I picked up the microphone and looked out at the crowd of business people, gathered in neat rows on the top floor of a Chicago skyscraper. They were here for a talk about IDEO and design thinking.
“Let’s start with a warm-up,” I said. “Take a pen and paper, turn to the person next to you, and draw a sketch of them.”
This was greeted with murmurs of embarrassed dismay, as if I’d instructed everyone to remove their pants. But I was ready for this, and raised my voice to demand that everyone sketch in silence. I let a minute of anxious scribbling go by and then instructed them to share their drawings with their subjects. The room erupted, and I had to shout.
“Every time we do this exercise with adults, there’s one word that we always hear when we ask people to share. And that word is ‘sorry.’”
There was relieved laughter and nods of recognition.