Facilitation of Ideas and Creativity
As a manager of those who perform geek work it is important to create a safe haven for people to contribute ideas and their creativity to the problem at hand. The main goal of management should be to be an excellent facilitator. This means making sure each individual in the group feels like they can contribute their creative ideas to the problem without fear of any sort of retribution or judgment. People don’t want to feel stupid when they say something, this leads to feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, and shame. If they do think they will be mocked or ridiculed by the group or a member of the group each time they put forth an idea they think may be a bit outside of the box or has a good start, but may have a few rough edges or holes they can’t patch, they will just keep the idea bottled in. An idea that could be the next huge thing, or an innovative new concept that no one else has ever thought of. You simply cannot place a value on these ideas or concepts and making sure that group members have every opportunity possible to express their ideas and feel like they can do so safety is a main object of the manager of geeks.
In order to be a good facilitator the manager must make rules and lead the meeting in a particular directions through a sequence of exercises. Typically, each meeting will begin with a brief. This shouldn’t be a huge mundane 3 page look of what the meeting will entail, it should be just a one or two sentence stating the purpose and direction we would like the meeting to go. The next portion of the meeting will entail the generation of ideas. Now in the portion it is EXTREMELY important no one criticizes or critiques any ideas, but it simply to generate as many ideas as possible. A good way to accomplish this task to is set aside 10, 15, or 20 minutes of time to allow people to write down as many ideas as possible. Also, it has been my experience in the class room, that the larger the group the less likely people are to feel safe and the less likely the are to contribute. To avoid this problem, one should keep the group between 5 and 10 members. This will allow each member to easily be heard in a short period of time and also give the group a better opportunity to feel comfortable expressing their ideas.
The next portion of the meeting is to poke holes and POSITIVELY critique the ideas we have gathered. For example, ‘saying I don’t like this idea it is stupid’ is not a good critique. Belittling anyone for there ideas or allowing any judgment on the person to take place will cause detrimental conflicts which will cause other meetings to a total failure. A good critique would be something like, ‘well I like this idea, but it would be difficult to implement with the current technology’. It is important to go through each idea and discover any weaknesses that it may hold. Everyone should have an opportunity to point out any flaws in an idea. This is not the portion of the meeting where a defense is held for an idea, no portion of the meeting is reserved for this.
The final portion of the meeting will consist of taking the any of the ideas generated and combining them with other ideas, or changing them slightly to overcome the weaknesses discovered in that idea. For example, ‘we could combine idea 1 and idea 2, while it may be difficult to implement with the current technology, I think we can alter it slightly to make it work quickly and efficiently’. This portion of the meeting is where all the magic happens. People are making links with ideas they never would have thought of by themselves and generating a solid solution. The best thing about this technique of facilitation is the fact that one person may not have any good ideas in the beginning or can’t see how their particular idea fits into the solution as a whole, and a completely different person can make that fundamental link to make it a beautiful solution.
If managers follow this simple pattern for their next meeting, they can be sure to accomplish the task of being a good facilitator and creating a safe environment for ideas and creativity to flow amongst the members. Better yet, they can help a group of geeks produce an amazing and potential game changing idea. It is important the manager takes the reigns and manages the group in a secure manor, but is equally important their not holding the hand of each individual stifling their creative thinking. The key here is to create a safe environment for people to contribute. If your geeks are able to contribute their ideas to the group, critique these ideas as a group, and link the ideas and flaws together to create a complete solution, the solution has become the solution of the group, not just the solution of just one person from one perspective.