Tag Archives: brainstorming

Yes And — The Power of Language

Yes And is a technique that is taught in improvisational acting and in communications courses.

In improv, an actor begins supplying some bit of information that helps to create the scene. They may say to another actor “Looks like we’re in for a bad storm.” This is called an offer and the other actor’s job is to accept the offer and support their scene partner. They might say “Yes and I hope that the road doesn’t flood.” The opposite of accepting the offer is blocking, for example, contradicting the offer, which stops the flow of the scene.

Here are a couple of videos that demonstrate this technique:

The Improv Yes-And Rule

The Yes-And Technique

Yes And as a communication technique is meant to raise awareness of when we are dismissive of the ideas of other people. For example, Chris says “We could hire a virtual assistant to handle all the routine work that is using up all of our time.” Lee says “Yes but we’d have to spend time training a VA in how we want things done.”

The “but” in that reply can feel like a rejection of the original idea. Can’t you just hear Chris say “You’re always so negative. How are  we ever going to get out from under if we don’t do anything?”

If Lee said “Yes and we’d have to spend time training a VA in how we want things done.” The conversation might continue in a similar vein. “Yes and we could start the VA in stages to break up the time drain.” Or even “Yes and we’d want to think of a way to minimize the disruption.”

Use the “Yes And” method to acknowledge and accept another’s suggestion and build on it.

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The Rule of Six

A 500-pound man was admitted to the cardiac floor of a local regional hospital last week. In one of my training programs at this hospital, some of the nurses on the obese man’s unit described how difficult it was to care for him.  They told their fellow classmates that the patient continually pressed the call bell. He would ask for water and as soon as that need was filled he would ask for ice or a pillow.

Demanding patients challenge nurses

These nurses ran back and forth into his room all day and into his first night at the hospital.  When comparing notes at the end of the shift, they determined that the man had not been alone all day due to the quick responses of the staff to his every need.

One nurse’s comments stood out to me as I asked the class to share what enabled them to stay responsive and positive with this assertive  patient.  She described the collaboration she builds with a patient when she is assigned his/her care. To start, she tells each patient  that her goal is to collaborate with them to help them heal. In the case of the obese man, she introduced herself and asked him if she could count on him to partner with her.  When he began to ring for her repeatedly, interrupting the care that she was giving to other patients, she began asking herself what could be the reason that the man was so demanding.  She told us that she considered the following ideas:

  • He was scared to be alone
  • He had lost his sense of control over his life so he needed to try to control things on his unit
  • He might have had inattentive service during another hospital visit
  • He was lonely
  • He didn’t know any better about the ways to be your own advocate while in the hospital
  • He had inadequate insurance coverage and knew he would owe a lot of money for his stay.  He was going to insure he got his money’s worth during the visit.

Not knowing if any of these ideas were true didn’t matter to this one nurse.  By considering what might be motivating the patient to behave as he did, she discovered empathy for him as well as more curiosity about his circumstances.  By not jumping to the conclusion that the patient was acting out inappropriately,  she stayed away from judging him and then getting impatient with the way he was trying to partner with her.

The Oneida Indian tradition has a name for the process the nurse used with this large cardiac patient.  It is called The Rule of Six.  This long-standing part of the Oneida world view represents the idea that for any phenomenon, behavior or event, there are at least six possible  explanations for it.

By CarbonNYC at Flickr Creative Commons

The Oneida believe that if you look for six explanations,  you will not lock into the first interpretation you land on.  When applied to our experiences with people, an automatic interpretation of someone’s behavior  is  often not accurate so the discipline of looking for other reasons for some behavior can widen our options for how to respond.

This nurse’s story highlights how the Rule of Six helped her to be quite agile with a demanding patient.  She was able to avoid frustration and to respond to him with continual compassion and interest.   I’m thinking that the Oneida tradition can help all of us to be more emotionally intelligent when dealing with the varied personalities on our teams and in our organizations.  Let us know what your experience has been using this technique.

Maddie

Collaboration Won $1,000,000!

Yesterday I wrote about the Netflix prize — $1,000,000 awarded to the team BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos for creating an algorithm that was 10.06% better at recommending movies that customers would like.

Improvements came quickly and then bogged down. Here are the highlights:

  • 2007 $50,000 progress prize —  BellKor with an 8.43% improvement
  • 2008 $50,000 progress prize — BellKor in BigChaos with a 9.44% improvement. This team was a combination of the two front runners BellKor and Big Chaos
  • 2009 $1,000,000 grand prize — BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos at 10.06%. This team was a combination of BelKor in Big Chaos and Pragmatic Theory. Another collaborative team, the Ensemble (a merger of the Grand Prize Team and Opera Solutions and Valdelay United), tied but their final submission was submitted 20 minutes later.

“This has been one of the wonderful discoveries in the competition, that blending teams can lead to substantial gains…” said Chris Volinsky, a scientist at AT&T Research and a member of BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos Team. Blending different technical skills (statistical and machine-learning techniques) “only works well if you combine models that approach the problem differently. That’s why collaboration has been so effective, because different people approach problems differently.”

