Seeing More Clearly with FOG
I have ants. More correctly, ants are in my house. 
 
Thinking about how to remove the ants, I remembered seeing a product where unwanted bugs take the bait, but it doesn’t kill them immediately. Instead, they carry it back to their colony and offer it as food to the group. The bait then poisons the queen and the other ants.
 
Sometimes, humans operate this way as well. We bring information into our groups and organizations. We often call this information “a fact” when in reality it is an opinion or a guess disguised as a fact. We may even use words like “The fact is if we don’t …”  The group digests this information, makes decisions based on it, and often reaches erroneous conclusions. The result is a poisonous course of action.
 
At THINC, we often encourage groups to use the “FOG Test.” For statements individuals make, we ask if the statement is: 
  • FACT. Is this something that can be verified by independent and credible data?
  • an OPINION. Is this something you believe to be true or have a strong feeling about? Is this a value of yours?
  • or a GUESS. Is this something you aren’t sure is true but could, and probably should, be true?
 
Next time you are in a meeting apply the FOG test. You may be surprised to find the extent to which opinions and guesses masquerade as facts. Spending the time and effort to identify and use accurate information on the front-end can save disastrous action on the backend.  
DEV / DIALOGUE / TOOLS / Jul 6, 2011, 8:03pm / Comments (33)
Does My Omniscience Bother You?
Amazingly, our culture is full of omniscient people.
 
Or so it seems from people whose behaviors I observed over the past week:
  • All-knowing people who freely shared their truth—the truth, which they had in abundance—informing lesser beings about what they should think and do.
  • People with no questions, only answers.
  • Those who, instead of listening, reloaded, preparing to fire off their next rejoinder.
  • People who filtered incoming data for that which confirmed their worldview.
Tune in to popular talk shows, listen to our colleagues at work, and reflect on our own conversations for more of the same. At one time or another, we all have engaged in these kinds of unconscious behaviors to show that we are smart, capable, and right—maybe even god-like.
 
And frankly, it's annoying (not to mention bad for business, which is a topic for another blog).
 
Inquiry is an important antidote for omniscience. Inquiry is not asking questions that can be answered with yes or no—questions that begin with phrases like “Don’t you agree that…?” or “Have you considered…?” Neither is it asking questions to which we believe we already possess the answer.
 
Inquiry is asking open-ended questions and then listening—truly listening—for the other’s perspective. Inquiry requires listening with curiosity and readiness to hear ideas that may challenge our worldview.
 
“What is your understanding of the situation and how we might address it?”
“What leads you to think that? What experience or data can you share?”
“What is your thinking about what we should do next?”
“What is important to you, going forward?”
 
Let's stop sitting in for God. Inquire of someone today, and then shut up and listen.
RUTH / INQUIRY / DIALOGUE / TOOLS / Jun 27, 2011, 7:21pm / Comments (16)
An Easy 80 IQ Points
Back in high school, I aspired to be a sensitive and reclusive artist-type, but I just didn’t have the talent or temperament. Yet, I’m a visual learner and thinker—I see relationships spatially, love charts, and can play for hours with Adobe Ideas on my iPad.  
 
Recently, I discovered that I could engage clients in a fresh, visual way by graphically drawing meeting agendas and themes—even with virtually no innate artistic ability. It’s amazing how a few rough sketches can bring our imaginations to life.
 
I owe this inspiration to a couple books from which I shamelessly copy images. Visual Meetings, by David Sibbet, and Beyond Words, by Milly Sonneman, are full of hand-drawn graphics and a “come on, just try it” approach, starting with little building blocks like basic shapes and star people and then gradually walking the fledgling-artist-reader through shading and movement and metaphor. The tools are simple—lots of colored markers and big sheets of butcher paper or even just a white board in a conference room.
 
Is visualization worth 80 IQ points, as stated in Visual Meetings? OK, maybe not 80, but surely, for the 60% of people who prefer to learn visually, images and colors help us see differently, think creatively, and remember more.
 
Try a sketch for your next meeting. Then snap a picture of your results and share it so we can learn from each other. Let’s see if we can raise our collective IQ by moving from stuffy linear black-and-white declarative thinking to seeing how our ideas connect with a simple, accessible palette of colors, pictures, and designs.
 
RUTH /TOOLS / May 13, 2011, 4:54pm / Comments (1855)
Four Player, Anyone?
Have you left a meeting and wondered, “What the heck just happened? What did we do for the last hour?” Of course you have—we all have.
 
A few weeks ago, I worked with a client in the Southwest to help prioritize projects, plan tasks, and work on communication protocols. Having experience with this group, I knew that structured and focused conversation was not a native strength.  
 
Don’t get me wrong—these are some of the smartest, hardest working, most generous people I’ve met. However, sometimes their brilliance and optimism throws them off focus. 
 
To help structure a better conversation, I introduced the group to David Kantor’s “Four Player” Model.  Kantor, a former Harvard psychologist and founder of the Monitor Group global consulting firm, suggests that healthy conversations have four roles or players.
  1. Mover who proposes new ideas or solutions and pushes for a way forward
  2. Follower who advances and refines the mover’s ideas and drives for completion
  3. Opposer who provides contrasting perspectives and enhances the quality of the group decisions
  4. Bystander who adds a neutral perspective and reflects on the quality of the conversation itself
 
The group identified their instinctive roles and made a conscious decision to utilize the four players over the two-day meeting. It was slow going at first, with each member reverting to their natural styles—predominately movers in this hard-charging group.  
 
On a few occasions, I had to call a bystander into the room asking, “So, Janet, where are we in this conversation? What do you see happening in the meeting?” Janet would make an insightful comment, and the group redirected to get back on track.
 
Soon, individuals started identifying more closely with the roles saying “I’m going to oppose here, and…” or “I’ve been playing the mover a lot; maybe I should be quiet and listen.” 
 
Three weeks later and the group is still using the terminology and reports the quality of their conversations is much better—they are “actually more focused and getting things done.”  
 
Next time you are in a seemingly pointless meeting, look for the four players. Do you have too much of one player? Does a certain role need to be called into the conversation? Better yet, play the bystander by saying, “Can I make an observation here? For the last 30 minutes we’ve…” Do this and watch your meetings go from pointless to productive.  
DEV / DIALOGUE / TOOLS / Apr 26, 2011, 8:27pm / Comments (34)
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