Category Archives: Facilitation

Conflict is “the lifeblood of high performing organisations”


By Elisabeth Goodman, 28th April 2018

I’ve just been reading booklet number 10: Conflict Management, in the “Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman et al.

The authors have some powerful insights on the benefits of conflict and how to address or facilitate it constructively, both as an individual participant, and as a team leader.

The benefits of conflict

George Kolrieser is the originator of the quote in the title of this blog: conflict is the “lifeblood of high performing organisations”.

He and Amy Gallo give a great overview of the benefits that conflict can bring to groups as well as to individuals.  Their views are a confirmation of why “storming” is such a vital step in the stages of team development.

Stages of team development_Elisabeth Goodman

Stages of team development, adapted from Tuckman

Conflict is the result of the discussions and disagreements that arise from diverse points of view.

For a group, when conflict is handled effectively, people will have the courage to speak up, take risks and listen to and consider other’s perspectives.  In such a climate, conflict will generate energy, creativity, change, improved performance, innovation and a more strongly bonded team.

For individuals who accept conflict as something positive, it will give them:

  • better results – because they are considering others’ viewpoints
  • learning and development – through self-reflection on their reactions to conflict as well as understanding of others’
  • improved relationships – through being open to conflict, and the strength they gain each time they respond positively to it
  • job satisfaction – through not feeling worried or stressed about conflict at work

“Put the fish on the table”

This metaphor is also supplied by George Kolrieser.  It comes from Sicily, where fishermen will lay their catch out on a table and deal with all the messy preparation of it together. (The opposite metaphor would be to let the fish rot under the table.)

catania160

“Put the fish on the table” – photo from http://galenf.com/Sicily/catania160.jpg

In this situation, as George Kolrieser describes, the people involved are openly raising and discussing the issues involved.  They are seeking a win:win resolution, without aggression or hostility.

This approach to conflict resolution is founded on achieving a common goal, or, as Richard Boyatzis puts it, an “overarching objective”.

The people involved are able to feel and demonstrate respect for each other – although they don’t have to like each other!

How individuals can address conflict

The following approach is my take on those described in the booklet by Amy Gallo, George Pitagorsky and Matthew Lippincott.

Addressing conflict

  1. Be self-aware.  This is about taking time to assess how you are feeling: your emotional response to the situation; stepping-back.
  2. Adjust your mindset. Considering the conflict as an opportunity rather than a problem; one where you can help others as well as yourself.
  3. Consider the other’s perspectives.  Show your interest in what they have to say; ask diplomatic questions; empathise; treat it as a learning opportunity.  Be aware that the organisational context may have some bearing on their perspective.
  4. Prepare your response.  Think about what the common goal might be.  Choose an appropriate time and place to have the discussion.
  5. Achieve closure.  Make sure that both parties reach agreement on a decision and on the resultant action, and that they follow-through.

Amy Gallo has some additional useful tips on how an individual can help themselves by unloading their emotions before having a discussion – perhaps with a ‘neutral’ third party.  They can also practise the discussion with a third party.  And of course it’s important to know when to take time out to deal with your emotions and calm down.

How leaders can facilitate conflict resolution

George Kolrieser’s “secure base leadership” concept is about providing individuals with both a safe and challenging environment to work within.  This applies to how they help their team members deal with conflict, as well as to day-to-day management.

Leaders can create a climate for positive conflict by:

  1. Positively promoting the differences within the team
  2. Helping people to get to know each other in a deeper way (which is why face-to-face team building activities are so valuable)
  3. Encouraging and supporting people to speak up
  4. Personally accepting conflict, risk-taking and failure as promoters of growth

They can facilitate discussions to deal with conflict by:

  1. Recognising when conflict is happening, and acting on it early
  2. Learning to put their own emotions aside (keeping their emotions “under wraps”)
  3. Tuning in to what the individuals are experiencing emotionally, their ideas and perspectives
  4. Facilitating the conversation – using all the strategies described for the individual in the section above

Conclusion

Dealing with conflict is not easy!  So much of it is learning to separate automatic emotional responses from the issues involved.  Those issues may be to do with the relationship of the ‘protagonists’ and/or with a particular topic.

However, like just about anything in life, the more we learn to deal with conflict, the more we will learn about ourselves and others, and the better we will get at reaping the associated benefits!

And sometimes… it may just be about choosing the battles we want to fight, as well as when and how to do so…

Notes

About the author. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals). Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

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The Effective Team’s Facilitation Workbook – a preview of what’s to come


By Elisabeth Goodman, 27th February 2018

Cover illustration for “The Effective Team’s Facilitation Workbook”, RiverRhee Publishing (in press)

What’s special about facilitation?

