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2019  Six Boxes Summer Institute

Design Thinking + Performance Improvement

Bainbridge Island, WA – June 16 - 20,  2019


For the 10th Annual Six Boxes® Summer Institute we've invited our long-time friend and colleague, Surya Vanka, Founder of Seattle's Authentic Design, to explore with us the great upside potential for combining design thinking with performance improvement. Our flexible but precise Performance Thinking® tools and methods bring a holistic, design engineering approach to organizational performance that is beautifully aligned with Design Thinking. Combined with Surya's tools and process for "disruptive innovation on demand" – which are comparably flexible and precise – we'll explore new ways of accelerating organizational impact and results.

We'll have an exciting few days in June, exploring this theme from many perspectives – at a wonderful venue where we can take a deep dive together.

Every year since 2010, the Six Boxes Summer Institute  has offered a unique opportunity to learn and network with like-minded professionals, with sufficient time and a relaxed setting to reflect on new ideas and their implications.  It's a unique blend of user conference, hands-on workshop and professional retreat. We bring together performance professionals with all levels of experience, including those new to Performance Thinking as well as very experienced users.  We create an agenda with opportunities to learn,  practice, and discuss.  We do it all in a beautiful location tucked into the woods on an island in Puget Sound.

It’s unlike any professional gathering you’ve ever experienced.

This will be our 10th year!  It's hard to believe we've been hosting these annual events for a decade – and that some of our colleagues have returned 6, 7, or 8 times.  It's always a unique professional experience, and this year will be better than ever.

Register before May 1 for the Early Bird Discount – a savings of $500 per person. 

We're inviting presenters and colleagues with projects, applications and insights to share.  Our theme, Design Thinking + Performance Improvement, will emphasize how the simple models and plain language of Performance Thinking programs can combine with disruptive innovation to accelerate business and societal results. 

We'll talk about how the visual models and plain language of Performance Thinking can change conversations at all levels about performance, and how to continuously improve it. When innovation emerges, Performance Thinking offers a path to implementation and return on investment. When challenges and opportunities arise, we can address them with innovative solutions.

You'll learn about how Performance Thinking programs engaged at different levels – including Six Boxes® Executive Coaching, the Six Boxes® Practitioner Program and our Coach-Manage-Lead programs – can include everyone in actionable discussions about accelerating productivity and engagement.  You'll see how  everyone in the organization can contribute to continuous performance improvement. We'll share practical strategies for accelerating and expanding Performance Thinking across different types of organizations, with examples of applications and reports from some of our more long-standing organizations using Performance Thinking.  We'll discuss how our programs and implementation are evolving as we move into organizations with thousands of managers and leaders.


We do everything we can to make this the best professional development experience of your career, which is exactly how many past participants have described the Six Boxes Summer Institute.

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We bring together individuals from many roles, many industries, and often diverse countries. Everyone shares a passion for performance improvement. The program will address your needs and interests – whether as broad as strategic planning or as focused as peer coaching, whether you’re a team leader or a senior executive, whether you’re an internal or external consultant. There will be others who have faced the same challenges. And this year we'll bring all this together with both a workshop and a plenary presentation by Surya Vanka to add "disruptive innovation on demand" into the mix.

We keep the institute small enough so you can get to know almost everyone, but big enough to include a diversity of perspective and experience. We promise to send you home with new ideas, new capabilities, and a group of new colleagues.

Resource > IWentrance.jpg by:Our venue is Islandwood, an outdoor educational facility on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle, WA. The facilities are rustic but comfortable (yes, there's wifi), the food is fresh and delicious, with 255 acres of forest and miles of trails for hiking, strolling, or running. We strive to create an environment where you can learn and interact more deeply, in a focused and relaxed way.

Here’s what a few participants from years past had to say:

"The Summer Institute was the best conference or seminar type of learning opportunity that I have ever attended."

"Amazing experience. Fun, educational, universal approach that you can apply to most situations and environments. Very engaging - learned a lot."

"A great environment to learn about, discuss and explore the applications of the Performance Thinking-Six Boxes approach. Good balance between thought leadership and application. Small enough so that you don't feel like "just another conference participant."  Truly have an opportunity to engage with Dr. Binder and other thought leaders, and thought provoking conversations with other participants. All in a great atmosphere - peaceful, quiet, away from the busyness of the city/work, with great food and accommodations."

"The networking was incredible and the learning never stopped!"

"Well designed content and presentations by the developers of the models; incredibly smart participants from diverse backgrounds who are inspired to contribute with their own examples, experiences, questions and insights."

