iSixSigma

Can curiosity be provoked? If you say quot;Yes,quot; please share your successful technique(s).

Six Sigma – iSixSigma Forums Old Forums General Can curiosity be provoked? If you say quot;Yes,quot; please share your successful technique(s).

Viewing 12 posts - 1 through 12 (of 12 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #26918

    Jeffrey Mitchell
    Participant

    Can curiosity be provoked?

    I make the case that curiosity is essential to genuine collaboration in an article posted on this site (Management Spotlight 7/23/00: “How Your Curiosity Can Keep the Wheels of Collaboration Turning”). The article outlines a simple approach for sparking curiosity. It’s been highly effective for our clients and all of us at Proteus International.

    I hope to learn other approaches for provoking curiosity from the isixsigma.com community — and any related success stories where boosting curiosity in yourself or a project team directly impacted a quality effort.

    How have you provoked curiosity and what happened when you did?

    0
    #65432

    Art Simms
    Participant

    Hello Jeffrey,

    I was very intrigued to read your article. Very nice job delineating what is happening and what needs to occur to prevent a situation.

    I have shared my thoughts with colleagues for years about the need for communication to be of the utmost importance in business and projects. It is when communication stops that we rely on assumptions and processes break down. I am a proponent of always playing cards on the table instead of in your head — as you suggest — write down your assumptions. Quantify them. A very good idea. Also, make sure that you are communicating effectively.

    Thank you for your article and for this site.

    Sincerely,
    ARt Simms

    0
    #65434

    Bill Tagget
    Participant

    I agree wholeheartedly.

    Nice article Mr. Mitchell.

    0
    #65436

    Jeffrey Mitchell
    Participant

    Art and I are in full “I’m a genius, you’re a genius” agreement — both of us have experienced the value of (or is it neccesity of?) open communication among project team members.

    I want to take a closer look, though, at a metaphor Art used. In the message he posted, he wrote:

    “I am a proponent of always playing cards on the table instead of in your head — as you suggest — write down your assumptions.”

    It’s an old metaphor, but I realize I’ve never used it in the context of provoking curiosity on a team. I like the way Art positioned it. I plan to offer the “play the cards on the table” metaphor as a ground rule to the next new project team I facilitate — but with a twist.

    My guess is that any team would quickly gain consensus on a “play the cards on the table” ground rule. I’d prefer a spirited dialog first — making the idea of cards on the table as tangible as real playing cards.

    I can spark that dialog by slightly modifying the Unfreezing Assumptions approach outlined in this week’s Management Spotlight article. Before asking the group if they want “play the cards on the table” to be a ground rule, I can force them to unfreeze their assumptions about what that means by asking, “What do you actually see on the cards that we want everyone to put on the table.”

    I’ll probably ask the team members to *individually* record what they expect to be on those cards (giving them about 45 seconds of silence), then discuss the ideas and gain consensus as a group.

    The choreography of individual answers being prepared and shared, along with the question itself, are likely to spark genuine curiosity in the team members. I think of it as a dress rehearsal for the real collaboration the team will do when it begins to tackle the issues its been formed to resolve.

    Thanks to Art for offering the perspective that led to this curiosity-provoking idea.

    0
    #65437

    Bob McReynolds
    Participant

    Hello Mr. Mitchell,

    Thank you for the article. I was happy to see someone discussing this issue because I often times have difficulty understanding what team members or business leaders are thinking. It is also an issue when people have ideas / assumptions that effect the outcome of a project or decision inappropriately.

    I have a questions for you about writing down your assumptions. I’m not the most senior in the organization, but often times deal with the senior leadership team. How would you suggest I use your example with them? I don’t want to appear condesending. I definitely don’t want to waste their time. And I’m not the most “dynamic” facilitator to move them quickly through an exercise such as writing down their assumptions. Any suggestions?

    Thanks,
    Bob

    0
    #65440

    Jeffrey Mitchell
    Participant

    Thanks for your question, Bob. I’ve got a couple of suggestions. Let me know if any/all are helpful.

    My general suggestion is to set the right context for the technique. Make sure leaders know how they will benefit individually and as a group by consciously working with their assumptions. The article in the Manager’s Spotlight points out the benefits to curiosity and collaboration.

    Below I’ll offer more specific suggestions on how to apply the Unfreezing Assumptions technique.

    The two concerns you mentioned

    1. “…don’t want to appear condescending”
    2. “…don’t want to waste their time”

    are helpful as general criteria for working with senior leaders.

    Suggestion #1
    My first specific suggestion is really a reminder of something you already know. As the facilitator, you have to lead the group consistently with your not condescending/not wasting time criteria *and* you have a responsibility to ensure the team members aren’t condescending or time wasters.

    I suggest you position documenting assumptions as a way to speed the group’s work together (the postivie framing of helping them not waste each other’s time).

    Suggestion #2
    If the goal is efficiency, then, target the area(s) where individual assumptions are most likely to bog down the meeting. At Proteus, we have a workshop called “Bridging the Gap” that applies the Unfreezing Assumptions technique to working successfully across distances. In it, we outline the 3 most common areas where assumptions get in the way of productive work. They are assumptions about “situation” (i.e., the work environment), “output” (i.e., work product versus work activities) and “relationship” (i.e., the norms of how we work together). There are other topic areas, but these tend to be universal.

