Design this right and assimilating guests will happen automatically (Guest environment blast 2 of 3)

The view from my backyard with the 2 chairs that made others enjoy it to the fullest.

The view from my backyard with the 2 chairs that made others enjoy it to the fullest.

I have learned something about entertaining in my home: people don't always sit where you want them to. 

I am grateful to live in a small home with a big view. I love being outside to enjoy it whenever I can and naturally expected others would too. Surprisingly, my patio table and chairs weren't enough to get people to venture out 10 yards to see the "bigger view" where a small lake appears with wildlife and a golf course surrounding it. I had to coax them to the edge of the lawn. They would be taken in by the expansiveness of the view once I led them there, but they seldom stayed out there to enjoy it.

Thats when I became a genius in my own mind and bought some $17 chairs from Lowe's and dragged 2 of them to the edge of the lawn along with a small table I made to hold drinks. All of a sudden when people came over, they bee-lined for the best view in the house, the one they would consistently forfeit before. Why? Because I unwittingly created an environment that made it hard for my guests to resist what I wanted them to experience and easy to do the thing I knew they would love if they gave it a chance. The reward? Seeing this:

I hard to crop 2 photos together to try to share as much as my greedy eye could take in! This is what people enjoy when they sit in the 2 chairs I put out on the edge of my lawn that cannot be seen from any other place in my yard.

I hard to crop 2 photos together to try to share as much as my greedy eye could take in! This is what people enjoy when they sit in the 2 chairs I put out on the edge of my lawn that cannot be seen from any other place in my yard.

I unwittingly created an environment that made it hard for my guests to resist what I wanted them to experience and easy to do the thing I knew they would love if they gave it a chance.

Peter Bregman's book 18 minutes is the best book I have ever read on focusing your time and leadership to produce results. Instead of using messaging, vision or compliance, he talks about altering environments as the key to changing your own behavior as well as the behavior of others. Relative to this, I see 2 principles we need to keep in mind when it comes to the guests of our church:

1. Environments dictate action

When my children were young, we lived in a home with a large great room in the front, and a large kitchen with a cozy den and fireplace in the back. The previous owners had told me they never used the great room, which had the largest square footage of any area in the entire house. They gathered where most of us do in our homes these days: where the food and the TV are. 

I determined that we would use ALL the square footage I had purchased in this home. So I did something the previous owners didn't. I placed the TV in the great room instead of in the den next to the kitchen. Since people always gather where the food and comfortable seating are, the den would always be used, and it would be used for what I wanted to see happen most during meals: conversation. Likewise, the great room would always be used because it contained the holy grail of any modern society, the television. In this manner, I was able to accomplish what the previous owner could not.....all by moving a TV. Changing the environment, changed how we lived in that home because environment dictates action.

 “If you want to help other people, think about what you want them to do and whether the environment around them supports the behavior.” -Peter Bergman, 18 Minutes.

What are the unintended consequences of the environment you invite guests into? What actions do you want them to take in order to begin connecting? What objects, technology or furniture could you rearrange to dictate those actions?

I know that at my church when we went from rows to tables in our assimilation environment and added table hosts, what we had been trying to tell guests to do, just started happening. Which leads to an amazing principle that you can take advantage of:

2. Environments make change automatic.

When I moved the TV into the great room, I never had to ask my family to talk to each other as we ate in the den. I never had to ask them to laugh till they cried, talk about their day or share what was bothering them. They just did. I never had to ask them to use the great room, or watch shows on our only television with their friends or with our family. They just did. The environment made what I wanted to see happen, happen....automatically.

“Don’t fight yourself to change your behavior in the midst of the wrong environment; just change the environment.” --Peter Bergman, 18 Minutes.

When was a time in your life where you acted in a way that you are most proud of? What environment were you in? In what ways did that environment produce those actions? What environment would help guests automatically experience connection rather than trying to program it?

One thing is certain: your current environment for assimilation is perfectly designed to produce the results that it does. The question is, are these the results you are seeking?.

Take some time with your team to talk though some of the questions in this post as I restate them below in the "To chew on as we . In my last post tomorrow, I'll talk about how environment holds the key to promoting your assimilation strategy.  In the mean time, I think I would like to see more people enjoy my back 40.

Guess where I put some more chairs?

I have more people gathering here now than I can recount. "If you build it, they will come..."

I have more people gathering here now than I can recount. "If you build it, they will come..."

  • What are the unintended consequences of the environment you invite guests into?
  • What actions do you want guests to take in order to begin connecting?
  • What objects, technology or furniture could you rearrange to dictate those actions?
  • When was a time in your life where you acted in a way that you are proud of? What environment were you in? In what ways did that environment produce those actions?
  • What kind of environment would help guests automatically experience connection rather than trying to program it?
Greg CurtisComment