Foresight "Group Genius" Weekend
Leaping the Abyss:
Putting Group Genius to Work
Exploring New Terrain...
All participants and staff are gathered in
the radiant room, the largest space in the DesignShop environment, for the
opening event. After a welcome from Wharton professor Jerry Wind, facilitators
Matt and Gail Taylor give a whirlwind introduction to what is coming up,
- goals for the event, both for the overall group and for the
individual organizations present,
- uses of models-a topic to be covered extensively throughout
- resources available (the World Wide Web, library, the entire
DesignShop facilitation team),
- ground rules, including confidentiality, fiduciary responsibility,
and participants committing to working together for the full three days,
- a bare minimum about the schedule, and
- the underlying structure of what we'll be doing over the next
three days: the Scan, Focus, Act sequence.
Scan, Focus, Act
In the Scan phase, participants reach out
to explore ideas far outside their usual range of expertise. People will
expand their usual time horizons, work with complex systems models, and
learn rapid information-gathering techniques. They will look at the problem
from a whole range of vantage points that they have never visited before.
Just as important, everyone will get to know the skills and biases of fellow
participants. During Scan, they are encouraged explicitly to avoid trying
to draw direct connections with the problem that brought them here.
Only after a thorough Scan do you move into
the Focus phase in which you formulate performance specs for the optimal
solution to your problem. You are focusing on the problem, but you are also
generating options for what that problem really is and, therefore, how it
will be solved. These will range from no-risk to absolutely wacky. It's
important to come at the problem many different times from many different
angles. There is a saying at DesignShops that if you do seven iterations
of coming at, looking at, and redesigning your problem, the results will
be a thousand times better.
In doing so, the problem definition changes,
often beyond recognition, from the one you originally brought with you-a
sign that the Scan has been effective. Possible solutions undergo continuous
reworking, with ideas that don't "fit" falling away naturally,
until the strongest solution strategy is clear.
In Act, strategy is turned into tactics, and
tactics into action steps which include target dates of completion. The
DesignShop event is not over until there is an action plan in hand.
Scan is the longest phase, with Focus taking
less time, and Act happening very quickly at the end-exactly the opposite
of what normally happens back at the office. Normal procedure for just about
everyone is to skip the Scan, zip through Focus, and spend almost all their
effort on Act. The failure of that comfortable but ineffective sequence
is what has brought everyone to the DesignShop.
But right now, at Wharton, there's no time
to spend analyzing the sequence in advance. It's time to jump right into
Just as athletes and teams warm up before
a game, everyone needs to warm up-as individuals and as a cooperating group-to
prepare for solving our organization's problem.
A well-planned DesignShop session includes
participants who are new to each other that may never meet again. As in
the Carl's Jr. example, it can bring together dozens of people ranging from
corporate executives to a typical fast-food customer. How can a large, varied
group be most quickly brought into sync, performing at the highest possible
level to address the key questions that called them together?
In DesignShop sessions, as in sporting events,
there will be some time before participants are directly tackling the problem
that brings everyone together. First are warm-up exercises having multiple
purposes: to stretch mental muscles, learn new information, get to know
fellow participants and their skills, strengths, weaknesses, and biases,
and develop new skills in collaboration and cooperation. This will happen
In a typical DesignShop, the first exercise-called
Take-a-Panel-starts with questions which may range from provocative to very
basic, such as "What do you want to get out of this DesignShop?"
The questions act as a mental warm-up for each individual. Each person takes
a large, writable wall panel and begins posting his or her responses to
the specific questions assigned.
Why start this way? Why not have the groups
just discuss the questions, with each person taking a turn, and someone
serving as moderator?
The pragmatic answer-this kick-starting exercise
has evolved over years, and it works. The longer answer requires analyzing
human interaction patterns. In any sizable collection of people, some are
extroverts, others shy, some articulate, others are not. Even in casual
clothes, the "leaders" often stand out. Every move they make gives
them away; their very tone of voice establishes their position within the
group. If everyone is just thrown into a small group, all the standard patterns
of interaction automatically kick in-the leader leads, the followers follow,
the extroverts talk, the shy ones sit there nervously.