You'll find below:

Program: THREE Ways to Participate

We're offering three ways to participate, one for those new to Performance Thinking or particularly interested in our Six Boxes Performance Coaching program, and two for experienced users. This year experienced users will have the option of completing Surya Vanka's full-day Disruptive Innovation Workshop on Monday while others participate in the Coaching program. We aren’t calling these program options tracks because you will at times be together and at other times be in separate sessions. This will allow those who have never completed one of our programs to acquire a practical capability — accomplishment based coaching — while learning the basics of Performance Thinking.  Those with experience will have opportunities to learn advanced applications and share experiences with and from each other, as well as learning a process for producing disruptive innovation in Surya's all-day workshop on Monday.

Option 1: Summer Institute + Six Boxes® Performance Coaching  

(Monday through Thursday – required for those new to Performance Thinking)

The easiest on-ramp to Performance Thinking is learning to have a performance coaching conversation with another individual. This program will break down the elements of the approach in a simple but comprehensive way, and then show you how to conduct a conversation about performance leading to agreed-upon action steps for improvement. This program is equally valuable for leaders and managers or performance professionals working with clients and stakeholders, while providing a solid foundation for other applications of Six Boxes Performance Thinking.

We spread the coaching workshop over three days, starting with a full day on Monday, then work Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. Afternoons and Thursday will be in combined sessions with experienced participants where you’ll have the opportunity to practice with them and be mentored.

This path is required if you have not already completed either the Six Boxes® Practitioner Program or one of our programs for leaders and managers. Experienced users who are considering Six Boxes® Performance Coaching for their companies, or who would like to learn the application for themselves, are free to register for the program as well (please contact us if you're interested).  For beginners also interested in design thinking, we will have a plenary session on that topic by Surya Vanka.

Option 2: For Experienced Users + Disruptive Innovation Workshop

(Monday through Thursday)

For experienced users who have completed either the Six Boxes Practitioner Program or one of our Coach-Manage-Lead programs, we've introduced a new option this year. It will include Surya Vanka's Disruptive Innovation Workshop on Monday, at the same time as those who select Option 1 will be completing the first day of Six Boxes® Performance Coaching.  In addition to the Disruptive Innovation Workshop, there will be three days of sessions on selected topics to explore applications in greater depth, share client stories and insights, and learn from one another based on our diversity of experience and roles.  During Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, experienced users will meet in parallel to the Six Boxes Performance Coaching group to discuss advanced topics based on previous familiarity with Performance Thinking models and programs. On Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, and all day Thursday, we'll all meet together, with more experienced participants sharing their experience and expertise, mentoring and coaching those encountering Six Boxes Performance Thinking for the first time.

Option 3: For Experienced Users without Innovation Workshop

(Monday evening through Thursday)

For experienced users who have completed either the Six Boxes Practitioner Program or one of our Coach-Manage-Lead programs, and who do not wish to participate in the Disruptive Innovation Workshop on Monday, we'll follow the pattern of past years.  We'll have three days of sessions on selected topics to explore applications in greater depth, share client stories and insights, and learn from one another based on our diversity of experience and roles.  In the afternoons, and all day Thursday, the full group will convene, with more experienced participants  having the opportunity to share what they have learned, mentor and coach those encountering Six Boxes Performance Thinking for the first time. 


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General Sessions – 2019 Summer Institute

While design of the conference is still in process, as we work with speakers and engage in conversations about current themes across the Network, the following is a fair representation of the themes and sessions to expect in the final program.

Performance Thinking: Convergence of Design Thinking & Performance Engineering

This session will set the stage for the Institute, tracing Performance Thinking back to its "design engineering" roots and highlighting the potential applications and synergies with current-day Design Thinking methods, captured quite elegantly in Surya Vanka's Design Swarms methodology.>

What Does it Mean to Change the Conversation about Performance?

We've heard from early days that we teach people how to think differently about performance in a way that is actionable and easy to share. Ultimately this is about thinking aloud, in conversations between staff performance improvement professionals, stakeholders, leaders, managers, and individual contributors. We'll hear how Performance Thinking programs, models and language have changed conversations and decisions in organizations where this approach has matured and spread.

Meaningful Performance Measurement Across the Enterprise

Adopting Performance Thinking models and methods across a large organization can lead to meaningful performance measurement at multiple levels. We hear a lot about KPIs (key performance indicators) in organizations these days. But how do those measures align with performance?  And how can we optimize performance measurement to support timely, effective decisions about efforts to improve individual, team, and organization-wide performance measurement? We expect a lively conversation about this topic.

Optimizing the Worth of a Performance Intervention

Following Thomas F. Gilbert's dictum that the worth (or ROI) of an intervention or program is equal to the value of the work outputs it improves or increases divided by the cost to produce the necessary behavior, we'll discuss if and how different organizations attempt to evaluate whether the impact of interventions justifies their cost.

Beyond Competency Modeling:  When The Emperor Has No Clothes

We believe that  performance management, coaching and talent development in many organizations suffers terribly from the widespread adoption of competency modeling and that competency modeling is both unfair and harmful in many ways, a major source of cynicism in many organizations. While this is a controversial topic for those in organizations that have invested heavily in competency modeling, it is also important to decide whether it is, in fact, an obstacle to focused, effective, agile talent development.  We look forward to a lively discussion with our colleagues.

