Friday, June 22, 2007

Is Brainstorming Effective?

In his book 'The Medici Effect' Frans Johansson has some interesting figures on studies on Brainstorming.

An experiment to compare real teams and virtual teams, of equal numbers, and the output of a Brainstorming session.

Take 20 people locate them in a room and give them a topic to storm - real team
Take 20 people have them work independently on the same topic - virtual team

Take the output of the virtual team and remove the duplicate ideas. The sum of the virtual teams unique ideas are roughly twice the output of the real teams ideas.

The answer is the way we do Brainstorming. Only one person is talking at a time and this creates a bottle neck. Also the key to Brainstorming is to not assess and critique an idea there and then.

Keep the teams small and this mitigates the throttling of capturing the ideas by having a single scribe. The other approach is use the post-it note approach where any member can write the idea and post it on the board.

There is another technique called Brainwriting. This is a silent Brainstorm in a real team where the members take the core theme and write one idea. Pass the sheet of paper to the centre of the table and take another piece of paper (with an idea from another team member) and expand the idea already there.

This can be more effective as it sets the spark of creativity from an idea that you might not have had in isolation and lets you focus your attention on that new idea.

People: Feedback... is a gift

What is feedback?

Many people assign negative responses to feedback because feedback is "criticism".

People readily accept praise - praise is simply positive feedback.

Feedback is an art and not well performed by many people today and above all it's a gift as it gives something tangible about our behaviours to work with.

Key points:

  • Feedback is not the delivery it is the reception
  • It's about the behaviour not the person
    • designed to continue postiive/effective behaviours
    • designed to change or adjust negative/ineffective behaviours
The other point to remember is that it is the recipient that owns the behaviour and therefore they need to be engaged when feedback is being communicated.
"communication is what the listener does"
Peter Drucker on communication

To get the recipient engaged they need to be ready to receive the feedback, therefore always ask if you can deliver feedback to them. This means that you need to treat traditional feedback and praise (positive feedback) in a consistent manner. Don't be easily read such that by asking the person assumes that the feedback is going to be negative, otherwise they won't be listening.

Mark and Mike @Manager Tools have a great podcast on the subject, well worth listening to.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

People: One-to-Ones

What is the key to getting to know your people, letting them get to know you and how to keep track of what they're doing?

A: One-to-Ones

Mark and Mike at Manager Tools give you the ins and outs of the "single most effective management tool" in their typical, likeable style.

We with some excellent advice and a useful template for setting up the meeting and how to keep track of the notes and actions.

When you tie this in with retention you get a very powerful platform to stay connected to your team.


The single most effective management tool part 1
The single most effective management tool part 2

If you go and have a look at the tools section you will also see the templates to use.

The difficulty I had was trying to balance a paper or word document based system to keep track of everything whilst I am on the move. So I have created a MindManager template that you can use to keep up to date with the One-to-Ones.

Get the template

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mind Manager 7

I use MindJet's MindManager Pro a lot for all kinds of actions, project tracking, coding ideas, blog ideas, one-2-ones.

The tool is extremely flexible and now the new version 7 is available.

Key Features:

  • New User Interface - The fluent (ribbon) user interface is compliant with the new Microsoft standard seen in Vista. This means tabbed browsing and a quick access toolbar. The tabs are customizable so that you can keep your most widely used functions to hand. This also removes the map parts side bar.
    • Key Benefit: the tabbed browsing replaces the sidebar and that leaves more space available for viewing the map.
  • Topic Styles - Allows creation of named styles across the map regardless of the level.
    • Key Benefit: as the topic style travels with the map this gives more flexibility to highlight key topics and have a consistent view with other users
  • Saved Queries - Version 6 had powerful filtering capabilities. This has been extended with the ability to save the resulting query as a saved query to save repetition in filtering the map
    • Key Benefit: less key strokes required to view and redimension the map.
  • Saved Views - another use for the saved query is the ability to save the modified map as a saved view. The saved view keeps collapsed topics closed and allows for a zoom factor to be saved within the view.
    • Key Benefit: Allows for larger, more complex maps, with quick access to the key phase or map area. The view travels with the map and this means that the consistent view can be accessed by all viewing parties. Ultimately this means more map space that can be accessed and viewed as quickly as possible.
  • Show Branch Alone - a slight variation on the saved view is the ability to show the map branch in isolation.
    • Key Benefit: more efficient use of maps. Particularly when using MindManager for project tracking a branch is typically a phase or a feature. This means the map can be quickly focussed on that phase or feature for viewing and modifying.
The overall direction for the changes is on the user experience. All of the same powerful features are there in MindManager 7 but the ability to handle larger and more complex maps with the above key features makes the product more usable.