Is "being led" what everyone is
here for? If the leaders had all the answers, nobody would need to be here
to work on their organization's big challenge-you could just do as you're
told, implementing the leaders' plan. Instead, the goal is to tap into everyone's
skills and knowledge. In order to encourage this participation, it is wise
to avoid triggering the status-related reactions that lead people to self-censor.
Instead of starting by sitting around, looking
at, and judging each other, participants immediately start working individually
on a problem: contributing, thinking, writing, moving. All are busy at their
own panels-no one is watching- you can be as fast, slow, sure, or tentative
as you want. There is a lot of room to write and draw, and mistakes are
erasable. Over the next twenty minutes, a sense of momentum builds as ideas
begin to flow onto the panels.
It is now time to share the results in an
exercise called "Share-a-Panel." Participants divide into groups
of about five-not randomly. The groups have been selected with care to provide
diversity among the participants-different professions, different ages,
and backgrounds, with as much mixing as possible.
But does everyone sit down and have each person
present his or her work to the group for critiquing? No, this would break
momentum. We're on a roll here and the last thing we need to do is revert
to a standard meeting format where, once again, the usual leaders take over
and everyone else shuts up, feeling dumb or dominated. Gail Taylor explains
how the next part works:
Now the participants search out each member
of their small group and present their panels to each other, on a one-to-one
basis. It's loud, lively, and chaotic: everyone is hunting for the people
they've missed, introducing themselves, explaining their viewpoints, what
their business is about, their challenges and desires - the focus is on
the panels, with the explainer pointing to items there and the listener
It helps that what's being explained is now
an external object-words on the wall-rather than a stand-alone verbal assertion.
Again, as for the "Take-a-Panel" exercise, this is a clever mechanism:
a technique to help us, as evolved primates, suppress our bad habits and
nervousness and augment our intellects.
Is this mechanism a key insight of amazing
power? No, it's a relatively small thing. The reason that DesignShops work
so well is not that they implement one major insight; instead, they incorporate
a large number of strategies, tactics, processes, and tricks that combine
to give high performance.
Physical movement is another tactic used during
both the Take-a-Panel and Share-a-Panel exercises. Getting people up and
moving is an eye-opener, and it gets the blood pumping-but what else is
going on here? To answer this, consider your own experience. Where do you
have your best ideas? For a lot of us, it is places like the shower, not
at an office desk staring at the walls or at a computer screen. When you're
mentally stalled, do you find it helpful to get up and take a walk? To tap
into these poorly-understood benefits, the entire DesignShop process involves
as much physical movement as possible-the exact opposite of the stifling,
physically boring act of sitting at a desk in a cubicle.
As was explained in the ground rules given
during the initial orientation at the start of the DesignShop event, participants
have no need to make personal notes to preserve their insights during this
(or any other) part of the event. While the participants are discussing
their panels with other group members, facilitators are recording their
work. By the time the panels need to be erased for reuse, all the information
will have been captured.
Only now, after the individual panels have
been explained, does the small group assemble and start some analysis. "The
next exercise for the groups," explains Gail Taylor, "is to ask,
'Where are our agreements and disagreements? What have we learned as a set
of five about our individual beliefs and our group beliefs?'"
Note that, in this account, we have left vague
the issue of exactly what these people are working on and what specific
questions they are addressing on their panels, other than what their goals
are for this meeting. That is deliberate for two reasons: first, it varies
for each group, depending on what overall challenge their organization is
working with at this DesignShop, and second, it's not critical at this stage
that the questions be precisely relevant to the overall challenge. It is
so early in the process that the immediate goals are different-getting to
know each other, and, just as important, beginning to build a common experience
Creating a Common Experience
Years of DesignShop experience have shown
that giving the participants a common experience is even more important
than achieving complete alignment or agreement. From the basis of shared
reality, they will build the foundation from which they will ultimately
solve their problems.
