Tag Archives: innovation

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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Do you resist collaborating? Why?

That “I can do it myself” voice seems to show up now and again,  and when it does,  I sometimes feel like the shoemaker who neglects the holes in her children’s sneakers! That kitchen caper I wrote about last time sure is a good example of this for me, the blogger about collaboration! So what can we do when we feel resistant to collaboration?

Lone Ranger - from a4gpa on Flickr's Creative Commons

I think the first step is to wonder  about why the do-it-yourself voice  shows up at all.

Do-it-yourself reason #1 – It takes too much time to ask someone else for ideas or input. This could be true sometimes but thinking it is always true keeps us from discovering the gems in someone else’s ideas. When  a hospital PR client of mine was called by a member of the press to make a statement on behalf of her organization she had to respond immediately.  However, when she was preparing a summary for her Board of all the items happening within the hospital that might get attention by the press she canvassed all of her direct reports for what they knew.  It’s about making the best choice for the task at hand.

Do-it-yourself reason #2 – I already know how to accomplish the task.  We can sure be know-it-alls!  Remember me with the sureness of where those kitchen items best belong when moving into my new kitchen?  The truth is my partner has discovered a much better placement of the pots and pans after preparing a few meals there.  Showed me, didn’t he!

Do-it-yourself reason #3 – It’s too taxing to resolve the inevitable differences of opinions that result from involving others. Who wants conflict anyway, right?  Wrong.  Sometimes these differences of opinion mix together and transform into a brand new possibility.  Check out the blog of Frans Johansson, the author of The Medici Effect where he relates “intersectional stories”; examples of where innovation comes about from the synergy of differing views.

Maddie Hunter is a business coach who is passionate about exploring the power of collaboration with  her clients.

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?

Crowdsourcing at Netflix

The challenge: Create an algorithm that was 10% better than the one Netflix was currently using to recommend movies to subscribers and win $1,000,000!

The contest began on October 2, 2006 and was expected to take some time. It is a great example of crowdsourcing, or community-based design, which allows organizations to become more porous and tap talent outside of their organization.

“It’s been quite a drama,” said Neil Hunt, Netflix chief product officer. “At first, a whole lot of teams got in — and they got 6-percent improvement, 7-percent improvement, 8-percent improvement, and then it started slowing down, and we got into year two. There was this long period where they were barely making progress, and we were thinking, ‘maybe this will never be won.’

On September 21, 2009 Netflix awarded the $1M Grand Prize to the collaborative team “BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos.” Tune in tomorrow to find out about the role of collaboration in this contest!

Debbie

Being Porous

“Winning companies today have open and porous boundaries and compete by reaching outside their walls to harness external knowledge, resources and capabilities.”

–Wikinomics, by Don Tapscott & Anthony D. Williams

What does it mean to be porous? According to Websters, Porous is an adjective meaning 1. possessing or full of pores; 2a. permeable to fluids, 2b. permeable to outside influences; 3. capable of being penetrated, as in porous national boundaries

Porosity is actually the measure of the void spaces in a material. Examples of porous materials are sponges, cork and sandstone.

When we’re thinking about collaboration, porous might mean:

  • To allow new/different ideas to seep in
  • To be willing to offer your ideas to others
  • To be willing to change your mind
  • To have room for new/different points of view – to not be closed off

In the next few blog posts, we’ll explore a technique for being more porous and an example of a company inviting in external knowledge.

In what circumstances is it easy for you to be porous? When is it most challenging?

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