-actualization, which is basically bringing everything they have to the table.
Are you keen to work on more challenges?
Yes, I'll be game. You know working on the challenges is lovely, but it is intense. Even just the mechanics of it. I had four time zones going at one point. And then there are the different personalities and nationalities. One of the hardest parts at the beginning [chuckles] was how do I say the person's name correctly.
If you like intensity this is a great place to be. You are very intimately involved and everyone is focused on something that is bigger than all of us, which is just a thrilling way to do things. I feel like I have been invited to a cocktail party where I get to talk to the four smartest people in the room.
That's quite a nice place to be.
It is just so interesting. The other thing I love is the deliverable aspect, because it is impacting on the professional work I do one on one with people. I'm teaching them how to access their inner wisdom, so it's about them. Oftentimes, the idea that there ought to be deliverables is really up to the person. But because of the work I’m doing with IdeaConnection I'm probably being even clearer with my individual clients to say to them: what is the experience you are looking for here?
I'm having fun at IdeaConnection as well. By the time I finished with each of the teams I worked with I knew the nuances of them and how they fit together. Also, I like the part of being able to give feedback about the team. It’s a nice way to finish because you can revisit what the team has done and say “so and so really brought this to the table”. Each of them bring something special. You can see it as almost like a puzzle where we really needed this person's input and that person's skill and so on. The whole experience has been great.