Tuesday Tip: A practical exercise to get your team to think differently.
I need to get my team to ‘think differently’ – to come up with a ‘better way of doing things’ – how can I get them to understand this in order to find this ‘better way’?
Here is a fun and participative exercise that will help achieve this outcome.
If you have a large group of people then divide them into teams of no more than 12. Doing this exercise with one team of 5 or more people will also work well.
The objective of the exercise is to pass a ball (a table tennis ball is ideal) from hand to hand in the shortest possible time. It has to touch the hand (just one hand) of every person in the team in a sequential order starting and ending with the same person. If you have two uneven teams (for example one team of 6 and the other team with 7) then for the team with more people, the ball doesn’t have to end with the person who initiated the exercise. This means that for both teams the ball passes through the same number of hands.
Each team has two minutes to decide on a process and then practice their chosen technique.
After the two minutes of preparation each team will then have three attempts to improve their score – ensure that you time each attempt and record it on a flipchart. When there is more than one team, first record the time of Team A, then Team B, then Team A again…until they have each had their three attempts. If they fail to executive the exercise successfully, for example the ball is dropped, then that is recorded as a ‘failed attempt’ and they lose that round and don’t get to redo that particular attempt. So, they have only three attempts (including any failed attempt) to get their time down from whatever it was at their first recorded attempt.
After three attempts by each team share the fact that it is possible to accomplish this exercise (with 12 people) within 0.2 seconds. It is unlikely that the teams would have come close to this time and having maybe recorded a best time (within their initial three attempts) of perhaps 1 or 2 seconds. Reducing it to 0.2 seconds seems almost impossible. However, knowing it is possible, they are given another three attempts and during this phase, watch how their method changes and their times improve.
What has happened?
Being told that their ‘best’ can be improved on, the team’s thinking changes. They explore a different way of doing it often with dramatic results. Given what happens, the insights from this simple but participative exercise will be self-evident. You now have a perfect platform from which to discuss the application of the lessons / insights from this exercise into your business operations or business model where a ‘better way’ needs to be found. It helps reinforce that in order to improve we may need to rethink how we are doing things rather than just work at greater efficiencies. This is an important understanding in a disruptive world where innovation is so vital.
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