We’re celebrating our 15th year in business at Collective Next. As we close out this momentous year, we’re taking a moment to spotlight some of the talented humans at the core of our operation and our success. Here’s Solution Designer Gordon Eby talking multi-citizenship, Canadian clients, and getting back into tennis.
Gordon is an international man of mystery—or at least an international man with citizenship in three countries. Born in the US, he spent his early childhood in Canada, moved to England for middle school, attended college at McGill and completed his masters in Massachusetts. After spending many years in New York and Boston, he and his family relocated back to Canada this summer. His three kids keep him busy watching Star Wars movies (8-year-old), shuttling to and from ballet classes (4-year-old), and generally running around (18-month-old). During rare moments of quiet he has been enjoying reading “How Music Works” by David Byrne.
How did you get into this work?
Having completed a master’s degree in Dispute Resolution, I worked in mediation in the Boston court system and then at the United Nations Office of the Ombudsman in New York. I was looking for my next career move when a friend who was familiar with collaborative facilitation recognized that it might be a great fit for me. He introduced me to my now longtime colleague, Kristen Bailey. I came away from my conversation with her totally fired up. Luckily, she saw how the mediation frameworks and processes I had trained in would allow me to understand the methodologies underlying process facilitation and decided to give me my first break into this new field. I remain as excited about the work as I was after my initial meeting with her over a decade ago.
What is your favorite part of the job?
It keeps evolving. At the beginning, I was blown away by how smart and interesting my colleagues were. I loved learning from their creative approach to any problem. Later, I became enthralled with the models underpinning the work that we do. I wanted to dig into the intersection of workshop design and content—how to apply the right process to solve a given business challenge. Now that I have shifted into the Solution Designer, or lead facilitator role, my biggest source of inspiration is my clients—getting to know them and solving what keeps them up at night.
What are a few creative interventions of which you are especially proud?
A two-day workshop focused on transforming a pharmaceutical company’s leadership model. The company had recently been through a series of big changes including relocating their headquarters and replacing the leadership team including the CEO. They believed that developing a new leadership model was the key to internal transformation and differentiation in the marketplace. The client had engaged a consulting firm who introduced an excellent framework into the session, but the participants still faced the challenge of making it their own. The session stands out for me because it was our facilitation process that became the key to bringing together a group of great people and great content in a productive way. Through individual and group work, parallel processing, offering opportunities to pull apart and play with the content provided by the consulting firm, the participants were able to arrive at a personalized and actionable version of a leadership model for their company.
Another intervention—really a series of interventions—that I’ve found especially meaningful focused on helping a financial services client embed strategic change capabilities into his organization. Our relationship with the client began with a single one-day workshop that led to partnering to architect a larger strategic change across the company. We have collaborated with the company to deliver multiple workshops in between which we have helped craft and deliver creative communications designed to foster alignment and buy-in on the strategic work being done. Through these multiple touch points and ongoing relationship, we are helping maintain momentum and reach their goals.
What does your move to Canada mean for you and for Collective Next’s clients?
We have been working with Canadian companies for some time, but now we can take our support to the next level. We also hope to reach new clients seeking to solve a range of organizational challenges. Toronto is the biggest city in Canada and the financial center of the country, and it is experiencing tremendous growth. However, it is an underserved market when it comes to the type of creative interventions and consulting alternatives that we offer. We have seen a tremendous appetite here for approaches that are flexible, creative, and collaborative and we are excited to work with clients here in this way.
Beyond work with CN, my wife and I are looking forward to being closer to our extended families. My parents recently retired and began a foundation dedicated to improving education to some of the poorest children in the Americas, specifically in the highlands of Guatemala. I am inspired by their work and hope that being closer, I can offer more hands-on support to them.
What is your passion outside of work and family?
I am a very keen—though perhaps not very good—tennis player. As a kid, we used to go to a cottage on Lake Huron. It was in a small town with a population of only 2,500 people but boasted a tennis club with 15 courts. I caught the tennis bug then, and while I put down my racket for a time, the past few years I have been actively trying to improve my game. Once all our boxes are unpacked, I hope to seek out some local clubs and tournaments and also look forward to hitting some balls on those same courts from my childhood.
Gordon’s Five Tips for Facilitating a Breakout Session is one of the most-read posts on our blog.
[Photo: Kelly Davidson Studio]