You’re only as good as the people in the room and they’re only as good as what they know. I repeat it so often it’s become a mantra.
So often in working with teams or groups, there is enormous opportunity for vision, commitment and planning to do something bigger, better, more courageous, more all encompassing. There’s opportunity to take the organization up a notch or several notches. There’s low-hanging fruit to be had or an easy fix to stop a downward spiral.
But the team or group doesn’t get it. There isn’t enough knowledge in the room. Or familiar frames of reference. Or understanding of the possible. Because group members just don’t know.
One of the most difficult tasks in working with a team or group is to get the knowledge in the room – somehow. It should be simple, right? Well, experience shows it isn’t. But there are ways. Some work better than others; it depends on the group.
Bring in the experts. Experts do help. They can provide data. They can provoke thought. They can answer questions. An obvious downside: People may not believe what the experts are saying.
Go on a treasure hunt. Ask team members to read on the topic, do interviews, surf the Internet, learn best practices, do benchmarking. Be bold in doing the research. The answers may lie far afield in an unlikely locale. The downside is participants may not dig deep enough.
Use scenarios. Take the expert data out there and turn it into four possible, plausible worlds the group might find itself operating in some years down the road. At a minimum, the scenarios will be thought-provoking and may lead to insights team members haven’t had. With scenarios, the downside is team members may not really believe the what-if propositions are real.
Turn solution-hunting over to a design lab. If the team that comes up with the solution is different from the team that implements it, the result is more creative. It’s better than the lowest common denominator that comes from groups that do both the creativity and the implementation. The downside here is if you’re not present for the creation, you’re almost certainly going to be on the wrong end of a political sell.
Why is “knowing” so difficult? It’s because knowing is about both left brain/right brain elements. To really know, it’s important to grab both head and heart, to educate and convince both.
An example: It’s one thing to tell you your company buys hammers and pays anywhere from $5 to $500 per hammer for the same hammer. It’s another for you to see 50 hammers laid out on a table each with the price tag attached showing all the different prices your company has paid. And there’s no good explanation.
You see all those hammers with all the different prices. Then you really know.