Does the prospect of working with a room full of total strangers (or colleagues even) fill you with excitement?  Do you get a glow of pleasure when you see people literally lighting up with a break-through in their thinking?

It was one such moment in an otherwise unremarkable and gloomy hotel meeting room in the early 2000’s somewhere in Philadelphia that confirmed to me that I wanted to be a facilitator.

I get a buzz from creating situations where people can think differently about what they are doing, and come up with new perspectives and ideas that will help them to move forward.  It doesn’t have to be a major breakthrough.  It could be some small incremental improvement, or just feeling happier and more in control of their work.

As a facilitator you are responsible for providing the setting, the atmosphere or the mood and the tools that will enable people to productively think through whatever it is that they have set out to do.

You need to:

  • Properly understand the client’s brief and go beyond that to address what they might not have said or considered themselves.
  • Ensure that whoever is providing the room has included everything you asked for, and expect to have to improvise on the day for the un-anticipated omissions and quirks of the venue.
  • Be prepared for whatever unpredictable emotions and dynamics might arise whenever a group of people get together for the day.
  • Be knowledgeable about and skillfull with the tools that you bring to the workshop and how you use them to facilitate the content of the discussion.
  • Manage your own energy, thinking and emotions throughout the day!

RiverRhee Publishing – The Effective Team’s Workbooks

This book, “The Effective Team’s Facilitation Workbook”, the last in my series of five workbooks for teams, is a celebration of all the aspects I have learnt over the years to help me enjoy being a facilitator.  I hope it will help others to do the same.

And by the way, I would love to hear from other enthusiasts who would be interested in contributing to my book – do get in touch..

Understanding the client and clarifying the goal

  • What would you like to have happen?
  • What will success mean to you?
  • What would you like to have seen, heard, thought and felt by the end of the workshop?

These are all great questions, taken from “Clean Language” and NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) to help facilitators understand their client’s goal for a workshop.

A mind map of possibilities: NLP as a resource to help you understand others as well as yourself…..

What you are trying to get at is their unspoken assumptions and images of a perfect outcome.  Good questions, careful listening and observation will be key for helping them to achieve their goal.

Whatever approach you’ve used for a previous client is no guarantee of success with the next one.  Test out your ideas with them.  Give them examples of what has or has not worked with others.

The icing on the cake?  My two greatest learnings in terms of addressing a client’s requirements have been to:

  • Prepare an extra take-away for your client:  a strategic insight, principle, model that goes beyond the content that they will have generated in the workshop
  • Be open to flexing your approach in the workshop to respond to what happens; but check with the client before doing so!

Taking care of meeting room logistics

There will be obvious requirements like audio-visual, flip-charts, wifi access and refreshments.  However it’s the meeting room itself that typically proves the most challenging.

Meeting venues typically offer board-room, theatre-style or cafeteria (or cabaret)-style seating.  They also cite room size based on the number of seats that can be fitted into the room with these configurations.

What they don’t typically allow for is people being able to move around in the room, put materials up on the walls, and huddle into groups where they can cut out the noise from the other groups!

RiverRhee’s training courses and workshops for managers and teams are typically highly interactive.

Being offered separate break-out rooms does not necessarily help if you are the only facilitator and so will end up having to flit backwards and forwards.

As a facilitator I typically ask for rooms that are three times the usual allocated size.  I ask if and how I will be able to put materials up on walls, or alternatively on poster boards.  And I still get caught out by round pillars, large paintings taking up all the available wall space, and my posters falling off the walls!

There is also the question of what materials you use during the event, and what hand-outs you provide. Do you want to give people something tangible to take away with them to remind them of key learnings and actions?

managing the emotions and dynamics in a workshop

What do you do if someone in your workshop is:

  • Totally unengaged?
  • Dominates the conversation (in a negative way)?
  • Visibly upset?

All of these and more have happened to me! Bearing in mind that people are giving a day of their life (or however long the workshop is) to this event, I take responsibility, as far as I can, for making it a positive and productive experience for everyone.

This means starting with the participants being committed to being there, and being engaged with what’s happening.

Sending out pre-work and agendas in advance will help participants to prepare, to think about their expectations, and to share these with you – to help you prepare.

Whilst it may not always be appropriate to use personality tools such as MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) or Belbin Team Roles during a workshop – being aware of different personality types and preferences helps me to cater for, build rapport with and respond to the diversity of participants.

