Six Boxes® Summer Institute: My Experience

Last month I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Six Boxes® Summer Institute held by the Performance Thinking Network and Dr. Carl Binder. The four-day retreat took place in the gorgeous woods of Bainbridge Island, which is just a short ferry ride outside of Seattle. The location, IslandWood, was a sprawling 200+ acres of lush green forest with a quaint campus that promotes sustainability and living in peace with the environment. Even beyond the beautiful scenery though, the knowledge gained and people met at the summer institute were well worth the trip.

As a newcomer to the Six Boxes way of thinking, my first day and a half was full of Six Boxes Performance Coaching. As a behavior scientist, the idea of behavior influences was more than familiar, but the Performance Thinking rationale really frames the conversations that you’d have with a performer in a way that avoids technical behavioral science jargon and links a performance to business results. The demonstrations of techniques and conversations were a great model to follow in real performance consulting situations, and the language used is accessible and facilitates the flow of conversation. Identifying relevant behavior influences and brainstorming solutions becomes much more organized and efficient while using the Six Boxes.

The theme of the weekend was “sustainability”, which fit in nicely with the locale. However, when IslandWood thinks about sustainability they are thinking about behaviors we do to sustain the environment, and when we think about sustainability we are thinking about what we can change in our environments to sustain our behaviors.  From learning about behavioral science, I knew that putting a performer in contact with natural reinforcing consequences or setting up systems for long-term reinforcing consequences was necessary to sustaining performance, but in reality a large portion of performance interventions are implemented, make short-term chance, and are left to die while performance matches back up with the contingencies that were maintaining it before the intervention.  One of the guest presenters, Gina Rester-Zadrow of Amgen, shared her methods for sustainment and how she analyzes behavior influences to get the most out of her work, and the long-term impact of Performance Thinking is impressive when implemented with sustainability in mind.

After a week of great conversations with like-minded individuals and amazing food, it was hard to leave IslandWood, but I’m excited to be back and have opportunities to apply the new knowledge I gained there. The Six Boxes approach provides a new lens to look at performance through, and I’m ready to continue making long-term impacts on business results for clients. If you’d like more information about Six Boxes or Performance Thinking, you can find them at If you’re interested in learning about how we at Factari can help you with performance consulting, email us.

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