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2 hints for better ideas in workshops

Could it be that the main purpose of workshops is to boost sales of voting dots?

What may seem trivial and inane – a discussion about dots – is actually about giving good ideas a chance. And I have two great hints for you.

I like using workshops. I also understand their pitfalls.

I love the way you can bring truly diverse people together. I love the way that diversity can help you get to a totally new place. And I love the fact that participants feel like co-authors of the ideas that emerge. With a whole new kind of commitment to the output.

Let me declare at the outset: I am no psychologist. I’m no sociologist. And I am no anthropologist. (I do have a talented anthropologist in the family – sadly, it’s not me.) But I have always been fascinated (and horrified) when it came to ‘voting dot’ time in workshops. (Let me be clear, I’m not advocating for dots – merely recognising they get used a lot.)

I feel certain you’ve had this experience: All the ideas are up on the wall on Post-its. Come voting time, people glance around furtively and then – without fail – place a dot on their own idea. And the more politically-aware – having voted for their own – stand back, watch their bosses and vote where they vote.

Imagine the moderator gives out no more than around 3 dots. If everyone votes for their own as a matter of course, that seems like a third of the votes are wasted on ego. With yet more wasted being ‘sucky’.

Here are 2 suggestions to get you a better outcome:

As taught at Stanford, brief the participants to ‘pretend everyone else’s idea is better than yours’. Which is a cute way of saying: ‘you may not vote for your own’.

Thing is, I’ve tried both ways for comparison and the more gently phrased Californian way really works a treat, making participants feel generous, not chastised.

The second hint I want to pass on comes from the same source:

Create 3 classes of voting dot for new ideas:

Ideas we really like that we know the business can execute.

Ideas that we love which are a stretch given where the business is now

Those ideas that are darlings but real long shots – they’d make everyone stand up and take notice and they’d probably be hard to pull off.

At worst, you know you have a banker.

You may well encourage some ‘Goldilocks’ thinking, encourage a stretch and end up with the second group.

And if you’re working with someone like the inspirational Don Meij (for example) – tighten your seat-belt, you’re in for an exhilarating ride.

Seen simply as voting dots they are small and insignificant. Seen for what they represent – the ability to galvanise action behind truly magical ideas – please give them your all.

Don’t let precious, fragile ideas die in the name of ego or ingratiation.

Take time. Imagine what could be. And then vote so you have a range from ambitious to downright terrifying.

That’s the true value of a little voting dot.

Please follow me on Twitter: @MarkSareff

Follow Mark Sareff’s series here.

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