Laying out and agreeing ground-rules for behaviour can help.  And, as a facilitator, I have been comfortable to ‘name’ lack of engagement or unhelpful contributions.  Having a second facilitator or ‘helper’ from the client group has also been an invaluable source of support in dealing with these situations or when someone has been upset.

choosing the right tools for facilitation

Where to begin?  There are so many tools for a facilitator to use – it’s like a box of goodies.  In “The Effective Team’s Facilitation Workbook” I will organise my favourite tools by theme.

The best tools are those that help people to think, to have discussions, to build and develop ideas.  Ideally, they cater for different thinking styles too.

Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats is a great tool to work with people’s different thinking styles.  Illustration from “The Effective Team’s High Performance Workbook”, RiverRhee Publishing, 2014

And how do you share these tools?  What role should slide presentations, flip-charts, laminated materials etc… play?

These are some of the themes I’m thinking of including in my new book and the list is likely to evolve…

  • Ice-breakers.  There is an enormous range of tools available for getting people warmed up and engaged with the day.  Tools to help ‘break the ice’ in terms of interaction with other delegates, and with the facilitator(s).  Tools to put people at ease and starting to think about the content.  I won’t attempt to recreate this list, but will instead include a few of my favourites and resources for finding others.
  • Process improvement and problem solving.  There are methodologies for this such as Lean and Six Sigma that come ready made with great tools to use.  I’ve covered a lot of them in “The Effective Team’s Operational Excellence Workbook” so I’ll just pick out a few that could suit more general workshops.
  • Team building and development. Again, I have referenced several of these in “The Effective Team’s High Performance Workbook”.  The team temperature check or diagnostic is particularly powerful.
  • Creativity and innovation.  I’ve enjoyed working with David Hall and his team in the Ideas Centre and am honour bound not to share their tools.  But there are other creativity tools out there in the public domain such as SCAMPER that people can have some fun with.

Managing yourself as a facilitator

Being a facilitator might be fun, but it can also be lonely and stressful!  Here are some of the tactics that I’ve found can help:

  1. Refer back to the client’s goals and your agreed role in delivering against them.  Keep that in mind…
  2. Have a co-facilitator.  Bring your own co-facilitator if the contract allows for it, and/or agree someone from the client group.  The latter is especially helpful to provide you with an inside perspective and a route for influencing the client.
  3. Give yourself opportunities for feedback and for reflection.  Plan the agenda so that you can have chats with the client and/or delegates to find out how things are going from their perspective.  Talk to your co-facilitator if you have one.  Grab moments to check -in with yourself for instance whilst break-out exercises are in full swing and during breaks.
  4. Know what you need to keep yourself energised, focused and positive and prepare resources to help you with that!

To conclude, as I mentioned at the start of this blog, the notes above are a preview of what I will be including in “The Effective Team’s Facilitation Workbook”, RiverRhee Publishing.  My working publication date is 3rd December but I may manage to release it sooner.

I would love to hear from anyone else who is interested in this topic, and would also welcome offers from those who would like to contribute to the book.

Notes

My four previous workbooks are all available through the RiverRhee Publishing website or from Amazon.

RiverRhee Publishing – The Effective Team’s Workbooks

They are:

  • The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook, RiverRhee Publishing 2013
  • The Effective Team’s High Performance Workbook, RiverRhee Publishing 2014
  • The Effective Team’s Operational Excellence Workbook, RiverRhee Publishing 2015
  • The Effective Team’s Knowledge Management Workbook, RiverRhee Publishing 2016

“The Effective Team’s Facilitation Workbook” will be available in Autumn / Winter 2018 from the same sources.

About the author. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We support our clients through courses, workshops and personal one-to-one coaching.)  Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals). Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

How learning to draw can make you better at solving problems


By Elisabeth Goodman, 29th August, 2015

Why learn to draw?

Minerve in the Languedoc - an artist's delight!

Minerve in the Languedoc – an artist’s delight!

I’m a Francophile: I read French novels, my current favourites being Fred Vargas’s series featuring the detective Adamsberg. I spend my summer holidays in the Languedoc in the South of France, soaking up the sunshine, delicious fruit and vegetables, dramatic landscapes and ad hoc conversations with the locals. I’ve even started up a French conversation group for our local U3A, which will be kicking off this September.

The latest Fred Vargas book “Temps Glaciaires” has many references to Adamsberg, the self-effacing, daydreaming ‘Commissaire’ of his Paris-based criminal investigation branch, using his drawings to help him work out the current mystery.

