“Dave is an incredibly empathetic and intuitive facilitator who helps us get the best feedback from our clients in the sessions he designs with us. He’s more than just a facilitator, he’s a trusted business partner that we have come to lean on heavily.”
Senior Business Leader, Fortune 100 Financial Services Organization

Growing up, Solution Designer Dave Rutley never attended school in one place for more than 2-years at a time. For the son of an Airforce Officer, home has been everywhere from Tennessee and Arizona to Maryland and Ohio. As an adult he has put down roots in Massachusetts with his wife and their three kids. The flexibility Dave learned as a child on the move has served him well as a parent. He and his wife have parlayed their mutual love of wine tasting and fine dining, into weekly gourmet family dinners where the kids help chose the menu and prepare the food. Recent menus have featured carnitas from scratch, homemade pasta and sauce, crepes, and sushi.

How did you get into this work?

Shortly after graduating from college, I met Matt Taylor, who was an early innovator in the collaborative design and facilitation spacemy father was a client of Matt’s. He was just about to open a new facility for collaborative work and invited me on board saying: “This is a way to change how people work foreveryou’d be crazy to do anything else.” I guess he was right, because I’ve never wanted to pursue any other job. In fact, my father later became trained as a facilitator as well and we worked together.

What is your favorite part of the job?

I like that it is about showing people a more effective way of getting things done through collaboration. This approach runs counter to the increasing specialization and isolation we see in the work environment. Collaboration leads to better, faster results, that are ultimately more sticky because people feel a sense of commitment to the thing they helped co-create. Often the difference between the success or failure of an initiative is having people who are willing to fight for it; people will fight for something if they see their own fingerprints on it.

What are a few creative interventions of which you are especially proud?

For a decade now, I have partnered with one of our financial services clients to design and run their bi-annual, client advisory board sessions. It has been meaningful to watch this company rethink and reorganize their products and services in powerful ways based on the constructive feedback of key client stakeholders. Being part of that customer commitment and helping build the advisory board community over time is highly rewarding. I feel honored when a client trusts us enough to design and deliver an intervention involving their internal folks. When the relationship is strong enough that they bring even their customers to us it demonstrates a level of trust that I am proud to have earned. 

I worked with another financial services company on a multi-month engagement to define and grow a culture of innovation. The organization recognized that all of their innovation efforts originated from the CEO. In order to grow their capacity to respond to the market and generate new ideas, the company needed to effectively draw on the insights of the entire organization. The first phase of our intervention involved designing and facilitating a two-day collaborative workshop. We invited 150 individuals from across the organization to co-create a vision for their culture of innovation and to design the supporting processes. Building on this initial work, we assembled smaller working groups to crystalize the output of the session and prepare for deployment. The second phase of our intervention focused on rolling out this vision and supporting strategy to their 1500 employees worldwide. Rather than relying on one-way communications, we used a scalable, collaborative tool we call “Learning Maps” to invite engagement and deeper understanding of the new approach.

How do you support the development of talent within Collective Next?

I have responsibility for the development of the CN team that delivers creative interventions to clients. What keeps me interested in this work (twenty years in), isn’t just bringing the best solutions to our clients, it is also growing the next generation of talent. During my time with CN, I have had the pleasure of mentoring incredibly talented facilitators who came to our organization with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives. I have always believed we have the best people. Thinking about how to keep growing our community is what gets me fired up first thing in the morning. It is an essential piece to the continued growth of our “consulting alternative” business.

What is one of your non-work passions?

I love supporting my oldest son’s efforts in football. I’m the Head Coach of the 6th Needham Junior Football team and President of Needham Football and Cheer (something that amazes both me and my wife since I never played a down of football or cheered). Coaching is a really satisfying application of everything I do as a facilitator working with adults. It is all about how you structure work, motivate people and make it easy for them to develop, have fun, and succeed. There are some differences between motivating kids and adults. Every time we shut out one of our opponents—and we did shut out our last four opponents—we treat the kids to donuts. Now, the minute they win, the entire team starts to grin and chant “donuts, donuts, donuts.”