Change Management  | 9 MIN. READ

Facilitator Unplugged with Ignacio Guitart

ExperiencePoint, June 5, 2017

Based in Barcelona, Ignacio Guitart is a partner at the consultancy firm Bee & Butterfly, as well as an academic collaborator at ESADE Business School. In his various roles, he facilitates both ExperienceInnovation™ and ExperienceChange™ sessions for a diverse group of multinational industries.

We recently talked with him about his insights from twenty years of executive experience, why mindset matters and why it takes more than a single session to make a big shift.


Name: Ignacio Guitart 

Home: Barcelona, Spain


What does a day in your life look like?

Discipline is a key. It doesn't matter how much talent you have, how silly, how gifted—to me, at the end of the day, it is about effort.

I am a morning guy so “first things first” means the important tasks will take place during the morning shift—meetings and work at full throttle until noon, then lunchtime. After this boost, it’s another rush until 2 pm.

I need to work out daily, at least 4 to 5 times a week. I usually run between 4 to 6 miles per session, depending on how much time I have.

My afternoon shift is like a wrap-up, dealing with answering calls and scheduling things, which I’ll do while I’m driving to pick up my kids from school. The morning and afternoon school commute are the best moments of the day. I chat with my kids about what really matters to them. They’re 14 and 9 years old, so we talk about football, the NBA, video games, movies, characters and music.

Evening means the home stuff, juggling between email, phone calls, kids’ homework, supper. I try to do as much as I can, but I do credit my wife for making everything work.

What do you love most about being a facilitator?

My working life is fantastic, combining consultancy, NED roles and lecturing at ESADE Business School. Twenty-five percent of my professional life is about lecturing and 75% is about consulting.

Consulting is now more than just telling customers what the problem is. It’s like diagnosing. We have symptoms and we have causes, but it’s not about dealing with symptoms, it’s about dealing with real causes.

Facilitating is like closing the gap between lecturing and consultancy. You’re helping participants go through a process and giving them the support and guidance to get through it. It is about launching a story and letting them go, hit a dead end, do a U-turn and explore new paths. It is fantastic because you never know how they are going to perform.

At the beginning, they know very little about the issues. Having the chance to help participants reach the other side is fantastic and highly rewarding. In between, they will be able to go through a lot of different layers of methodology, new skills, new knowledge, etc.

How do you view the interconnection between innovation and change?

Nowadays, innovation and change is like a mantra. It’s taken for granted. However, what companies do in regards to innovation is they deliver innovation—they deliver new services, new products, maybe they set up access to new markets. But they do. They “do” innovation. I feel that the real challenge isn’t about doing innovation but about becoming an innovative company, which is completely different and more complicated.

When I share the message with the companies, they think, “Well, we do innovation, we are innovative.” Which is not true. One thing is about doing, but becoming innovative means change. And change is about people. It’s about different human beings living and working in any given organization. Innovation is about doing different things or doing things in a different way, and that inevitably means change.


However, that’s the easiest part. The tough part of change is understanding that change is something you are going to live with all your life. It doesn’t start from the outside. Change is something you should have inside you. Change starts with people changing. If you do not change, the organization is not going to change. Blending innovation and change is like two sides of the same coin.

Companies and managers are not used to listening to a message like this. For them, it is just about doing innovation—open innovation, agile technologies, blueprint methodologies, business model compass, etc. So from the very beginning my statement is, “This is not about methodologies. This is not about learning how to innovate. It’s about developing a new mindset.”

And developing a new mindset isn’t easy.

Right. Developing a new mindset is tough, because it means change. There’s reluctance: Why change? Or We did that in the past; it didn’t work. Or The investment is quite high in regards to what we expect in returns. OK, so remain seated until someone comes and picks up your business. And then later it’s, They’re coming, they’re coming for our cash! And then it’s about what to do. Then it’s about hurry up. So hurry up, speed up, but towards what?

There’s reluctance, risk aversion and mental frames involved. Attendees have to move out of their comfort zone and start a process that will take them into a new reality, developing a new mindset. I am not looking for a short-term gain, but my aim is to push them beyond and make them grow, evolve and deliver neither more nor better, but different.

Because of the high-achieving men and women who participate, it demands I go the extra mile, which is great in terms of my own learning and professional development.

What are your outlooks for design thinking and change leadership?

Several weeks ago, I had a meeting with a gentleman about presenting ExperienceInnovation. He told me before starting, “You know, on LinkedIn, there are hundreds of chats and people who are criticizing design thinking.” I said, “I do not pay much attention to this. It’s not because I’m some great expert; it’s because I know they are talking garbage about something they completely ignore.”

