Brain Merging Deluxe

Brain Merging Deluxe

March 10, 2010 Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

Big problems require great spirits.

What are the really difficult issues and challenges in your field or in your department that you are confronted with?

Probably they’re strategic issues or in other words very fundamental things.

Now, how do you deal with such issues?

Do you try to develop appropriate solutions on the q.t.?

Do you work out towards this very specific moment when you can present the brilliant idea in front of your entire department with a colorful foil bouquet?

Please be honest: a little appreciation and admiration can be worked out this way :-)

There is only one problem: this strange rumbling in your stomach which tells you that there might be a better solution for this problem which has not come up to you yet.

But … how to eliminate this feeling?

Simply use your super-brain.

It is located just in front of you: it’s your own team.

There are many reasons why this possibility is very often not considered:

Pride, vanity, certain contact problems, misunderstanding of discretion …

Maybe you underestimate the capacity for innovation and creativity of your team.

Maybe you think you are the best expert because otherwise you would certainly not be the leader of this team.

Maybe you always have to pull the strings because you suspect something might slip out of your hands?

Honestly: Who is completely immune to such vanities?

There are many reasons why a team is not integrated into strategic issues.

After having had many interesting discussions with managers from different hierarchy levels of organizations one of the most common phrases that I encounter again and again is: “How am I supposed to do that? How shall I incorporate all the ideas of 30 people into a strategic process? By the way: Isn’t it my task to define the strategy?

That’s right. It is your job. But does this exclude the involvement of your folks?

The main impediment to involve teams in strategic issues is the lack of knowledge about professional tools to design such a process smoothly.

In this article I am presenting a tool that allows you to tap into the super-brain.

A tool which can help you to merge the brains of your employees in order to crack the very hard nuts.

The Workshop

A workshop is an inconsiderable instrument with tremendous effect.

In moderated workshops people come together to develop common strategies to solve problems and learn from each other.

The stronger the interaction between the participants is and the less prepared content is presented, the more the participants will gain new knowledge through learning from each other.

Very often in my job I’ve had the opportunity to plan workshops and to perform them. Some of them have generated revolutionary insights leading to the fundamental revision of products or processes.

These changes had an enormous influence on the company’s success.

But all of them have provided us at least with new ideas and new perspectives.

I have been constantly playing around with the processes and priorities in order to find such a thing as the most effective sequence of a workshop.

And you know what? I could not find anything like that.

I have rather noticed that there exist optimal conditions for the flow of creativity and intense mental work in workshops.

These are exactly the conditions that ensure that the mental performance of individuals start to merge with each other.

Initially there are 30 brains working on a task but at the end of a really good workshop nobody is really able to tell who finally owns the ideas on the flip chart.

That’s impossible. There’s just one owner: the team itself. Something has been created, which extends far beyond one’s own individuality.

It behaves just like the preparation of a good cocktail. The ingredients are usually not particularly palatable. But the mixture, however, lets your gustative nerve glow :-)

Here you find the key ingredients for such a cocktail:


Go outside. Change the workplace in order to hold your workshop.

This is important as you and your people are constantly confronted with ringing telephones, requests and inquries from colleagues and customers or other departments.

But it’s not just about escaping the everyday pressures and sources of interference. It especially helps you to open your mind and the mind of your folks. And that is just possible in a different environment where nothing reminds you of your products, processes or other work content.

You’re solely confronted the questions the workshop was launched for.

After some time something like a pleasant kind of meditative concentration arises.


A good leader is always prepared. A workshop should be no exception.

Arrive 1 hour earlier than your folks and prepare the room.

Which order should the tables have?
How many groups work in how many different rooms?
Do you need moderation walls and flip charts? If yes, how many?
Is there a moderation case on the spot or should you take one with you?
Do you need a laptop or is the overhead projector of the seminar room just enough?

These are all questions you should have already asked in advance thought.

Now you’re to prepare the room accordingly, so that the workshop is not disturbed by these organizational things.

Creativity Phase

Choose a creativity technique for the begin of the workshop that produces a large quantity of ideas in a relative short period of time.

There are various methods. Search the internet using the keywords brainwriting, brainstorming, brainrunning ….

Learn something about the different methods and select the most suitable for you.
It is really worthwhile to go into the details of each method.

Here is my favorite one:


The 6-3-5 method belongs to the category brainwriting.

6 participants write down 3 ideas and pass the piece of paper 5 times down
(so that every one has one turn).

After having done this you have a piece of paper which is filled with a 6 x 3 (18 boxes) table.

A pass should take approximately 2 to 3 minutes, not more.

The time pressure is important because your people should not start to think with the left half of their brain. They should use the right one. The left half is responsible for the language and logical thinking while the right one is the realm of images and emotions.

Exactly this area should be addressed in the context of a creative idea generation.
You encourage and support this by limiting the time per pass.

The big advantage of this method: the participant always sees the ideas of its predecessor and can integrate them into his own thoughts.

Here the first fusion process takes place.

Be an entertainer. Entertain your audience. Especially in the creativity phase it is essential to be relaxed and cheerful. This increases the probability for producing good ideas tremendously.