Some of the factors that affected predictions were:

  • people rate movies they saw a long time ago differently than the ones they saw recently
  • movie watchers tend to rate movies differently on Fridays versus Mondays
  • a rating given on a Monday is a poor indicator of other movies the viewer will like

Other companies are also using crowdsourcing to solve real problems. Check out these websites to see some of the opportunities offered through these clearinghouse sites:

What problem would you like to solve by offering a prize?

Collaborating With an Expert

Here are some of the ways that Gwyn Nichols has helped with our book writing project.

by psd on flickr creative commons

Gwyn’s belief in us and excitement about our topic and kept us connected with our goal until we were able to set aside time to work on it more concretely.

She took our Collaborability assessment and created an online survey so that we could collect more data as well as demographic information. The survey included write-in comments about what participants would like to learn about collaboration and traits they thought were important for effective collaboration.

Gwyn facilitated our writer’s retreat in Chicago virtually. Together we planned our approach and she suggested multiple check-in calls. During those calls we talked about our progress, where we were stuck and our next steps. Gwyn typed up notes and emailed them to us.

The check-in calls kept us focused. Comments like “You guys have a dozen books to write. Which one do you want to start with?” helped us understand why things seemed like a jumble at times and to see a way to get clear.

One of our goals for the retreat was to start a blog. Maddie wrote the “Our Story” blog post and Gwyn edited it for us. She also commented on our blog posts and quoted them in her own blog. How encouraging!

Gwyn gave us tips on how to write when there’s no time. My favorite is the one about rewarding yourself which I wrote about in a previous post.

Who has served as a catalyst in your life or work? What have they done that has been helpful?

Pressed Into Collaborative Service

Be forewarned! If you go out to dinner with me on a day when I didn’t get to write, you may be pressed into collaborative service. Such was the fate of my husband and friends last night.

by Angela Rutherford on flickr creative commons

Writing – blog posts and book pages – is my top priority from now until March and I am applying reward incentives to keep myself focused. One of those is “No wine until I write two!” The two is two blog posts (to stay ahead of the game), two pages (on the book) or two genuine hours of writing (even if it doesn’t yield a finished product).

Yesterday got away from me before I could write my quota. With me at dinner were my husband George, and friends Mike and Diane. We’d already ordered the wine so I had to act quickly. I asked, “Can someone give me two examples of how collaboration worked for you this week?” Both Mike and Diane came up with an answer. I’ll save Diane’s collaboration example for another day.

Mike talked about finding a problem with the way a customer’s data was showing up on reports that his company produces. He got his team together to solve the issue, considering whether the data was coming in incorrectly, what happened to the data next, finding the source of the problem, deciding if it applied to other customers and estimating the cost of fixing it. The point of the story was that the team collaboration helped to resolve the issue quickly.

Much to Mike’s dismay, Diane and George started asking him a whole lot of questions, attempting to collaboratively solve the issue all over again! My glass of wine was perched at my place-setting waiting for me to take my first sip so I asked Mike if he needed any help and he said “No everything is being handled.” Yahoo!

The moral is: If you’re out to dinner with me and supply an example be sure to start by stating what help, if any, you need. Hmmm…that’s a tip that might work in other situations too.

How do you motivate yourself to stay focused on your priorities?

Debbie

Collaborating Long Distance

Shackleton was not impressed by our ideas

I have a lot of experience with collaborating long distance and find that it works quite well.  For example, yesterday I met by phone with Maddie Hunter, who lives in NJ, and Gwyn Nichols who is here in AZ. We talked for about an hour or so, brainstorming and planning a presentation that we will give in a few months.

Then, we divided up some assignments and  hung up to write individually for a half-hour. We emailed our drafts and got back on the phone to discuss and edit and plan next steps. It was productive and fun, and together we came up with ideas that would not have occurred to us individually.

We’ve used google docs (docs.google.com)to brainstorm by writing ideas simultaneously in a spreadsheet and to store documents that we both need to access. Now we’re trying a collaborative online project management software program that Gwyn introduced us to – viewpath.net. Has anyone ever tried it?

What tools do you use to collaborate long distance?

Debbie

Collaborating with yourself?


Photo by mil8 from creative commons of flikr.com

I was conducting our Maximize Your Performance through Collaboration workshop and mentioned that an over-expressed strength can also be a challenge. As an example, I used my strength of taking responsibility for things (sometimes everything!!!). While it is truly a strength, when over-employed, it can inhibit the contributions of others.

One of the participants was nodding his head and shared this story. “I learned an important lesson early on in my Navy career. I was feeling pretty good about a brainstorming session I’d just had with my staff.”

“My superior said ‘Congratulations! You just did a great job collaborating…with yourself!’ He was right. Most of the ideas that we generated came from me. I never forgot that lesson.”

Do you have a strength that gets in the way of collaborating?

Debbie