Monthly Archives: June 2014

Questions answered: Dealing with a dominator

Min high resolution full size colour photoDear Min –Tonight I shared a presentation on your process and a question came up about a team with a dominating personality. How might I encourage the rest of the group and keep the dominator from scaring off the others?” Thanks, Alice

Alice: The key is setting the “ground rules” at the very beginning. If the participants understand the rules, they will actually help you navigate through the process. The group’s success depends on their skills of divergence, convergence, deferring judgment, avoiding killer phrases and following the process. Introducing the ground rules (especially if you do it in a fun way) will help set a good tone and allow the group to collectively manage members who are stepping out of line. Typically, no one wants to be seen as a bad actor once the rules about bad acting are established.

Tools like the thought catchers, posters and tent cards are very helpful in keeping the group dynamics fun. Remind enthusiastic participants to “hold that thought…use your thought catcher,” if they are eager to leap into the conversation ahead of – or more loudly than – less exuberant team members.
Try having the participants complete the Online CPSP (the Profile) before the workshop. Engaging the team in discussing their different problem solving styles can work wonders in making the process flow smoothly.

This week’s Minsight:
Every session we facilitate may not be perfect at the beginning; they rarely are. But they will be increasingly valuable as long as we follow the process and use the skills the best we can. Next time you facilitate, choose the ground rules that will best work for you. Feel like chiming in? What ground rules have you used?

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Filed under Business, Change Making, human resources, innovation, leadership, Problem Solving, Simplexity

Questions answered: Asking “How might we…?” but meaning “Where might we…?”

Mayor Dave writes:Min high resolution full size colour photo
Dear Min:
Greetings! Hope you are well and enjoying our spring / summer.  We are busy in Pelham — just opened the Isaac Riehl Skatepark, for example.
But, I do have a question that came up at Niagara Region.
We always do “How Might we..?”  Can we do “Where might we…?”
For example, it doesn’t make sense to say, “How might we find a location for a new Provincial Offences Courtroom facility?” when we are really interested in “Where might we locate a new Provincial Offences Courtroom facility?”
Do you have any insights on this you can share with me?

Dear Mayor Dave:
First, congratulations on your great work leading the town in creatively tackling problems as a way of life.
Second, thanks for your insightful question. Welcome to the “graduate course”.

Sooner or later every facilitator runs into the situation you describe.
Here is the answer: Whenever a group zeroes in on a specific challenge, you must make sure everyone really, really understands it, even when it sounds like a slam dunk.

And the best way to be sure is to ask the group one more time “ What’s stopping us ?”

In this case, if we ask “what might be stopping us from finding a new location for our facility?” there are going to be two very different answers.

One answer will be “ We do not know how to go about finding the new location ourselves and need help” .

The other answer will be “we could do it ourselves, we have the knowledge, but haven’t taken the time to choose a location ourselves”.

The first answer leads to the challenge “How might we finding a process to help us find new location?” (Solutions might include for example, we could hire a consultant; we could run a contest involving the town residents or high school students to pick one, etc.).

The second answer leads directly to “ where might we locate the new facility?” ( the group would then ideate a list of potential locations to evaluate).

Dave I hope this helps.
Sooner later you will run into similar situations where “What might…?” and “When might..?” evolve as ” what we really mean” challenges.

This week’s Minsight: The creative process hinges heavily on language. Using simple words is a vital key to clarity. Also vital is trusting the process to uncover what we may really have meant. Always ask “What’s stopping ?” and “Why?” repeatedly to be sure. And when people are converging on a final selection, make sure everyone shares exactly what the words mean to them and listens carefully to what the others say as to why they picked it.

P.S. check out Mayor Dave Augustyn at:



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Filed under Business, innovation, leadership, Problem Solving, Simplexity

Adaptability: The new competitive advantage


Have you ever had an “aha” moment, when everything suddenly seemed so crystal clear?
It happened to me in 1975 in a course at the University of Cincinnati. I suddenly realized how to explain to others what I already believed: that creativity is an essential part of organizational life and not just a “once in a while” extra activity.

I was exposed to Dr Paul Mott’s research, which found that the most effective organizations in any industry displayed three common characteristics:Min high resolution full size colour photo
•   Flexibility: Reacting quickly to unexpected turns of events
•   Efficiency: Maintaining routines, well-structured procedures to deliver products and services with high quantity, high quality and low cost
•   Adaptability: Proactively anticipating new opportunities, problems, trends, technologies, methods for new products, services and procedures ahead of the game.

Does this sound familiar? Adaptability actually is identical to the Simplexity creative problem solving process: finding and defining new problems, solving them, and implementing new solutions.

Many organizations struggle to stay alive because efficiency is the only game they know. They find themselves at a dead end. Their products become commodities. Customers demand price concessions, knowing that they can always turn to Asia where things can be made more cheaply but just as well. Organizations often forget that adaptability can offer a way out. And there is a process for how to do it.

This week’s Minsight:
How might we help leaders integrate adaptability into standard organizational life for sustained competitive advantage? Hint: The process of creative problem solving is a good place to start.

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Filed under Business, Change Making, innovation, leadership