Spring 2016 Road Trip Opportunities

Roadway for Blog


We have assembled several training and consulting road trips this spring, and we have openings for more participants. See our calendar at https://patternresearch.com/calendar/ for details.

Road trips allow us to group client visits geographically, so our customers (many of whom know each other) can share travel expenses and collaborate on publicity for public events. In many cases, we can discount our fees. Usually, I can agree to venues that are within a two-hour drive (100 miles) from a scheduled location.

Most of our customers work for libraries, higher ed, nonprofits, and local government. We also present for Chambers of Commerce and trade and professional associations and on weekends for board meetings and conferences.

Here are the dates and locations that are available as of February 10, 2016. The deadline to reserve a spot is usually 30 days before a trip starts (when I need to book my airplane and hotels for best rates).

RoadTripMNBlog200x200Thursday, March 17, Monday, March 21, and Tuesday, 22 – MN and WI

If you draw a rectangle starting at Minneapolis, then up to Duluth, east to Ashland, WI, and finally down to Eau Claire, this gives you a rough idea of the region that is available. I will be flying into Minneapolis, visiting Duluth and Ashland, and then to Bloomer, WI and on to Viroqua, WI.

RoadTripSECOBlog200x200Saturday, April 2 – Southeastern Colorado

Am driving back to Denver from Dodge City, KS the afternoon and evening of April 1. Would be available for trustee training, etc. May be heading to the La Veta valley to see family.

RoadTripMontroseBlog200x200Thursday, April 14 (possibly Wednesday, April 13) – Western Colorado

Will be in Montrose all day Friday, April 15 and return to Denver that night. We plan to drive via I-70 to Grand Junction, and down.  Would be available Thursday, April 14, and/or the day before, Wednesday, April 15.

RoadTripCTBlog200x200Tuesday, April 26, Wednesday, April 27, Thursday, April 28, and Friday, April 29 – CT, MA, RI, VT, and NY: Hudson Valley, Manhattan, Long Island.

I will be in southern Vermont (Springfield) on Monday, April 25. Will be flying out from Hartford, CT.

RoadTripNEBlog200x200Wednesday, May 4 – Western Nebraska and Eastern Iowa

I will be in suburban Omaha on May 3.

RoadTripMTBlog200x200Thursday May 12 (and possibly Wednesday, May 11) Southwestern Montana

Will be in Bozeman on Friday, May 13.

Questions? Concerns?

Discovery: A Better Model For Political Discussions

Banner art for discovery blog

Preview this free webinar, and share it with individuals and groups at no charge.

watch now

Once upon a time, my partner Leif Smith–who eventually became my husband–and I ran an information and research service called the Office for Open Network. Our clients were from all walks of life; they were innovative and articulate. Often, our conversations strayed from official business and ranged across many topics, including religion, philosophy, and current events.

crowded mall blogOne day a client stopped by to discuss a new venture, and the conversation drifted into politics. I knew that Leif and our client were on opposite sides on many issues; I happened to agree with Leif’s positions.

The conversation was both civil and what might be called energetic. At one point, the client told Leif that he found an error in one of Leif’s statements. Instead of debating the issue or becoming defensive, Leif smiled, leaned forward, and said that he was happy that the client found a mistake.

Please, Leif said, tell me more.

I was stunned. Leif was right, and the client was wrong. Leif was smarter, better informed, and, did I mention he was right? But instead of trying to win the argument, Leif thoughtfully worked to understand the client’s position and to clarify his own. No one won. No one lost. It was a conversation where they shared facts, opinions, and feelings, and explored areas where they agreed and where their convictions diverged.

goose lion blogThe client left smiling and promised to return for what he called “more good talk”.

I sort of attacked Leif verbally as soon as we were alone.

“I don’t understand. You could have won the argument. You were right, and he was wrong,” I said.

Leif looked at me, confused and concerned, and maybe, just a little bit angry.

“I don’t care about being right. I care about the truth,” he said.

My Discovery 

That day I experienced two life-changing events. First, I realized that conversations about difficult topics need not devolve into debates with winners and losers.

Second, I married Leif. (Several years later, but, in part, because of my witnessing that conversation.)

Thirty years have gone by. I am more conscious of my own flaws as a communicator and better able to keep from inflicting them on others. I have participated in many public meetings and formal workplace conversations as a facilitator and participant. And, I have learned that there are dozens of communication models and hundreds of techniques to foster what our client called “good talk”.

tools for blogWhat has changed in the world since that fateful conversation? We have access to tools that allow us to converse one-on-one with millions of strangers. However, those same tools, with their hair-trigger responsiveness¬–type, send, and only then think–have a downside. I believe they are, in part, responsible for an escalation in verbal warfare, making constructive action less likely. It is most evident in the realm of politics.