Adamsberg’s generally more logical and analytical colleagues either find him intensely frustrating or absolutely revere him. Needless to say the combination of their analytical and fact-finding skills, and his day-dreaming, doodling and pursuit of apparently irrelevant clues invariably enable them to solve their crimes.

Last summer I also began drawing, experiencing a week full of discoveries of my up till then relatively underdeveloped artistic skills. (Cubertou art holidays.) I decided to continue this personal journey this summer with Betty Edwards’ “Drawing on the right side of the brain”. To my astonishment her book referenced the value that the added perceptions gained from drawing can bring to solving problems in business environments! I could not wait to discover more and whether, simultaneously, I might gain more insights into Vargas’s portrayal of Adamsberg.

L-mode and R-mode thinking

We already know that parts of the brain are good at analytical and logical thinking, and others at creative thinking. These used to be referred to as the left and right sides of the brain respectively, at least for right-handed people, and vice versa for left-handed people. The distinction is no longer believed to be so clear cut. Edwards, who has had the benefit of consulting with neuropsychologist, neurobiologist, and Nobel laureate Dr Roger W. Sherry, refers, for convenience, to L-mode and R-mode thinking.

Edwards asserts that learning to draw stimulates and develops R-mode thinking and so is as important to our overall intellectual development as verbal and analytical L-mode skills. Yet our education system tends to focus only on the latter. As a result, many of us have drawing skills that ceased development in our childhood or adolescence, when we became frustrated at not being able to create anything that ‘looked real’. Edwards, who has documented her workshops in editions of her book spanning three decades, believes she can teach even the least confident amongst us to draw. What I’ve learnt from her so far suggests that she is right!

The five basic skills of drawing

Edwards takes her students through five basic skills or perceptions of drawing, skills that I’m part-way through discovering.

Edges define the boundaries between the earth and the sky, the side of a nail on a finger. The contour of one is also the contour of the other, like the connections of jig-saw pieces.

Contour drawing (edges) of hand

Contour drawing (edges) of hand

Spaces. Focusing on the spaces in between or around shapes – ‘negative spaces’ – can help us to define and draw, almost effortlessly, the actual shape (‘positive space’) of things. This is the stage of development that I’ve got to so far and, as Edward promises, I’m already getting a real sense of enjoyment from my new skills!

Drawing of a bench using negative spaces - Lac de Ravieges, France

Drawing of a bench using negative spaces – Lac de Ravieges, France

Relationships are about perspective and proportion: perhaps one of the strongest examples of how R-mode perception can overcome the bias of L-mode thinking. One of the strengths of L-mode thinking is in being able to create ‘symbols’ to represent what we know. A sort of short-hand so that we don’t have to think about things from scratch each time. So we know for example that a cube is represented by squares and right angles. All the legs of a chair have the same length. And so on. But of course when we start to actually draw a cube, or the legs of a chair to create the 3-dimensional effect, what the R-mode perceives is something quite different.

The other two skills are perceptions of light and shadow, and perception of the ‘gestalt‘: being able to see the whole as well as the parts.

Drawing of a chair - edges, spaces, and preliminary attempt at relationships, light and shadow!

Drawing of a chair – edges, spaces, and preliminary attempt at relationships, light and shadow!

The relevance of drawing skills to problem solving

I’ve written a few blogs, listed in the notes below, on intuition and problem solving. Our abilities to follow sequential steps, spot patterns and to set up and test theories are powerful tools, but they can also cause us to be biased, to focus on positive evidence, and be reluctant to shift to a new paradigm of thinking.

Adamsberg’s colleagues, without giving too much away, become stuck in a paradigm whilst he keeps on doodling and giving his subconscious (an important R-mode ally) free play.

Edwards suggests that the skills of drawing can give us additional ways to visualise and perceive a problem, as illustrated for instance by one involving a client and a service provider.

The edges can help us to define, for example, whether what the client requires and what the provider supplies fit well together. They might also represent how the cultures or ways of working of the two converge, or diverge; and how closely the finances available and those required are reconciled.

Similarly, the shapes made by any gaps between desired outcomes and current inputs might naturally define how these gaps are to be addressed, and so on with the other three skills of drawing.

I must admit I will need to do some more practising with drawing and R-mode thinking to understand this application more fully.