"Creating a common experience base"?
"Basis of shared reality"? These phrases may seem a bit-shall
we say-touchy-feely. But shared experience, be it war, creative endeavor,
or other life events, forges a strong bond between people and can form the
basis of mutual understanding.
The exercises aren't motivated by what feels
good to participants. In fact, exactly the opposite sometimes occurs. The
value of the common experience holds regardless of whether a given participant
enjoys, or even agrees with, the content. Matt Taylor explains:
One of the canons of our work is that we
try not to care whether people like the DesignShop process, or even whether
they are all in alignment with the outcome. We would prefer that they are,
of course, because that is a gentler and kinder experience, but the fact
of the DesignShop is that thirty to seventy people all have a relatively
common experience with the content of that DesignShop and each other. That
is an undeniable fact that can never be taken away. That is now part of
their experience base.
Not all experiences are equal, obviously.
There is a hierarchy of experience, and so to the degree that the human
system is alerted, it will pay attention to some experiences more than
others. This event is compressed, exciting, dense; they are in an environment
of high alert. So this experience starts to outweigh all those other years
If the situation requires even greater intensity,
the staff designs a custom experience for a given DesignShop session. This
can be extraordinarily powerful, bringing a feuding group to a powerful
unity, guaranteeing that everyone present is on high alert, or adding a
gut-level sense of realism to an issue that people aren't yet taking seriously
Colorful Common Experiences
A series of colorful and memorable common
experiences which generated loads of high alert was crafted over a number
of years for Agency Group, a division of a complex insurance and financial
services company with a diversity of corporate cultures due to a long series
of acquisitions. These experiences provide examples of how-in modules structured
to teach specific skills such as leadership or networking-the emotional
strength of the experience helps anchor all participants into a common outlook.
DesignShops are often envisioned as discrete
events, but Agency Group wanted to encourage people to use design process
every day, bring "there" to here consistently, and thereby change
the culture. They decided to do this by offering workshops in which people
could learn about design work as part of a new way of working. The goal
here was education, not producing a work product.
Jon Foley, one of several who directed the
workshops in cooperation with the company's visionary CEO and COO team,
describes a common experience that served as a wake-up call:
Understand where we are: We're in the conference
room and our CEO comes over the videotape saying that the message we're
about to see is being delivered throughout the organization. The news was
that Agency Group had been purchased by Mitsubishi. Our CEO was on his
way to the airport to become the president of Mitsubishi America.We would
get a new CEO and learn new ways of working.
Imagine what this did to the participants.
A lot of them believed, a lot turned white. Many doubted, but suddenly
everyone felt there was more significance to this when the staffers handing
out packages of information, and a Japanese Gentleman dressed in a business
suit walked around quietly accompanied by people dressed up as senior managers.
The Japanese Gentleman would make quiet comments from time to time. People
were freaking out.
Talk about a powerful common experience. For
people who had worked in big organizations all their lives, this was probably
the closest they'd ever come to facing what it would mean to have their
comfortable jobs change overnight. This was now a group on high alert, a
group that had a gut-level reminder that "Our huge, seemingly invulnerable
fortress of a company is not invulnerable at all. And evidently our CEO
would like us to try to keep that firmly in mind as we tackle the challenge
that has brought us together."
In another exercise designed to encourage
more leadership initiative by mid-level and high-level managers at the Agency
Group, Jon led a team that designed a workshop modeled on an episode from
the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. At the time,
the company was preparing to divide its unified structure into thirteen
smaller business units. Each unit would have its own leadership team. The
members of these teams had to wake up to the need to become self-directing,
instead of awaiting leadership and direction to flow down to them from the
top, as it always had. The danger for the new business units was that their
management might not step up to the challenge in time to prevent damage.
