On the agenda at that event he was missing: a networking exercise much like Speed Dating that allows for an efficient one-on-one inventory of the expertise and interest of the participants. Our still-traveling participant was able to join the activity via Skype to a lap-top that was inserted into the rows of chairs, going face-to-face with each participants as they shifted seats.
So much depends on getting the right people in the room. A workshop designed to produce innovative outcome can fail – even with the perfect agenda design and the most astute facilitators – if the people who’ve been assembled don’t have the right spirit and motivation to help it succeed. But how do you get the right minds in the right place?
A subtle shift in language provokes our thinking and makes our brain more nimble. Instead of complaining about what doesn’t work or isn’t happening, the problem posed as a question starts a chain reaction that ignites our curiosity. We realise it’s not so much about naming the problem, it’s more about wondering what are all the problems embedded in the challenge and what are all the ways to address it.
Still there you are in some meeting, ostensibly about cultivating novel solutions to a chronic problem and the standard assumptions are upheld – sometimes even defended – usually by the person who thinks they know better. The person who needs to be right, gets to be right – but often at the expense of novel ideas and potential innovation.
In 1958, Yale University conducted a study to test brainstorming and concluded that brainstorming individually was more effective than brainstorming in a group, but it was widely misinterpreted as “brainstorming didn’t work.” The Yale study created a debate that has percolated for fifty years. Does brainstorming work or not? Does a group generate more and better ideas than the same people would if they were working individually?
The playful gizmos and gadgets we bring along help make the conference room look less sterile and corporate, but the toys are not just for show. If you’re a tactile person, being able to pick up a squeezy rubber ball, or twist the beads of a wooden wand, fumble with a Rubik’s cube or stack tiny colored magnets into small mountains can actually aide the fluidity of your thinking. While your hands are fidgeting, new things can pop into your mind.