Three weeks of delivering labs in three countries for seven clients hailing from four different nations. Yes, we’ve been busy – in Aveiro, Portugal, in Paris, France, and finally back home in San Francisco, California – planting the seeds of cross-pollination infused with empathy-based anthropological insights. Our mission is to help people discover their best selves, and along the way we picked up a few new ideas of our own.

Place Matters

During this whirlwind trip we led immersive workshops in some fabulous locations. From the Hotel Melia on the Aveiro Canal in Portugal with Sandro Pinto’s Outglocal, to Schoolab’s bustling hive of entrepreneurs in Paris’s digital Sentier district, to Twitch’s perfectly outfitted ultra-modern conference room with Women In Product conference-goers in downtown San Francisco.

People often ask us about the optimal conditions for nurturing an innovative or entrepreneurial mindset. Setting is at the top of the list. It’s hard to beat the inspiration of working in a spacious, light-infused room boasting floor-to-ceiling windows looking out upon a lovely canal in Portugal. A close second was the tastefully appointed Schoolab common room on the SchoolTeam floor of their five-story Parisian HQ, a welcoming space featuring warmly lit pendants in an open area bounded by curtains instead of walls or doors. Both locations were also ideal because our exploratory immersion was just out the door – a delightful boat ride away at the open air Forum Aveiro, and a short jaunt to the lovely, historical Passage des Panoramas in Paris, a 19th-century covered walkway filled with a mix of curiosity shops, stamp collectors, and unique stores and cafes. Hosting people in these authentic experiential settings underscores the importance of the innovation face we call the Set Designer. The offices of San Francisco-based Twitch, Amazon’s live streaming game platform, meanwhile revealed how providing functionality to talented teams can spark openness. Their playfully decorated seminar room featured a massive 30-foot long whiteboard that we’d soon discover was the ideal canvas to bring out the talents of 40 women.

Applied Innovation

A consistent theme of our road trip: clients were thrilled to participate, collaborate, and be a little vulnerable. On our first evening in Paris we visited Hubvisory to preview our next book and companion seminar, The Entrepreneur’s Faces, with a group of talented and receptive young consultants who kept us there with a flurry of great questions until nearly 9 pm. Back at Schoolab later in the week, a mixed team of bright-eyed executives and managers from financial giant BNP Paribas and the French utility Enedis embraced the reality that our immersions are not formulaic but rather, as one participant wrote us afterward, a fresh “posture” to perceive the world from a human-centric angle. These forward-leaning individuals took that first critical step of sharing ideas and asking questions. They also spoke openly about their understandable fears. Risk-taking can be a heck of a lot harder in Europe than San Francisco. Yet here they were, diving into entrepreneurship and intrapreneurial roles.

Passion and Talent Meet Market Fit

Lead seminars for executives, entrepreneurs and students from 20 countries and you’ll soon grasp the key components for superior Experience Design. It helps to tap your inner athlete. Training and competition heighten your performance. You begin to grasp what counts, and getting in your reps builds confidence and the ability to be spontaneous. This recent spate of seminars reminded us that our mission is not so much to lecture and inform but to be flexible and intuitive, to orchestrate and liberate. It’s an infectious dance that starts with the two of us, and soon spreads to the whole room. There’s no substitute for human passion and interest. The forty enthusiastic Portuguese men and women in Aveiro were a wonderful cross-mix of professionals, business owners and consultants who came together to spark a bountiful flow of ideas. In Paris, we led an extended Ethical Innovation Lab at Schoolab, and were happy to see our timely brand-new content strike a chord with millennials and earnest young professionals, who are increasingly seeking meaning and purpose in their careers and companies.

At Twitch we caught up with the popular Women In Product Conference, who brought us 40 product managers and designers. These intrepid, joyful women demonstrated the potency of brainstorming among professional Experience Architects and Storytellers – at one point spinning out a spontaneous flowering of Post-Its across that 30-foot whiteboard. Many could have taught their own master class in ideation: leaping into the creative process, demonstrating advanced techniques of rapid, efficient prototyping in an open, organized collaborative mode. One team dreamed up and brilliantly executed a fully-fledged performance to pitch a new service so professional it seemed days in the making instead of a 60-minute sprint. We came away impressed, grateful for the chance to glean some valuable nuggets to share with our next clients.

Our biggest takeaway from our journey: more is possible. Bring smart, self-directed individuals and teams to great locations for an interactive, collaborative experience that sparks play, and who can tell what might spring from the mix? There’s a big, beautiful world of talent out there. Take a look. We hope in these images you’ll discover a bit more about this wonderful, process of self-discovery and creativity.

We feel lucky to have been invited along on the ride.