In the television story that Jon used as a
model, the captain of the Starship Enterprise has been kidnapped by a powerful
and technically-advanced enemy-the Borg (cyborgs). By linking the captain
into their man/machine mental network, the Borg have complete access to
all the captain's knowledge. Everything the captain knows about the Enterprise,
the enemy now knows: technical vulnerabilities, assets, battle plans, secrets,
top security computer access codes....and all the data contained in those
Back on the Enterprise, the remaining crew
members realize that every bit of their existing knowledge is in the hands
of the enemy. All the old plans are worthless. To defeat the Borg, they
will need to replace the kidnapped captain with new leadership, create new
answers and new fighting tactics that neither the old captain nor the computer
So, in the Agency Group exercise,Jon had the
CEO similarly abandon the corporate ship taking with him the secrets of
the company's future. They could no longer go forward executing someone
else's plans; they needed to create their own, new answers. Participants
directly experienced-with intensity-the need for them to provide leadership,
to create new strategies that would withstand traitorous assault. They felt
and internalized insights about responsibility and accountability in new
and deeper ways.
The simulation, fraught with the tension that
comes from playing for high stakes, was both stressful and useful. Subsequently,
many people asked to practice "thinking out of the box" using
"real" scenarios more often.
Occasionally, a client will object to this
kind of exercise, concerned about the intensity of the simulation. Gail
Taylor observes, "In response to similar requests in the past, we have
tried leaving out some part, but we don't get the same results." The
DesignShop is an evolved procedure, having grown out of hundreds of cycles
of design-and-test-and-redesign. We may or may not understand why each part
adds to the whole, but it works whether we understand it in detail or not.
Another instance of success using a theatrical-style
simulation to provide a common experience to build unity took place at the
Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC), a military-affiliated test
facility in Tennessee.
Burying the Hatchet at AEDC
While AEDC is owned by the Air Force, it is
operated by civilian companies working as contractors and subcontractors,
with very few military personnel on base. People who work at AEDC-whether
military or civilian, management or union worker-are often the second or
third generation in their family to do so. Frequently, both spouses work
on the base, but that doesn't mean things always proceed smoothly. In this
long and complex history of labor relations, there are no secrets. Everyone
knows about everything in great and intimate detail.
Family fights are often the most vicious of
feuds. One senior manager looked back at a particulary dark period:
There had been a severe strike around Christmas
of 1990-an evil battle, and probably unneeded. It had gone into a downward
spiral, and it is hard to get out of those.
From the point of view of many people, the
bad blood wasn't about any substantive issue. It wasn't about whether you
want $1 more or $2 more. Rather than working with each other, people took
positions, and soon they couldn't get out of them. Things started going
downhill. There was a new contract, but it didn't resolve the situation.
By now the problem was tearing the place apart.
Labor and management had been at each other's throats for months. There
had even been episodes of slashing tires and trashing offices.
Colonel William (Bill) Rutley, the Commander
of AEDC, had a situation that could blow up in his face. He took a chance
and decided to bring the two sides together in a three-day DesignShop. He
When we put the union representatives into
a DesignShop with the management, we took a severe risk. You do not know
exactly what will happen. I told the DesignShop staff that they were in
this to try to drive a change. You can't drive a change and still be careful
in this situation. You really have to put them into a room and start sucking
the air out until that change happens. But I am convinced that organizations
don't change unless you show them the abyss.
It was decided in advance that although he
was the sponsor, Col. Rutley would stay out of the DesignShop event, letting
the two sides interact without his mediation. On the front lines of the
management side was John Poparad, who explains that-as in every DesignShop-the
group doesn't start out confronting difficult issues immediately:
This was my first exposure to the DesignShop
process. We did not start with the union/management relationship. We started
working with the focus on AEDC. As the facilitator, Matt centered everyone
on two essential tasks: Can we get everyone to build on a basic vision
of the future for AEDC and then choose those parts that we can get everyone
to agree on and start to implement them. Within that vision, what roles
would people play? Now you have a vested interest in the success of AEDC
because you are part of it and have helped to create it. It is a part of
To say that you "sign up for the big
picture," or "have a common vision"-those words aren't good
enough. Everyone works on modeling the organization. If Matt could get
the warring sides to buy into the same model of AEDC, then they could work
Late in the second day, several people report,
a moment of transformation occurred between the labor leader and the leader
from management, with the rest of the participants looking on. The confrontation
was heated. The labor leader demanded acknowledgment that labor had been
put into a corner.
