Wouldnt it be great to have an Edison
or Einstein, or Mozart at your next meeting? If youhad a genius
at your meeting, do you think you might come up with better
results? Let me bethe first to tell you that those people
wont be at your next meeting. But there are somethings
you can do as a facilitator - some techniques and tactics
that you can use with thegroup that will help them work better.
In this article you will learn some of the strategies of geniuses
(adapted from Thinking Like a Genius, by Michael Michalko
in the May 1998 issue ofThe Futurist), and how to apply them
within any group you are working with.
- Geniuses look at problems in many different ways.
The key to this strategy is helping a group
find newperspectives. Often a group gets "locked in"
on one specificsolution or cause. The goal should be to
slow the group downand help them look at their situation
from a variety ofperspectives. Once a group has an initial
approach, encouragethem to stop and force a new perspective
- force them to re-conceptualize the problem.
How To Do It. Once
a group has settled in on an approach, encourage them tostep
out of the room. When they return, explain the concept oflooking
at the problem from another perspective. Ask the group to
list three or more other perspectives that this situation
could be viewed from. From that list, pick one for the group
toreconsider the situation from. (If the group is large enoughhave
sub groups work different perspectives.) The time spent in
reviewing the situation from the new perspectives should be
asrigorous as the first analysis. Once the group has completed
their reanalysis, have them look at all of their results.
At this point encourage them to make the best decision, given
all thedata they have at their disposal.
- Geniuses make novel combinations. Sometimes
geniuses dont come up with new ideas, butcombine existing
ones to make great advances.
How To Do It. Once a group has a variety
of possible solutions (possibly byusing some of the steps
above), have them try to combinethem, rather than just pick
one. Spur them on with questionslike: How could you do both
A and B? How could you gain the benefits of both A and D,
while minimizing the risks?
- Geniuses force relationships.
This may be the genius biggest strategy of all, and
one you canemploy easily with groups.
How To Do It.
Always have a few (or a lot) of disparate items on a list.
At anytime that a group is stuck, ask them to force a relationshipbetween
their problem to one of the items on your list. (Youcould
also have pictures of the items, which might spur theircreativity
even further.) These relationships may be forced, andthis
may be where the breakthrough comes. Note: Some groups or
individuals will scoff at this idea as silly. Acknowledge
this, but encourage them to try anyway. Theymay be very pleasantly
surprised. Remember too, that the quality comes with quantity
rule applies here. You may need totry more than one or two
forced relationships before real progress is made.
- Geniuses make their thought visible. This
strategy is often put to use in group meetings, but only
atthe lowest level. Recording a groups work on a flipchart,
or whiteboard, is a small step in this direction, but to
take this tothe next level (to the genius level!), you need
to get more visual.
How To Do It. Have members of a group
draw their solutions to a problem, ordraw the results of implementing
their solution. If you want tolook at a variety of solutions
at once, have sub groups do thisfor different scenarios. Focus
the group(s) on making it visualand inclusive of their whole
idea. The goal is to communicate,not wow the group with artistic
abilities. Once the groups havecompleted their drawings, review
all of them to see if newideas, or combinations of ideas are
- Geniuses think in opposites. Often
it is very revealing to examine the opposite of yoursituation,
or ask the opposite question.
How To Do It. Rather than having the
group ask the direct question on theirtask, have them ask
the opposite. For example, if the question is, "How do
we attract new Customers?", more new ideas and insights
might come from asking, "How could we drive all of our
Customers away?" With the answers to the opposite question,
tactics and plans for avoiding this outcome can be developed.
- Geniuses think metaphorically. Aristotle
believed that metaphors were a sign of genius. If theywere
good enough for Aristotle, they should be good enoughfor
How To Do It. Have the group compare their situation
to anything else(another place for your list mentioned above).
The moremetaphors (or analogies) the group can draw between
their situation and these random items the better. The insights
will flow from the discussion of these connections. You can
also ask the group to tell you what they might compare the
situation to, which is another method of initiating the metaphors.
- Geniuses prepare themselves for chance. In
a group situation, this most likely fits after a solution
hasbeen implemented. This "preparation for chance"
will been hanced by the willingness to do two things: admit
mistakes, and spend time reviewing the results of the decision
How To Do It. After a decision is made,
encourage the group to schedule timeto review the results
of the decision. Time might also bescheduled to discuss the
process the group used for coming tothe decision. By reflecting
on the work and the results, often new ideas and improvements
can be found. The decision totake this time is seldom the
natural inclination of a group. Group dynamics are such that
when the result or decision is made, the group is ready to
"cross that item off the list", and move on. As
a facilitator you can provide significant value by encouraging
this review process.
- Geniuses produce. One hallmark of
geniuses is that they produced large quantitiesof work.
The key in groups is this phrase: "The more ideas (or
possible solutions) we produce, the more likely we are toproduce
a great idea." Geniuses not only produced large quantities
of ideas from which their breakthroughs came, but they also
acted on those ideas. So Geniuses not only produceideas,
they produce action.
How to Do It.
When the groups seems to have hit a lull in a brainstorming
session, push them on to think of more ideas (perhaps combining
this thought with other strategies on this list). Remind them
that there is value in quantity and that often the best ideas
come after the easy ones are already out. Challenge them to
add more to the list. Another way to use this strategy is
to force the group to come up with a challenging goal of a
number of ideas before beginning the brainstorming session.
As the facilitator you need to make sure that the number is
sufficiently large, to make sure it will be a challenge.