The five stages of creativity – another L-mode and R-mode model for problem solving

Edwards introduces another model in her penultimate chapter: the five stages of creativity, evolved from the discoveries of Hermann von Helmholtz, Henri Poincare, Jacob Getzels and George Kneller. Edwards suggests that these five stages might benefit from shifts between the two modes of thinking as follows:

First Insight – R-mode leads the realisation that there is a problem to be addressed and what the nature of that problem is

Saturation – L-mode leads the research for all the facts and information that might support the resolution of the problem (this is the bit that Adamsberg’s team supports quite well)

Incubation – R-mode leads the wordless, sub-conscious process of mulling over the problem and how all the facts and information might fit (Adamsberg’s forte). Edwards teaches us ways to ‘turn off’ the L-mode of thinking to make space for the R-mode. It results in a very peaceful ‘being in the zone’ style of meditation that I experienced in last summer’s art holiday as well as whilst working on Edwards’ exercises. Dave Hall’s Idea Centre also has exercises that do this (as referenced in my previous blog Facilitation – some new ideas?).

Illumination – both modes come together in an ‘aha’ of finding the solution: for many the most exciting and enjoyable of the whole creative process

Verification – L-mode led, planning out how the solution to the problem will be put in place

Adamsberg and his team certainly exemplify this five stage approach and how their respective skills support this.

What next?

Is this an area that you have some insights about?

Do you draw? If not, might you consider learning?

Do you play a musical instrument and if so what is the impact of that on L-mode and R-mode thinking?

For my part, I will continue working through Edwards’s book: to build on the excitement of developing my drawing skills, and my exploration of how I can help my clients benefit more fully from my and their R-mode thinking. I know that Dave Hall’s creativity workshops, that I am continuing to attend, will have more to offer in this space too.

Notes…

Here are some of my previous blogs on intuition, left and right brain thinking, and referencing Gary Klein and Malcolm Gladwell, that you might like to look at:

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just under 6 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management).

Facilitation – some new ideas?


By Elisabeth Goodman, 21st May 2015

The Ideas Centre – a great resource for creative thinking

I recently had the opportunity to attend one of Dave Hall’s workshops from The Ideas Centre. Dave regularly holds off-site and in-house workshops where he introduces delegates to principles and tools to stimulate their creative thinking, and so enables them to find novel solutions for their problems, issues, challenges and opportunities.

I found the workshop tremendously insightful, not only to reflect on one of my own business questions, but also to challenge my thinking as a trainer and facilitator. (See also one of my previous blogs – Reflections of a team facilitator.)

Using Lego for solution development

Using Lego with The Ideas Centre for solution development

The picture above represents the ‘solution’ I found to my business question. I would strongly recommend one of Dave’s workshops to help you explore how you can use Lego and his other ‘tools’ for addressing your own challenges.

In the meantime, here are three things I discovered and will be exploring further in my work as a trainer and facilitator.

Facilitators should take an active role in idea generation

One of the challenges facilitators often have is finding the right balance between addressing the content as opposed to the process of what they are facilitating. Whilst Dave is adamant about there being a clear problem owner for idea generation, and this person never being the facilitator, he does allow the latter to be more actively engaged in the discussion than might traditionally be the case.

So, for example, the facilitator is the one that holds the pen in the discussion. He or she will actively ask questions both to clarify the problem, and to generate ideas. So far this is not too unconventional.

Where Dave introduces a different element is that the facilitator is also ‘allowed’ to make suggestions that will help to shape the problem owner’s thinking. This is true whether the facilitator knows something about the subject area or not. In fact the problem owner will benefit from as much input as possible, and so the facilitator should definitely support this too.

At the end of the day though, the problem owner will be the one to select the final solution, and the facilitator has a key responsibility to enable the process for getting to that point.

Naive participants are invaluable for idea generation

Break-out groups are a core element of my work as a trainer and as a facilitator. They give participants the opportunity to explore new principles and tools in more depth, and to apply them to their own issues and challenges.

I have typically (up to now) encouraged participants in break-out groups, in both my off-site and on-site workshops, to work with people who are doing something similar to them, so that they can add their expertise to that of the problem owner’s. In fact some delegates have expressed anxiety when they have not felt sufficiently knowledgeable about the area being explored.

However, such content ‘naivety’ is, according to Dave, to be actively encouraged. Participants who are not familiar with the subject area are more likely to challenge assumptions, and to bring in novel ideas which, whether useful or not, will encourage the more divergent thinking that is critical to innovation.

This is something that I had previously only been subconsciously aware of.  Now I will make more active use of ‘naïve’ participants, whilst also ensuring that the problem owner has other subject matter experts to support him or her.