The management leader began moving toward
the moment of clarity. He acknowledged, yes, labor had been boxed in, and
he promised, he would never put labor in that position again. The room was
quiet, awaiting the response from the labor leader. One attendee's memory
of what the labor leader said: "Then we'll never need to strike again."
The room stayed silent. A facilitator recounts:
I don't know if anyone knew what had just
happened! Or maybe they were all silent because they did understand: from
that moment on, nothing was going to be as it had been.
ColonelRutley, though staying away deliberately,
was monitoring the process:
For the first couple of days of the event,
the DesignShop staff would come up at night and tell me what was going
on. I kept telling them they were in this to try to drive a change. After
a couple of days, one of the facilitators said that this would break in
the right direction tomorrow morning. They thought I should be there.
At 8 PM that evening, the staff members brainstormed
on how to provide the right experience for the group in order to emotionally
internalize the intellectual change that had been achieved. They had noted
that participants had kept saying "we have to bury the hatchet,"
but didn't know how to get past the strong feelings and achieve closure.
The inspiration struck to actually transform the symbolism of those words
into action: "Let's do it! Let's actually bury the hatchet!"
Between 8:00 that evening and 8:00 the next
morning, there was a massive amount of work to be done as they pulled together
a complete set of funeral plans. The deceased hatchet would repose in a
hand-crafted coffin: Frances Gillard, an AEDCer facilitating her first Design
Shop, roped her husband into spending the night in his home woodworking
shop building a coffin crafted to the hatchet's precise specifications.
Black robes, veils, and other clothes had to be found for the hatchet's
"wailing widow" and the knowledge workers who would act as mourners.
They rounded up a car to act as a hearse, chose a burial site, got the death
certificate drawn up, and got the death march music orchestrated. Then,
the Grim Reaper made the rounds, and paid a visit to all to announce the
The next morning's session began with funeral
music. The veiled widow and other mourners robed in black carried candles
in a mournful procession.
John Poparad, a member of a contractor's management
team, describes how it happened and the impact on the management/labor feud:
On the third day I was sitting next to Barry,
the union president, when the knowledge workers came in with a coffin.
Inside the coffin was a hatchet.
A "minister" delivered the eulogy
talking about the relationship that had just died. A funeral service, rich
in opportunity for mourning, eulogy, burying the past, and establishing
hope for the future followed.
Some people had been saying "we've got
to bury the hatchet," and here it was. Barry looked at me and I looked
at him. Certain people on both the union and management sides wanted a
healing as well as a contractual resolution, and Barry was one of them.
He said very quietly to me, "Some people are going to hang me if I
do this." I said, "I'll do it if you'll do it." We both
stood up together and went to the coffin.
The lid of the coffin was rimmed by exactly
as many holes as there were workshop participants. Every single person would
have to drive a nail home if the coffin and the dispute were to be sealed.
Barry and I drove the first nails. Barry
and I and all the attendees nailed it shut.We put it in a station wagon
with the trunk open as a hearse. We followed it to a grave site and actually
buried it. We went through a ceremony of literally burying the hatchet.
If you come to the site, we can show you where we buried it. Some archeologist
will go crazy when he finds it. But this was the commitment to stop this
It worked extremely well. Col. Rutley summarized
Attitudes did a 180-degree turn. The strike
had been months before. Now, they settled the next contract six months
ahead of schedule.
Before the DesignShop, the union and management
guys had been doing traditional things and were going to hurt each other.
I had to use the process for transformation, for cultural change. It seems
to work very, very well. It was an incredible change. I had not intended
that. I was trying to solve a very specific problem. I did not know any
other way than to throw them in there together and make them stare at the
damn abyss and figure out where they were going.
