Real Employee Input LO7638

Tobin Quereau (
Mon, 27 May 1996 21:46:09 -0500 (CDT)

Replying to LO7615 --

Hello, Walter. My initial reaction to your ambitious one-day visioning
conference is that it might succeed "too well." You mentioned having 4
groups of 80 (though it would be 90 per group in my calculation) people
moving through workshops generating ideas in groups of 10 people. From my
work with Future Search Conferencing, I could imagine that you will
generate a tremendous number of ideas--so many, in fact, that the impact
on the participants and those who subsequently study the results could be
overwhelming. I know that when I am confronted with more than a manageable
number of ideas or concepts at one time, I tend to glaze over, start
looking without seeing or thinking, and generally lose any creative energy
that I had.

In response to my "initial response" I would suggest that with this many
people generating ideas, you might want to have them classify what they
come up with into a few specific categories before they move to the next
workshop. Pure affinity diagramming (clustering) can take a considerable
amount of time just on its own (45 minutes and longer for a sizeable set
of ideas) and the outcomes of each group will be unique. If each group of
10 people took the last 15-20 minutes of the session to informally group
what they generated into the following clusters (or some such list), it
might go much faster and you would still be getting more than just their
ideas, you would be generating information about what energy and interest
those ideas generated in the group as well.

Possible clusters or groupings I would suggest are:

Traditional/conventional/reasonable responses

Unexpected and potent possibilities

Transformational/breakthrough potential!

Unclassifiable/everything else (oxymoron noted)

The key here for me would be to follow the divergent process with a
convergent one so that the "most powerful" ideas could be highlighted by
those who were immersed in discovering them. I would even consider having
a set number of ideas--perhaps a "top ten" list per group (a certain
number from each cluster?)--identified as group "favorites". For that
process I would probably use Pareto-style multi-voting with dots (give
each member dots equivalent to 20% of the total number of ideas generated)
to speed up the process and avoid arguments over diverse opinions. All
ideas should be collected, of course, for possible value, but a reduced
set would be more useful I would think for future purposes.

What I would be most interested in avoiding here would be a small group of
people in the future looking at the hundreds of ideas and, even
unconsciously, selecting out a few of their own favorites just to make
some sense out of the mess.

I would _definately_ avoid taking on more than the idea generation and
clustering if you have only an hour or so for each session. It would be
counterproductive in my estimation to try and tack on some cognitive
effort such as analyzing or projecting out consequenses of any ideas. It
is better to have more time to discuss and reflect than not enough time to
complete the task. Leave them tired and successful rather than exhausted,
frustrated, and without closure.

Then you always have the other issue to address--"You asked for our ideas,
why aren't you DOING anything with them???" It would be helpful in advance
to have outlined a process for transforming this incredible range of ideas
into some concrete, discernable, outcomes--and preferably NOT too many--by
a certain time. In my estimation, it would also help to include at least
a representative range of participants in that translation process so that
you build from a collaborative base rather than a hierarchical one.

Tell the participants what the follow-up process will be at the time of
the general meeting so that they will know why they are being asked to
contribute _and_ so they can all monitor the progress. If the company
management is not willing to demonstrate authentic sharing of "power" in
that way, I would avoid the exercise in the first place. There is too
much potential for confirming cynicism and distrust if the follow-through
is "break-down" rather than breakthrough in nature. (Of course, if the
culture of this organization is amenable to it, you could always invite
any intact team or group who saw something they liked to appropriate it
and see what they could do with it on their own.)

It sounds like a challenging and exciting day. Be sure to have comfortable
seating and good healthy food to carry them through. I would very much
like to hear about how it goes with your project, so be sure and keep us
posted. I hope these thoughts will be of help.

Creatively yours,


P.S. Also be sure NOT to take on the task of capturing or organizing these
ideas yourself in any way! Not only is it one hell of a job, but it shifts
the ownership of the process and outcomes from the participants to the
consultant--not a good organizational builder (but I'll bet you already
knew that...)


Tobin Quereau Austin Community College

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