Emotions will support rather than hinder innovation

My courses on management skills, and on Lean and Six Sigma typically include sessions on continuous improvement. As Dave rightly pointed out, there is something of a gap between this kind of incremental innovation, which is obviously still useful and important, and breakthrough innovation. In fact delegates at my workshops sometimes want opportunities for more blue-sky thinking and, I do look for ways to enable that too.

However one principle that Lean and Six Sigma techniques strongly uphold is the fundamental importance of facts and data. Subjective or emotional problem statements such as ‘this process is taking far too long’ are strongly discouraged, and instead must be written for example as ‘this process is taking 2 hours longer than it should’. This then sets the scene for exploring all the root causes for the problem.

The Ideas Centre has its own methodology for articulating problems that paves the way for generating solutions, but what is particularly novel is how they encourage the problem owner to use emotional language. The impact in the workshop was startling. What was otherwise a dry and somewhat boring statement turned into something that grabbed everyone’s attention and committed them to finding a solution.

Using more emotional problem statements is definitely something I will be experimenting with when a client is willing to explore something other than the more purist approach to Lean and Six Sigma.

My courses also address how to manage change, where winning hearts as well as minds is such a critical factor for success. I will be experimenting with the use of emotional problem statements in this context too.

Notes

You can find out more about The Ideas Centre from their website.

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the recently renamed Methods and Standards theme for the Enabling Change SIG.

 

De Bono’s thinking course. An essential facilitator’s tool?


By Elisabeth Goodman, 24th January 2015

Edward De Bono’s thinking course

One of the aspects of my local library that I particularly enjoy is the way I might serendipitously discover a gem of a book that the staff have either casually or deliberately put on display. One such recent discovery was Edward De Bono’s “Thinking Course: Powerful tools to transform your thinking

De Bono’s book caught my eye because the methods I’ve already learnt from him: mind mapping, and the “six thinking hats” have become an integral part of the way I work, and the tools that I pass on to others as a trainer and coach, and also as a facilitator. So I was curious as to what other lasting approaches I might learn from him in that vein.

The book proved to be a veritable treasure trove and I was delighted to discover that the term for another skill that I’ve enjoyed for years “lateral thinking” is actually one that he coined!

Facilitating workshops

One of the activities I particularly enjoy is facilitating workshops. This is when I create an environment where people have the time, the comfort, and the tools to really think about how they are approaching their work, and how they can do so in a more enjoyable and productive way.

De Bono’s “Thinking Course” is all about developing our skill in thinking, so that we are more conscious of which approaches we are using, how we are using them, and how we could use them more effectively in any given situation. As he says, it’s a bit like practising a sport where we might have a choice about which golf club, tennis stroke, or volleyball position to adopt to achieve the desired result.

The six thinking hats

De Bono’s “six thinking hats” (which incidentally is not mentioned, at least in the edition of the book that I read) is a good illustration of this more deliberate approach to thinking. It is somewhat of an introduction, and also a synopsis of some of the approaches in the Thinking Course, although the book also develops these approaches and others more fully.

Edward De Bono's Six Thinking Hats as they might be used

Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats as they might be used

The “six thinking hats” encourage us to objectively consider what we already know (the white hat) and to exercise creative or divergent thinking to come up with new ideas (the green hat). With the yellow hat we look for the strengths of potential solutions, before narrowing down or converging the options by considering what won’t work (the black hat).  The red hat allows us to  consider our ‘gut feelings’. The sixth, blue, hat is like the director of the orchestra or the facilitator. It enables us to consider how we are thinking and whether we might like to think things through further or differently.

Become a flexible and creative thinker

In “The thinking course” De Bono encourages us to move beyond the traditional ‘for’ and ‘against’ confines of critical thinking, and the natural limitations of our perceptions and to engage our creativity. He provides lots of tools and exercises for approaches in addition to ‘lateral’ thinking. He suggests a framework for how people might set up “thinking clubs”, which is intriguing in his assertion of how much people can achieve in sequences of as little as 2-6 minutes of thinking.

The more creative and flexible thinking advocated by De Bono, and the techniques he suggests should be invaluable for problem solving, decision making, innovation, and thinking in general. I will certainly be adding them to my facilitator’s tool kit.

How could you make the most of your thinking?

Are you a facilitator and/or interested in how you and your team solve problems, make decisions and innovate?  What approach do you take to thinking things through?

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We using coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Capabilities & Methods pillar for the Enabling Change SIG.