Common Practice is a Philadelphia-based company whose mission is to design practical tools to make conversations that inspire, connect, and heal people. One such tool is their game, Hello, which features a custom designed Scout Book at the core. Common Practice has been a great partner, and we are thrilled to see Scout Books used in such an inventive and inspiring fashion. We sat down with Nick Jehlen, founding partner at Common Practice, to learn more about how they use Scout Books in their business.
Can you tell us a bit about Common Practice?
Common Practice designs tools that help people talk about death and loss. We grew out of a company that has been creating tools for social change for about 12 years. We’ve worked on a variety of issues, and about five years ago we narrowed our focus to work exclusively on improving the kinds of conversations that many people are nervous to start. It’s a weird little niche, and we love it here: conversations about death and loss bring people together people in ways I never would have expected.
Can you tell us about Hello and how it fits into your broader mission?
Hello is a game that helps everyone talk about living and dying and what matters most. It’s really the embodiment of everything we do: a simple game that helps people feel safe and supported while they talk about what can be a scary topic. It’s deceptively simple – just a few booklets, some chips, and easy-to-use instructions. Anyone can play it, and it’s surprisingly fun.
Do you find the recontextualizing of these difficult questions into a game an effective way of breaking down barriers?
Games are a funny thing. We have a tendency to think of games as frivolous, but you can see how seriously we take them when someone cheats. Plus, tabletop games are already a great place to have conversations because they take up just enough attention to keep you focused, but not so much that you can’t talk about whatever is on your mind. Hello just happens to be a game about dying, like poker is a game about deceiving your opponents.
If you had to pick one question from Hello to ask, which would you pick and why?
I’m going to break a rule here and give you two: “What music do you want to be listening to on your last day alive?” And “If you needed help going to the bathroom today, who is the first person you would ask?” I love the first because it gets people thinking about something really personal: how music affects us. And I love the second because it gets people focused on trust and relationships by coming at those issues sideways.
Can you tell us a bit about the 23 common practices of Common Practice? How did the book come about, and how did these common practices get incorporated into your company culture?
The 23 Practices were born from tears: we had a really rough year of work a few years ago – we were all just burned out and angry and frustrated. So, we just stopped. We put aside our paid work and redesigned how we work together. Through a lot of trial and error we came up with a bunch of practices that help us do good work together. As it happens, this was also how we stumbled into our focus on death and dying: in learning about how other people stay resilient at work, we interviewed a bunch of hospice nurses, and that planted the seeds for Hello.
The 23 Practices are all the things we learned distilled into a pocket book. They’re aspirational: we forget them or ignore them, and then we fail, but they’re always there for us to come back to. We review them together every other month, one practice a day, and reflect on how we can do better. We did that publicly a few months ago and when people started asking for their own copies we had a bunch printed and added them to our store.
Any other wisdom you’d like to share with our audience, either on running a successful business or living a meaningful life?
Two things: #1: Build a team that can step up when you fall down, because we all fall down. #2: Don’t fall in love with your ideas. Great ideas are a dime a dozen. Bringing ideas into the world so people actually use them? That’s the hard part.
Huge thanks to Nick for lending his time and for the great conversation. Find more of his work, and information about Hello at the Common Practice website.