Design Thinking and Organizational Performance Improvement

In the field of performance improvement, many assume that the focus of analysis and intervention should be on solving problems or closing gaps. We believe that this is a limited view, inherited from quality and process improvement methodologies intended to eliminate defects.  Six Boxes Performance Thinking provides a methodology that can be used for performance problem-solving. But far more important, and more powerful, is application for continuous performance improvement following a design engineering strategy. We'll have conversations with Surya Vanka, a global thought leader in the field of Design, to discuss relationships between Performance Thinking and the systematic discipline of Design Thinking.

Driving Performance Thinking in Large Organizations with a Blended Program

As we scale from organizations with hundreds of leaders and managers to implementations involving thousands, how can we used a blended involving instructor-led training, self-paced activities, and virtual training and coaching sessions? We'll update you and seek your input about current efforts to scale program implementation.

Six Boxes® Executive Performance Coaching – Early Results and Insights

Our newest application is a revolutionary approach to executive coaching that engages senior leaders in actionable conversations about performance, starting with clarification of their own contributions and the teams that report to them. We'll provide updates, including from senior leaders who have participated in Six Boxes Executive Coaching sessions.

C-Level HR and Talent Executives:  How We Can Address Their Needs

Performance Thinking is becoming a viable strategy for agile, continuous talent development in organizations that adopt our programs.  By moving the focus of coaching and management to specific, valuable accomplishments or work outputs that individuals and teams contribute to the organization, this approach becomes a powerful tool for HR and Talent Leaders for aligning their performance improvement efforts with business results.  We'll discuss ways that CHROs, CLOs, and other executives can drive continuous talent development as a strategic advantage.  And we'll see how, with a bit of Design Thinking, it might be possible to replace deeply rooted processes and rituals that currently present themselves as "performance management" with nimble processes and tools to drive agile talent development and continuous performance improvement.

Coaching Case Examples

Participants will share individual coaching examples from organizations that have adopted Six Boxes® Performance Coaching or The Performance Thinking® Manager.  We'll talk about the impact of focusing coaching discussions on well-defined accomplishments or work outputs that individuals and their managers seek establish or improve on the path to career advancement and continuous performance improvement.

Reports from Performance Thinking Affiliates

As we begin to proactively engage consultants and small groups as Affiliates who offer our programs to complement and enhance their own products and services, we'll ask some of them to weigh in on their initial experience and the strategies they plan to pursue.

Tidbits from Behavior Science:  Creativity and Innovation

Carl will repeat his annual dive into findings and applications of behavior science that we don’t usually discuss in Performance Thinking programs. This year, with a focus on innovation and design thinking, he'll provide a behavior scientist's way of accounting for, and optimizing creativity and innovation. Drawing from selectionism and the science of  behavioral fluency, this session will draw parallels between what we know from behavior science and Design Thinking as a creative process.

State of the Network 

We’ll summarize where we have been over the last year and where we are going.  The goal of this session is to build enthusiasm and engage participation in the next steps, as we enlarge and extend the impact of The Performance Thinking Network, which potentially includes everyone attending the Summer Institute.


Logistics & Costs


Islandwood Educational Center
Bainbridge Island, WA
(a 35-minute ferry from downtown Seattle)

Accommodations & Meals

The Summer Institute is a residential program. The program cost includes breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner and beverages. Meals are healthy and delicious (you will rave about the food, we guarantee it), and include vegetables from their organic garden. They gladly accommodate any adjustment you might request (vegetarian, non-gluten, non-dairy, etc.) Lodging is provided in simple but comfortable rooms with a private bath. 

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Program Costs

Option 1: Summer Institute + Six Boxes Performance Coaching  (4 days) 

$2750 before May 1            $3250 after May 1

Option 2: For Experienced Users + Disruptive Innovation Workshop (4 Days)  

$2750 before May 1           $3250 after May 1

Option 3: For Experienced Users without Disruptive Innovation Workshop (3 Days)  

$2050 before May 1           $2550 after May 1

If you are a non-profit or a small organization, please contact us about discounted pricing. We have a few discounted seats available for colleagues who would otherwise not be able to participate.

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Single room                  $160 per night
Shared double room   $95 per night
Shared triple room      $65 per night

 "I stay at hotels far too often and prefer something a bit different. IslandWood met this criteria perfectly. Food was healthy and delicious. Staff was friendly and welcoming. I was able to get outside to run, walk, and enjoy nature."

RegistER Before May 1 to save $500!

The deadline for the early registration discount will be May 1. Please note that we have a limited number of  rooms available so we recommend registering early.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please call 206-780-8578, or email us an

register SOON!

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