If you want to get more creative results stop brainstorming, shut up, unplug and well… just think for yourself for a change. And if you’re a leader, adopting this approach will help you to earn more trust from your team in any learning, problem solving or strategy development program.
In a business world that seems hell-bent on always being switched on, needing quick answers and decisions, and with the open-plan demands of noisy group or team participation, it’s time for a bit of a rethink about thinking and the benefits of quiet and individual reflection.
Regular readers of this post will know that I’m a big believer in following evidence-based approaches to my life and to the advice I provide others in my professional capacity as a conference presenter and corporate educator.
In my first business degree I majored in the psychology of adult learning and this was way back in the nineteen eighties when I first learned something that seemed to fly in the face of what I was being forced to experience in my workplace. What I learned from a vast range of evidence-based research findings was that not everyone enjoyed or gained benefit or contributed better by working in a team.
Reflecting back even further in my own life to my primary and high school days, I am now even more aware of how the way we were being taught, resulted in more than two-thirds of the classes I was part of, rarely if ever, participating in open discussions or Q&A activities.
Coming back to the here and now, I was reminded of the powerfully effective results that can be achieved through one particular evidence-based learning/teaching activity that I use as a part of my everyday approach to educating adults. I’d just completed a masterclass workshop with a group of emerging executive leaders, when one of the group stood in front of his peers and personally thanked me for allowing him the time to think and record his own answers throughout the day, rather than just using an open forum approach. His comments were then echoed by many others within the group.
The strategy is this.
Rather than ask people to (a) answer a question in open forum, or (b) turn to the person next to them and chat or (c) form small groups and discuss a question, my default evidence-based activity is to get people to first think about their individual answer to a question and then to write it down (or note it on their hand-held device etc).
Then, depending on the size of the audience and type of presentation I’m doing, I might then choose to follow that activity up with either a, b or c.
This is so effective because not everyone processes information the same. By having audience members first work individually, those who are ready to answer can still get their answers out of their head (without distracting others) and those who need time to think alone and process those thoughts, albeit in a quick moment during a presentation, they also get that personal space to come up with an answer – without being interrupted or influenced by others. They are then, more ready, willing and able to enter into either open forum or team discussions, and will add much more value, than if they were forced to operate in the typical extroversion-centric team work environment.
What I’m basically doing in this process is recognising and honouring introversion, extroversion and ambiversion (those of us who can operate effectively, depending on the context of a situation as either/or an extrovert/introvert).
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