    Suggestion #3
    Like most people, senior leaders don’t like going to meetings where they’re expected to share their biases and misguided beliefs (things documenting assumptions can reveal). I suggest the documenting of assumptions be done prior to the meeting — individually. And, in addition to focusing the leaders on an area pertinent to the content of the actual meeting, position the assumption documenting as a way to surface questions they should ask the group. Thus, instead of going to a meeting where they “out” their assumptions, they come to the meeting prepared with smart, thought-provoking questions.

    We did exactly this for our most recent all-company meeting at Proteus. Here’s an excerpt from our

    0
    #65441

    Jeffrey Mitchell
    Participant

    [this is a continuation of the previous post]

    …from our prework for the meeting:

    “Think about any limiting beliefs or ideas that you have about Proteus or your relationship to it. Select the 2-3 that concern you most, and turn them into questions that you can ask in order to help us all investigate these beliefs. Here’s an example: a limiting belief might be: ‘I believe I’ll be less involved in the company because I’m not at the NY headquarters.’ In order to challenge this belief of yours, you might ask the group, ‘Will I get be out of the company ‘loop’ because I’m not in NY?’ or ‘Will the people in NY be more involved in the company than I will?'”

    The senior leaders you work with might not warm up to terms like “limiting beliefs.” Maybe “assumptions” would be better. The essence of the idea is to acknowledge that everyone carries assumptions with them(it’s natural!), and ask them to invest 15 minutes surfacing the 2-3 that the group would benefit from reviewing (in the form of a question).

    Suggestion #4
    I may not have responded adequately to your “condescending” concern. Some people may see documenting assumptions as child’s play — whether it’s done before or during a meeting, for the purpose of generating smart questions or not. If it seems like a game to someone, it’s likely they haven’t yet seen the value of testing assumptions. You could use the “try it, you’ll like it” approach, and hope by doing it (albeit grudgingly) they’ll see the value. I haven’t done that yet. One way I have demonstrated the value is by asking the person if assumptions of *others* have negatively impacted him or her. If so (usually they have), I point out that the person/people holding that assumption is likely unaware of the assumption and the impact the assumption is having on performance/other people. The documenting assumptions and asking questions approach you’re recommending is a fast way to raise those key assumptions to the level of consciousness where they can be tested and, if appropriate, revised. In short, how much easier would it be to work with that person if they actively tested their limiting assumption(s) about you? Would you respect them more or less?

    Another way to position the value of testing assumptions is to share your own observations of the team working (seemingly) at cross purposes. Note that you know they don’t intend to work that way, but it seems like some of the assumptions people have about resources (this is part of the “sit

    0
    #65442

    Jeffrey Mitchell
    Participant

    [this is a continuation of the previous posts]

    …”situation” area mentioned earlier) and how to keep people in the loop (“relationship”) aren’t in sync. Then, you make your pitch: “I have an approach that can help everyone quickly get back on the same page….”

    These are a few, not all, of the approaches I’d consider when bringing the Unfreezing Assumptions technique to a senior leadership group. There are certainly many more. For dynamic and less-than-dynamic facilitators, the key is to consistently demonstrate that your efforts are driven by helping them accomplish what they want to accomplish as a team. Unfreezing Assumptions is one of many approaches to speed and add depth to their collaborative work.

    Hope this has been helpful. Let me know.

    0
    #65443

    Art Simms
    Participant

    Another nice thought, Jeffrey. You have a way with really taking a sliver of an idea and turning it into a fabulous idea. I think I will use the idea also (of course crediting you!)

    I very much like your idea of the team unfreezing their assumptions and then using those to populate the cards. You can even have them draw an associated picture, as in playing cards, to work the more artistic side of their brain. It sounds to be a productive and *fun* way to get the team involved and open about their assumptions.

    Thanks again for your thoughts and article.

    Sincerely,
    Art Simms

    0
    #65444

    Jeffrey Mitchell
    Participant

    Asynchronous brainstorming — I love it! I really like the idea of drawing. That raises the potential of surfacing all kinds of valuable information that might not be as easily accessed through words.

    And if you really want to roll up your sleeves and dig into metaphors, check out a Fast Company article about the creator of the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET) – http://www.fastcompany.com/online/14/zaltman.html (April 1998 issue).

    Also, I had an e-mail from a colleague in NY (I’m based in Minneapolis, MN) who asked if I would have the team members write specific assumptions on the cards. I think this is what you’re “art” idea supposes as well (pun intended). That’s definitely an option, but I was thinking of individuals writing down categories or areas where they expected others to be open about assumptions (e.g., buy in to ideas presented, positive aspects to ideas you don’t agree with fully, etc.).

    Just another idea. And thanks again for yours.

    0
    #65445

    Art Simms
    Participant

    My pleasure. Thanks for your thoughts also.

    Art Simms

    0
    #65446

    Bob McReynolds
    Participant

    Wow! Thanks for those terrific suggestions. It is great to have your thoughts and such. I’m looking forward to your next article and ways for me to be a greater influence at work!

    Thanks again.

    Bob

    0
Viewing 12 posts - 1 through 12 (of 12 total)

The forum ‘General’ is closed to new topics and replies.