We want to create a process for healthy collaboration that allows for people to judge ideas and not each other and helps individuals and groups overcome the heuristics and biases that influence thinking and decision making.
Many people understand the value of collaboration, but they don’t know how to begin. The process can be messy. Biases and preconceptions can get in the way of finding the best ideas.
We tend to collaborate among people with whom we are already comfortable--and even think the way we do. While this may facilitate getting work done, it doesn’t always lead to the strongest, most innovative, or most effective ideas.
Different interpersonal styles can make some voice more audible than others, denying the group a more diverse sampling of opinions and perspectives. People can also unknowingly influence one another, constraining the divergent thinking that’s frequently the most productive kind.
We want to create a model that is more effective (and possibly disruptive) than traditional processes for collaborating. This new model would allow people to feel comfortable with the process of productively scrutinizing ideas to make them better and more resilient--without scrutinizing people and harming relationships in the process.
By starting with collaboration, everyone sets out from the same point of departure in search of ideas and solutions to the problem at hand. Sanctioning agitation next reminds people that it isn’t personal but just the pursuit of the best thinking possible. Finally converging ensures everyone ends up together, no one is left behind or marginalized, and everyone is ready to collaborate together on the next challenge. In addition, convergence includes a method for measuring the effectiveness of the collaboration from each individual's point of view.
This approach to collaboration centers around the traditional actions of brainstorming, ideation, or even solitary thinking on one particular problem. The first step is convergent thinking. What do we know? What are the facts? What are we trying to solve? How should we frame the problem and approach finding the solution.
Next, team members spend some time coming up with their own ideas and solutions. For effectiveness, this would best be performed in an ideation session using the rules and processes dictated by the "Design Thinking" approach to ideation. However, it could be more loose and even just be solitary thinking by each individual.
If solitary thinking is done, the team would then reconvene to share those ideas and their merits. At this point the team will propose or prototype their ideas to share.
Then it’s time for divergent thinking and agitating. The aim should be to ask critical questions about the ideas and competing solutions. Assemble a secondary group of people. This group could be people who do similar work as the first group, but it might be more interesting to have people who do very different work yet are still necessary for the particular problem at hand. This session could be known as a "pre-mortem" to the work the first group did. Why might this not work? What are the risks? What are the implicit assumptions being made? Now is not the time for praising the virtues of any one idea.
Despite the goal of this group to critique and agitate the work of group 1, try to put processes in place so that the critique is not just negative reaction. This is about agitating an idea to build upon the work that has come before, not just to poke holes in it. Suggest that each reaction must be accompanied by a new idea based on the theme.
Finally converge. Bring both groups together to present the work that has been done. Mix, match, completely reinvent a solution that everyone can feel good about and can agree upon. Again, keep the atmosphere one of new ideas and not just a place to poke holes. Finally, conduct a simple survey to find out what the members of these groups thought of the process. Where did it succeed? What were the problems? Did they feel comfortable suggesting new ideas? Try to measure your work.
If an organization wanted to test your hack, what would it need to do first? How might it run a quick & dirty experiment?
The experimental design section should include detailed answers to the following questions:
- Hypotheses: Collaborate, Agitate & Converge is more effective (or disruptive) than traditional process for collaborating
- Measurement: Conduct a simple survey to find out what the members of these groups thought of the process. Where did it succeed? What were the problems? Did they feel comfortable suggesting new ideas?
- Experimental subjects: Create two groups of people working on the same problem, but from different functional areas of your organization. Having different functional areas lends to the Agitate phase.
- Control group: While not a control group in the true scientific sense - having two separate groups work on the same problem is designed to provide checks to the idea creation process.
This hack was created collaboratively in the hackathon "Hacking Management 2.0" by David Mason, Jonathan Opp, Alberto Blanco, and Ben Biddle.