Frankly, I am not looking forward to the coming national elections.

Photo Credit: http://pixabay.comOur contribution to the fray is this free webinar, which shares some of the useful methods we have identified and employed over decades of managing relationships with clients, friends, neighbors, and family–particularly when it comes to the toughest issues, where what divides us seems insurmountable.

In addition, we encourage you to consider hosting a “Discovery” event at your workplace or institution for the public, so people can see and hear what civil discourse looks like and sounds like. It is probable that you have trained mediators in your community who could facilitate such an event.

Feel free to contact us if you have questions or concerns.

Several of our topics and recorded webinars address the issues I discuss in this webinar:

Winning Votes With Integrity

The Seven-Step Model For Solving Communication Problems

Practical Group Process: How To Avoid Groupthink

Falling Between the Cracks: Addressing Mistakes and Misunderstandings

How to Run an Ethics Audit of Your Organization

Interventions that Work

New blog art hand in hand statue

Often, after a workshop, a participant will approach me for a chat. They want to share a story, ask for a book or web site suggestions, offer feedback, or merely say thank-you.

New blog Art (flat tire)Sometimes they request advice about a workplace issue. Always glad to be of service, if I can. Sometimes, they just want someone to talk with, and I try to be a good listener. People tell strangers personal stories they won’t tell their best friends.

But…sometimes they are asking on behalf of someone else. They are concerned about a co-worker, friend, partner, classmate, neighbor, spouse, or child. A friend has need of information about improving a resume, dealing with a difficult boss, or house hunting here in Denver. My response is almost always the same. I hand the person a business card, thank them, and say,

“I would be more than happy to talk with (your co-worker, friend, partner, classmate,
neighbor, spouse, or child over the age of 18) about their issue. No charge.”

New blog art (man changing tire)About half the time the person will take my business card, thank me, and leave. And that is the last I hear from them, in most cases. Rarely, I receive a phone call or e-mail from the interested third party; again, I do what I can–at the minimum a pleasant chat or e-mail exchange. However, some people keep talking. They want to help the third party, and they want me to give them information on behalf of the person who is not there. Who, in my experience, might not want or need their help. Who, I am sure, will be unlikely to follow up on second-hand information. Whose situation might not be well represented by the person who is standing in front of me, speaking on their behalf.

New blog art (life raft)So, I say,

“I would be more than happy to talk with (your co-worker, friend, partner, classmate, neighbor, spouse, or child over the age of 18) about their issue. No charge.

And, I walk away.

Workplace Ethics

broken glass art for blog
This list sometimes is called the Golden Rules of Daily Life. We might smile at the antique wisdom, however, it is a practical example of everyday ethics: My behavior has consequences. You are welcome to download this document and adapt it for your own workplace’s staff or break room.

lock art for blogIf you open it, close it.
If you move it or take it out, put it back.
If you turn it on, turn it off.
If you take it down, hang it up.
If you unlock it, lock it up.
If you drop it, pick it up.
If you track it in, mop it up.
If you spill it, wipe it up or sweep it up.
If it belongs to someone else, ask permission to use it.


spilt coffee art for blog If you find it broken, get it fixed or replaced.
If you find it dirty, clean it before you use it.
If you find it empty, fill it up.
If you use it, take care of it before you return it:
If you dirty it, clean it.
If you break it or use it up, admit it, and…
Then fix it, replace it, fill it up, or find someone who can.
If you bring it, share it.
If it is your turn, do it.
If it needs to be done, volunteer sometimes…
Even if it’s not your turn.
If you don’t know, ask, unless it is none of your business.



Fourteen Resources for Online Education

old camera for blogOur current list of favorite sites for free public domain and Creative Commons images and compilations for instructional design information. Each has its own guidelines. We like them because they don’t have the overused look of corporate advertising. Let us know your own favorites to add.

Butterfly Thumbnail For BlogFlickr: https://www.flickr.com/commons
Imagebase: imagebase.davidniblack.com
Pixabay: Pixabay.com
WPClipart: wpclipart.com
Instructional Design: www.instructionaldesign.org/
Totally Free Images: totallyfreeimages.com/
Public_domain_image_resources: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:
Public Domain Pictures: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net

garden-265412_1280Incredible @rt Department: http://www.incredibleart.org/links/clipart.html
Digital Trends: http://www.digitaltrends.com/photography/where-to-download-public-domain images/
Vintage Printable: http://vintageprintable.com/wordpress/
Evint.com: http://e-vint.com/free.html
The Noun Project: https://thenounproject.com/
The Public Domain Review: http://publicdomainreview.org

Nine favorite things to pack, just in case

Travel Blog Plane Banner Image
Each of these picks represents responses to real-life problems that have happened to me more than once on the road. First part of a series.