I still cannot believe it, but that one event
has changed AEDC forever.
We'll be hearing a lot more about AEDC's subsequent
The "Burying the Hatchet" exercise
worked as a common experience. It sent a clear message, both to those present
and to those who heard about it later, that a total commitment had been
made to end the conflict. But-as John Poparad explained-before this symbolic
exercise was possible, much work had to be done first at the DesignShop.
Specifically, the group needed to work collaboratively on their joint vision
of AEDC. Only when a high degree of common ground had been established was
it possible to move forward.
Working collaboratively is not common practice
in most organizations-it is still mostly command-and-control, very top-down.
At a DesignShop, people come together for
a short time to take on a major challenge for their organization. They need
to work, to collaborate, at their highest capacity, taking advantage of
the skills and knowledge of everyone present. If you don't operate this
way routinely back at the office, how can the process cause everyone to
start collaborating quickly, even those who've never worked this way before?
These non-collaborators can be pretty hard-core-for example, many managers
just don't operate that way. Many managers think they collaborate well,
but often do not collaborate well when working with subordinates. Unfortunately,
no one who works under them has the guts to tell them. The higher the manager
is in the corporate pyramid, the more likely this is to be true.
The DesignShop process is literally that--
a design process. People who attend come from many walks of life and expect
to work in radically different ways. Getting them to change their way of
working, their way of thinking-even for the short time it takes to do a
DesignShop-isn't easy. Matt explains that many people have been specially
trained in processes other than collaboration.
Lawyers learn a process-largely an adversarial
process. An adversarial process is very good at arriving at truths or understanding
of some kinds but not of other kinds. Scientists learn the scientific process,
which in its strictest sense, is very good at arriving at certain kinds
of information and truth. In organizations, specialists use these different
processes at different skill levels, but few of them have any awareness
of what processes they're using.
A design process is different yet again.
At a DesignShop event, we have a problem to solve that is inherently so
complex we have to bring people together from many different fields, different
.i.ntage points;vantage points and life experiences, because it is simply
impossible to have enough knowledge present otherwise. Suppose you somehow
did solve it solo, you would not have the solution resulting from their
interaction. Even if you somehow have that, you wouldn't have the buy-in-the
approval from key players-once you have the solution.
So you have to bring these people together.
They come in with different sets of assumptions and with different languages-literally,
the same words can mean different things to them. But most important, they
come in with different deeply embedded mental process structures that most
of them are totally unaware that they have.
A person's own embedded deep process is often
the most sensitive thing that they own, and the thing they will fight most
about, usually without doing so explicitly. In a sense you are talking
about their mind-their survival tool-and if you want to challenge someone
on the level of their deeply embedded process, you are going to have an
argument on your hands. It is an extremely sensitive subject.
At a DesignShop event, time is at a premium.
A large and talented group of employees and other stakeholders has gathered
from far and wide-this is costing real money. Given the wide gaps in assumptions,
languages, and embedded mental processes, how do you generate a fast way
of learning new styles of working and using new types of embedded processes?
Here's a story about achieving rapid learning through:
- managing information,
- discovering what the work really is about,
- using networks instead of relying on the familiar role of doing an
assigned task for a supervisor ,
- dealing effectively with emerging systems, rather than a static situation
in which all the work is neatly defined up front.
At Agency Group, Jon Foley and his team, together
with the MG Taylor team, created exercises to accomplish this by deliberately
increasing (1) the complexity of the assigned task, (2) the richness of
the information environment, and (3) the speed of change, until the group
is thrown into chaos-and figures out how to operate in new ways. Jon described
an exercise held during the Minding Our Business DesignShop.
We had about forty people broken into teams
working on various related assignments. One team-we'll call them the "InfoBroker
team"-was the only team to get a copy of every team's task. The InfoBroker
team's assignment is to design the infrastructure-How will the overall
system work? How will tasks be assigned? How will people communicate?
At the beginning, the InfoBroker team spent
some time trying to organize the initial work. They assume they have all
day, so what's the rush? Then I start dropping by with extra assignments.
