What makes a difference?

Maxim Dedushkov

December 6, 2021

Intention beats tools. It’s not a scientific fact. It’s my gut feeling. And I trust it a lot. 

What’s the difference between a job well done and a job done like meh? What’s the difference between a team mood of curious and energetic excitement and of anxious just_get_away_with_it? What’s the difference between having ideas based on real insights and just a canvas full of sticky notes?

There is no simple answer to these questions but I’m pretty sure it’s not the latest canvas, playbook, toolkit, framework either. These tools can be useful but they don’t make the difference. The answer is rather to be found in individual intention and the dynamics of the team.

I’m sure you can find scientific papers that will prove my point. And I’m pretty sure you can also find others that will confute it. For the sake of the clarity of my thoughts, I will avoid this rabbit hole. At least for now. I’m speaking from my own 17-year experience of founding and running projects/teams and designing/running workshops. 

People make the difference. It sounds trite, I know. Nevertheless, when it comes to real teams and projects this obvious fact disappears like toilet paper during the first wave of covid. Choosing the people you work or learn with is probably the most powerful way to make an impact on the end result. This is why we have an application and selection procedure at Holis. Of course, it would be easier to grant access for anyone to our courses. Less work for us, more participants, more money. 

Teams are even more important than people. Even people with the best intentions will underperform in a bad team and vica versa. Set and setting seem to be as important in the case of work/learning as when your drop your acid/shrooms. Yet I see people rushing to a project’s tasks as teenagers to the free booze at a wedding. It rarely ends up well. Setting up teams and working out the rules that will govern them is something I’m personally obsessed with. There are just a few things that are more powerful than a team with the right intention. 

Information is abundant skills are not. Knowing about something rarely means knowing how to do it. There is a huge difference between learning for knowledge and learning for skills. The latter requires practice. A lot of practice. (Just think if you could learn to ride a bike by reading a book about how to ride a bike.) At Holis participants are always learning by doing. And by doing I mean projects that have real challenges, clients, stakeholders, budgets and all the messy and complex parts of real life. 

And since at Holis we hate waste we channel the cognitive energy that is released during our courses to help communities in need. This year we partnered up with the Banska Bystrica Regional Government in Slovakia (one of the most progressive regional governments), the Center on Developing Child at Harvard and several NGOs to investigate and improve the system of early childhood development of the region. If you feel like joining us in this quest check out this page and apply by 30 September.


The project is co-financed by the Governments of Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia through Visegrad Grants from International Visegrad Fund. The mission of the fund is to advance ideas for sustainable regional cooperation in Central Europe.