Travel Blog Image Folding Maps 200x200Hard copies of everything having to do with the trip

Yes, I have heard of the 21st century. Yes, I know that I am killing trees. I also know the most precious resource on a trip is time. While the person next to me with the state-of-the-art thingie is trying to find a signal, or an outlet in the lobby of the hotel to recharge the dead thingie battery, I have handed the clerk a piece of paper with the details of my lost reservation. And while the new, broken version of Google Maps would have put me 10 miles away from my motel, I have the motel’s corrected directions on paper, the ones that actually work until Google reconciles the error.

Plastic garbage bags.

I like the new scented 13-gallon bags. I usually stick at least three into a corner of my luggage per trip plus one 33-gallon sized behemoth. If there is ANY rain in the forecast, anywhere, I use the big one to line my luggage. My last series of trips it rained at biblical depths across a couple of states, and although the bag was soaked, what was inside was dry.

Travel Blog Image Colored Bags:PursesThe smaller bags?

For the time that the leak-proof shampoo bottle exploded. And the bar of chocolate melted, threatening to engulf everything I owned. And I learned that it does keep clothes fresher longer to have dirty laundry in a separate bag. Because I work in the motel room between gigs and usually buy my food at grocery stores, I can create a lot of trash in a couple of days.

I bundle it up in one of the smaller bags and take it to the front desk, to lighten the load for the folks who clean my room, so they can finish on time and get back to their families. And since I often go back to the same motels, people remember, and it earns me a happy smile and a thank–you, which lightens my day as well.

It is about treating the desk clerks, room cleaners, cabbies, wait staff, drivers, flight attendants, etc., as part of the team that helps me do my job better. Treating them with respect and empathy.

(On the same note, when you leave your tip in the room, write a thank-you on a piece of paper to go with the money. My husband will write something in Spanish, if he thinks it fits with the ethnicity of the staff.)

Travel Blog Image Medicine KitMy little medicine kit

Pink tummy pills to fight the side effects of food poisoning. Anti-acids: the old fashioned calcium-based kind that you chew. That stuff you use to stop a toothache. That other stuff to plug where you lost a tooth. Band-aids®, for cuts and blisters. Alcohol wipes, to clean a bad cut when you don’t have access to clean, running water. Really good tweezers, for really bad splinters. Anti-itch cream–we all have our favorites; whatever works best for you.

I don’t like to use antibiotic cream, so more likely to go for hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol if I need something extra–one or both available at most gas stations that stock more than candy bars and motor oil.

Many people pack painkillers. I pack multiple bottles of baby aspirin as a recommended first response to a heart attack (heart disease runs in the family) but I don’t like most OTC medicines. Good to talk to your health professional about works best for you.

Safety pins

This nifty take-for-granted invention (circa 1849) probably could fix a disabled SUV and can deal with 99% of clothing repair. Faster and more reliable than those little thread and needle repair kits, unless you are a skilled tailor, which I am not.

Cough drops with menthol

Because I talk for a living, I suck on them 30 minutes before I start. Also decent as breath fresheners.

Travel Blog Page Image Glasses 2Emergency pair of prescription glasses

Since I need prescription eyeglasses to drive, I pack an extra, cheap pair in my carry-on bag, for when I predictably leave the first pair in the rental car.

Extra undies: panties, slip, bra

An extra day’s underwear, for when life happens–the waiter who dumps soup in your lap, the toddler who tips over the ice tea, the gas nozzle that slips out of your hand and sprays you, and the worst case of food poisoning of your life. (Mexican food, Shreveport, Louisiana) In some fantasy world, people wash out underwear in their motel room on the road, and it dries overnight without acquiring moldy smells.

In my real life, I get to the motel at 11 pm and have to leave at 6 am. Sleep is #1 priority. Most of my trips are under seven days. So I will pack for each day, plus one.

My favorite vitamin supplement

Even if it is just the placebo effect, I do think and feel better.

Travel Blog Image Tea CupsMy favorite teas, in tea bags

My special treat from home. And many of my clients serve only coffee at our meetings, and the institutionalized, ancient tea, unless the staff loves teas and buys new tea frequently, is ancient and tasteless.




How about you?