At first, they don't know what to do with these. I come back again and
again, and give them another two or three assignments.
Within an hour and a half, I've given them
another ten assignments that they have to get distributed and done. At
this point, some InfoBroker members get angry or walk out. Some start to
break down the team barriers and pull people out of other teams. They just
grab a person who can do a particular task-an individual assignment. It's
all disconnected; it's chaotic. Tasks are getting done, but they aren't
taking into account the whole system. Sometimes people on the InfoBroker
team would break out and try running the other teams.
There were times when the InfoBroker team
thought they were responsible for completing all ten or eleven assignments,
without help from the other teams. Some of the more senior executives on
the InfoBroker team were so good at managing the details that it took a
huge information-and-task flow to reach their limits. My objective as a
facilitator is to get them to the point where they realize they're in trouble;
traditional processes of managing information are no longer working.
Most managers have lots of experience in
directing others in their work, seeking to eliminate or reduce complexity.
Some are very good at this. But this can also be a block to high performance,
because generally this only leads to compliance from the workers. In this
exercise, the InfoBroker team had to learn to let go of mental models of
how work should be organized. They had to let an effective structure emerge
through the interaction of the other participants. Part of this required
the InfoBroker team to discover the difference between managing people
and managing information.
The InfoBroker team finally pulled everyone
into the same room and said that they had a problem with an organization
in chaos. So each group would tell what they were doing on their assignment
and then there would be between five and eight team reports on what the
assignments were and at what point each team had reached in dealing with
Gradually they would understand that if they
would create a system of information management in which everyone could
participate and everyone could volunteer, the tasks could be done. They
would create a .i.ite-wall;white-wall area where they would track each
assignment. You would need seven or eight people to start a project, but
after all of the ideas were out on the table, you would only need two or
three to complete it. Then the others could work on something else.
No one team ever had "enough" resources,
whether human or technical. The teams learned how to find and share those
resources through networking between teams. How would they decide what
to work on next? They needed access to the information and status of all
projects. That's collaboration.
We are always more comfortable when we know
everything there is to know about a task or assignment before we begin
to do it. This is a block to high productivity, because knowledge work
is too complex for this. We can't know everything there is to know about
our work. Somehow we must break through this barrier. In this exercise,
no one on the teams had experience with the assignment they were given.
They had to start without knowing. Once they began, they discovered they
knew much more about the work than they thought they did.
Again, this doesn't sound like a fun process.
But no one needs to like it for it to work. Going through this exercise
gets people to realize that, at least for now, everyone is going to work
as a collaborative team, sharing responsibility and-this is a tough one
for management-information as well.
The complex, information-enriched, ime-compression
exercise sketched here forces participants to move to a different mode of
work, sharing information. Sound easy and natural? Not for many managers,
who are used to taking all of the responsibility and information upon themselves.
An amazing example is one senior manager at Agency Group-an excellent manager
otherwise-who in this exercise dashed around pulling information down off
the walls: information that she thought other groups didn't need and shouldn't
have. Don't laugh-there are probably people in your organization doing the
equivalent of this right now.
The benefit sought in this exercise is gained
if the current (expensive) group can now work effectively on the critical
task at hand during the next few days at this DesignShop. Although not critical
to DesignShop success, the hope is also that the experience has been sufficiently
intense that some of these lessons will be brought back to their daily work.
1. Let's continue our established pattern.
Without looking back at the book, quickly record any impressions you have
upon finishing the chapter. Also record questions that may have occurred
2. Draw a diagram or create a list showing
all of the tools, strategies, and techniques you use to solve problems
in a high-performance, creative, and collaborative manner. Arrange or label
your diagram, or sort your list according to which items fit under each
of the three stages of the creative process: Scan, Focus, Act.
3. Take note of any gaps in the results from
Challenge 2. Perhaps you have only one or two items under Scan, or use
the same strategy whether you're in Scan, Focus, or Act. Where might you
look to strengthen and broaden your tool kit?