Tell a joke in between. Keep your people from starting to fall into intense mental work and encourage them to think about parallels. Parallels concerning the relevant questions that do not even have to do anything with your business.

Intensive mental effort is part of the following concentration phase.

In the creativity phase the free thinking is needed. Spinning works. Let the pictures come up to you without any comment or evaluation.

You can use the 6-3-5 method as 7-3-6 or 8-3-7 method of course.
It depends on the size of the groups.

Either way, you should avoid groups larger than 10 people because the duration of one circulation is simply too long and the concentration quickly subsides.

But of course you can work in parallel groups.

So try to find the most effective division into several groups.

Concentration Phase

With 20 participants and a 5-3-4 alternative you get 4 groups of 5 members to produce a total of 300 ideas in a 15-minute pass.

A pass therefore means a completed round of questioning.

Great thing, isn’t it? Asking 3 different questions within 3 passes leads to 900 ideas in just 45 minutes.

The division into different issues is the key. A difficult problem should always be divided up into at least 2-3 different questions which should be processed by the participants afterwards.

The results can then finally be re-combined.


The question: “How do we want to develop our department strategically?” can be broken down into the following questions:

“How can we reduce our quality costs?”
“What do we want to increase our output?”
“How can we improve our work processes?”

These specific issues are much better to handle.

900 ideas that have been created by 4 different teams apply very well to be divided up into 3 slightly larger groups with each group for one single question.

They must seek the ideas, filter and sort them. They are even allowed to combine different ideas and to create new ones just like their inspiration tells them.

Finally there should be just the top-3 to top-5 ideas left.

These are the ideas which appear most promising to your team, no matter how they were developed or on which specific idea they are based upon.

Here the next fusion process takes place because things are read and interpreted differently than they were probably originally intended because the teams have been mixed up.

Sometimes the ideas of the creativity phase lead to completely different ideas in the concentration phase.

But this doesn’t matter. It is exactly the mergence process you try to achieve,

With regard to the following presentation you should provide your employees with guiding questions and prompts that set a uniform presentation directive.


- brief description
- advantages / disadvantages
- measurement criteria
- drafts

These topics help to focus on the essential questions while evaluating and assessing the big amount of ideas.

As moderator you must be present in each group. Observe your folks and identify problems that disturb the flow of thoughts.

You must break these blockades down.

Go into the different groups and ask various questions in order to reflect the problems.

Enforce your folks to make drafts again and again and to write their ideas down in order to create new ideas based upon the first ones.

Soon or later the blockades will disappear.

It is essential to leave the analyzing more and more behind and to make things concrete.

Experience shows that it is the hardest part for people to reject ideas.

But what are 20 super creative ideas worth that will probably never leave the status of an idea?

Wouldn’t it be much better to have 2 or 3 workable and realistic ideas that provide your department with quick benefits?

Be tough enough to sort out and to focus on less.

Start to get the ball rolling.


Tell your folks at the beginning of the workshop that the results of the concentration phase will be presented to each other.

This increases the incentive and the concentration of the individual teams.
A little competition is good for business :-)

Additionally you generate a certain inner excitement as surely not everyone presents something in this form regularly.

It is absolutely crucial for the success of your workshop to implement such exciting moments in order to turn it into a truly remarkable event.

Enjoy it while watching your people how they explain and present their findings upon the moderation walls and flip charts based on your keywords and key questions.

In these moments I always feel a great joy and excitement when I perceive how engaged and deepend my people discuss the questions they have been confronted with during the workshop.

It is a very deep and satisfying emotion of happiness knowing that it was me who launched this great workshop. Well done dude, well done :-)

Questions are not allowed during the different presentations. The discussion follows afterwards.

All questions should be carefully noted during the lectures.


The discussion is the final step. Now all participants can have a look at the different moderation walls with a uniform structure and the same key words and key questions as structure elements.

The contents can be compared, strengths and weaknesses can be extensively discussed.

Sometimes two ideas can be combined very well while others build up on each other.

Take a look at this spectacle and moderate it from the background.

Your comments should always be submitted in form of questions and suggestions.
This helps you to signalize that you do not intend to influence the participants in any specific direction.

Now here the crucial third fusion process takes place.

Enforce your people to write down the new top-3 to top-5 ideas resulting from the third blending of the ideas.

You’ve succeeded in merging the partial knowledge in the minds of your people to achieve a result that is more than just the sum of the different parts.

You’ve accomplished in motivating your people and getting them involved in the strategic planning process. You have strenghtened their soft skills such as presenting, arguing and the ability to formulate ideas and to present them in a simple and concise form.

But most of all you have strengthened the corporate feeling of your team by producing ideas which most likely nobody has considered possible before.

Gone are the days of the green tables and the closed, dark bureaus where ideas were created by only one single person: you.

Pick up your people and just add any other subjects that you particularly care about if required.

Explain to your people why you add something and they will surely understand.

I guess the workshop is going to be your most liked and preferred leadership instrument.

Good choice :-)

Tell me, have you ever experienced this super-brain effect?

If so, how have you achieved it?

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Posted in Staff Development on Mar 10th, 2010, 20:06 by haukeborow