Workshop series

Listening Master Class

A three-workshop series

This “learning lab for listening” is based on our work in organizations, our grad-school courses in design for social innovation, and our long history of working with “ethnographic methods.” These workshops give you practical methods for interpersonal and group listening, with practical ways to improve the “culture of listening” in your group or team.

By the end of this course, you will be able to

  • Switch into “active listening mode” whenever you want
  • Deepen a conversation, to listen for what’s under the story
  • Validate whether you’ve heard what someone was really trying to say
  • Capture what you’ve heard
  • Introduce deeper listening into a team or group culture
  • Pursue your own agenda for continued learning

Works great in organizations and communities

We have improved people’s listening skills in graduate courses, public workshops, and organizational settings for the last eight years. If you’d like to give your team or organizational culture a boost in listening skills and cultural habits, we’d love to talk about the possibilities.

Especially when it gathers people who don’t see eye-to-eye

We’ve found this to be particularly impactful when it gathers people who need to communicate well, but who come from different backgrounds, work in different disciplines or silos, and may be hearing each other through the filters of their presuppositions about one another.

We’ll conduct this publicly with the right partner 

We would love to run this as series of public workshops in the Pittsburgh region, or as a two-day event in your city.

Interested in an online version of this course?

So are we! We seek a development partner to help with this good idea.

Student Quotes

The course trained me to be more conscious of my role/behavior/influence in the process of forming team dynamics. ...I realized that if people say no to my ideas, it's more effective to find out why than to just try to persuade them. Now I ask them the reason behind their objection, and really listen to their concerns from their point of view.

"Most people think that listening is waiting; waiting to speak." As a designer, I have been taught again and again about the importance of listening to people, in our personal lives or during research for projects. I thought I was especially good at listening. But really I was just  patiently waiting so the other person could finish and I could say what I have in mind. I was wrong. I don't listen. I have gained a sense of how important that is, and it's something that will stay with me.

I chose to do the second assignment with my Father. And I realized that though we had started to talk more openly with one another, we were choosing our words so carefully (to avoid offending the other or creating conflict), that neither of us were actually communicating our real thoughts and opinions. The fifteen minutes of really listening was, I think, a bit of a breakthrough for us.

The “listen across difference” exercise was challenging for me, but it has opened me up to try and do this more often, since I am extremely interested in conflict and the various ways we resolve it. The biggest thing I learned from this exercise is that it’s okay to disagree as long as we can make the space for all sides to be heard, and I hope to keep practicing this train of thought in my work ahead. I expect it will be a long and challenging, but ultimately rewarding road.


1. Foundations: listening’s remarkable power, barriers, and how to overcome them

  • Practice in listening with and without barriers
  • Practicing the basics of “active listening”
  • Preparation for the first field assignment.

2. Developing individual skills

  • Active listening without seeming weird
  • Conversational probes–questions and techniques to deepen responses
  • How to check your hearing
  • Remembering what you’ve heard
  • Listening without judgment: hanging in there when you don’t like what you’re hearing
  • Preparation for second field assignment

3. Bringing better listening to team or group culture

  • Principles of group listening
  • How to improve listening in your team, and how to make it stick through roles, artifacts, and rituals
  • Discussion: what to do when real listening is counter-cultural
  • Overview and introduction to resources for deeper group listening methods
  • Next steps: developing your learning agenda
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Listening Master Class
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