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Elephant, Squirrel, Zombie, Porcupine.

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Inspired by an exercise called Elephant, Dead Fish, Vomit invented by Airbnb (and shared in the wonderful book Rituals for Work), Elephant, Squirrel, Zombie, Porcupine is a group conversation “tool” designed to nurture more honest dialog among people who work together. Here’s how to use it:

During every all-hands meeting, carve out time to discuss the following:

  • Elephants: Big things people are worried about but not talking about.

  • Squirrels: Things that might be distracting the organization or team from focusing on the work that matters most.

  • Zombies: Old issues, projects, or ways or working that never seem to go away.

  • Porcupines: Touchy subjects that might feel too hard to handle.

We’re in the process of turning each of these into a card people might hold up during our meetings when they feel the group has encountered an elephant, squirrel, porcupine, or zombie. We expect they’ll help our groups have deeper conversations to help them get past the barrier each one of these entities poses.

What are the elephants, squirrels, porcupines, and zombies in your organization?