Many people think of design thinking like a methodology, like a process. For them, it’s just a tool. They are missing the point. Design thinking is about developing a new mindset. It’s about delivering real and relevant value through real innovation. But again it’s not about doing innovation; it’s about becoming innovative.

The beauty of the design thinking approach is first about the creativity—exploring, being able to use the How Might We and come up with tons of ideas. This is one part. It’s very exciting and sexy. But to me, what’s truly important is the last part: execution. I expect in the years to come to be able to highlight the link between the two parts, because execution is what makes the difference. It’s like the book, Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done. It’s about getting things done.

Could you describe one of your most impactful facilitation experiences?

One was an ExperienceInnovation session with an insurance company from Zurich. There was a multinational group of attendees, including managers from South America, Argentina, Columbia, Mexico and Brazil as well as attendees from Ireland, Italy, Germany and Spain. It was the simulation embedded in a two-and-a-half-day program, which centered around this notion that, we know that the market is changing and that the competitive landscape is changing. We need to start thinking about what to do in the years to come. The session was about helping them develop a mindset, but with a tactical approach in the sense of being able to deliver something in the weeks after the module.

It was my first session, and it took place just five or six weeks after the facilitation training session. It went very well. They felt it was something great and very useful for them, but at the same time something completely different than what they had experienced in the past. The feedback I received was, Wow. This is so awesome that all the managers who work in Zurich should do this.

For ExperienceChange, I’ve facilitated several sessions for managers from around the world who work for a large telecom carrier from France. It’s a huge company, quite old in their approach to business. A carrier is not a carrier anymore; it’s more like a broadcast or media company. Think about the managers—they have spent their careers going up in the ranks. So when it’s about change, you can’t imagine how reluctant they are. It’s not only thinking about changing but accepting that someone from the outside is telling them, “Do not rely on your size to maintain your competitive position in the market. Because if it’s not you, someone else will do it.”

And how do they react?

Not everyone is ready to listen to the message. It takes time, a lot of time. When it’s about customer-centricity—when, for example, working with engineers from a high-tech company that manufactures machinery, it takes one year to change the mindset from say, machinery, service and project management to a customer-centric culture—expecting that they are going to shift at the end of the session is not realistic. I tell them the session is like a virus, and day after day the virus is going to grow. And finally, one day they are going to wake up saying, “Now, I’ve seen the light.”

It takes time, because the day after, they go back to their daily routines. They’re dealing with a to-do list, which is every day growing and growing. It’s five minutes of emailing, and then a meeting, another meeting, then lunch time. So they are in a bubble, not really paying attention to the real issues, but just going with the flow. The focus is on efficiencies, taking care of the business, doing what they should do to get their bonuses at the end of the year.

In the book: Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg there is an example of Toyota and pulling the cord. You need to be able to pull the cord, to say, “This is not working. We are going nowhere. We need to stop.” But you have to be daring to do this. Innovation and change means being able to pull the cord.

What are your rituals before facilitating?

The more you facilitate, the more you tune the simulation to your own way to facilitate and according to what the company expects in terms of scope. Is this a company that has been acquired? Have they gone through an elimination process? It’s about understanding and knowing the situation of the company.

Now the ritual: With ExperienceChange, I look at the people who are going to be in the classroom, paying attention to the messages the company would like to transmit, but nothing else. I review the supporting slides. We fine tune, we change, we adapt.

It’s more or less the same with ExperienceInnovation. At first, I was concerned about how it works, keeping an eye on the clock and the control because it’s quite speedy. The simulation starts slow, but then it speeds up and you end up rushing into the prototyping. So, first or second session, I was paying very close attention to timing. But eventually, I realized I could move forward or backward, give extra minutes on one stage or reduce the time on another. Once you master the idea that you are at the wheel and in control, it’s great.

What are you most proud of?

My family. I’ve been with my wife for 28 years now. I’m very lucky to have found her. I think that’s my best achievement, and then my kids. That’s the real thing. The rest doesn’t matter very much. I’ve been working in funeral services for more than three years now, and what I’ve learned is that, one day we will leave this world. So it’s about living today and paying attention to what it’s worth. It’s about family. And once you understand this, your approach to professional life and everything else completely changes.

If you could work alongside someone for the day who would it be and why?

Andrew [Webster], of course. I did my MBA at ESADE, and one of the best things that has happened in my life is that I’ve been able to work alongside my professors. It’s amazing. I’ve also had the chance to lecture the kids of my professors. Life is like a chain. So I know that one day, someone is going to take care of my kids at school. It has been fantastic to have the opportunity to do this, to lecture the children of those who lectured me in the past. So it would be great to work with Andrew as co-facilitators. It would be like closing the ring.

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