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  • November 21, 2017 3:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by SEWI-ATD Guest Blogger, Andy Marris, Learning & Development Manager at MRA, and SEWI-ATD President

    Brainstorming imageWhen someone uses the word “brainstorm,” what comes to mind? The Google Dictionary gives an idealistic definition… “a spontaneous group discussion to produce ideas and ways of solving problems.” If one truly considers the reality of how this “group discussion,” typically plays itself out, however, one is much more likely to have the perception that brainstorming is a well-intentioned ideation session that instead degenerates into one of dominance, condescension, and ironically, very few good ideas. Once again, the age-old axiom is proven true… “The road to hell is paved by good intentions.”

    Comments such as, “That will never work,” “That’s a stupid idea,” or “We tried that already,” are commonplace in brainstorming sessions. Comments like these unfortunately lead to some of the best ideas remaining between the ears of previously scolded participants. Moreover, introverted contributors may have wonderful ideas, but are often overshadowed and even dominated by the most boisterous participants in the room, as well. These issues end up leading to a few, rapidly-offered ideas, that were not necessarily well-thought through, and the group ends up going with a mediocre idea because it was the best one of a bad lot. Sound familiar? There is a better way!

    The Nominal Group Technique (NGL) is not new, but it is astonishing how many business professionals are unaware of the concept. In MRA’s Supervision Fundamentals series, NGL is repackaged as the “Circle Six” technique (the number doesn’t actually matter—MRA Minnesota classrooms have six chair tables, and when read aloud, it sounds like an alliteration, hence, “Circle Six”). It is the best way to capture a large about of terrific ideas, and as the famous scientist, Linus Pauling once said, “The best way to get a great idea, is to have lots of ideas.” Here are the simple (yet profound), steps…

    1. Leader appoints someone in the group to capture the ideas on a notepad, flipchart, or marker board (the scribe)

    2. Leader posts the question to be solved (such as “How can we generate more revenue in 2018?”)

    3. Leader gives all participants 2 minutes to ponder the question and write down all ideas that come to mind – with a few rules…

    a. No talking; Just thinking and writing as the ideas come

    b. No self-deprecation; Write all ideas no matter how silly they may seem

    c. Take the full 120 seconds; sometimes the best ideas come when there is no pressure to perform (think Archimedes in his bathtub… Eureka!)

    4. Once time is up, the leader asks each participant to simply read the top line item on his/her page, thanks them, and moves to the next participant – with a few more rules…

    a. No commenting in any way (positive or negative) or face removal from the group – Even a positive “Good idea,” comment tells other participants who didn’t hear such praise that their idea was not as good-which defeats the purpose of the exercise.

    b. Leader only thanks participant for his/her contribution, being careful not to comment, either

    c. Leader contributes last each time around the circle, so as to not encourage “group think”

    5. Scribe captures all ideas in writing

    6. Leader goes around the circle until everyone is out of ideas on their lists and all “pass”

    7. Leader reads scribe’s list to group, so it hears the ideas a second time

    8. Leader gives group 2 more minutes to think and write down any additional ideas that were triggered by the list – Sometimes the best ideas come as a piggy-back to another one (even one that would have been labeled a “stupid idea” on its face)

    9. Leader and scribe repeat steps 4-7, continuing the moratorium on comments

    10. Group then multi-votes on what they think the best ideas are, giving a 5 to the best idea, a 3 to the second best, and finally a 1 to the third best idea

    11. When the votes are tallied, great ideas rise like cream to the top, and often the participants are excited and engage on how many great ideas were generated

    There are several reasons NGT works so well. First, it truly values everyone’s ideas and contributions. It also eliminates the killer phrases that shut down well-intentioned brainstorming sessions. People that need time to process, have it, and those with a quick answer are still allowed to do so, writing the idea instead of blurting it out. Giving the process a second round usually produces less total answers than the first round, but it often produces some of the best ideas the group is able to generate. At a recent training filled with analytical engineers, the group went from one mediocre idea to 47 outstanding ones, just by implementing the NGT technique.

    Famous comedians often get the request from a well-meaning fan to “say something funny.” Without a prepared response, they often fail at the request. Seasoned comedians have a comment ready when the request invariably comes again. In a similar way, the NGT allows people to have the time and the freedom to come up with great ideas, without the risk of being put on the spot or insulted. Try it at your next “brainstorm,” and you’ll be amazed at what the team uncovers.


    About the Author

    Photo of Andy MarrisWith more than 15 years of business management, marketing, and leadership experience in the sports broadcasting, financial services, health care, information technology, and human resources industries, Andy Marris draws on his knowledge and experiences to help managers sharpen their leadership skills and business acumen. As a former graduate- and undergraduate-level business and marketing instructor, Andy discovered his passion for adult learning through fun, interactive, “real world” education. Andy's love of leadership development led him to his current role as a full-time talent development instructor in MRA—The Management Association's Institute of Management. Whether he is working with first-time supervisors, or seasoned leaders seeking continuous skill-set improvement, Andy makes the learning experience one that is measurable, memorable, and motivational.         

    Andy holds a masters in business administration and a bachelors in organizational communication.


  • October 31, 2017 12:29 PM | Laura Chartier (Administrator)

    On November 1st, R.W. Baird, in collaboration with SEWI-ATD, will host an exciting event: Bite-sized Micro-learning . In this article by Asha Pandy, you'll discover 5 great examples of using microlearning-based training effectively.

  • October 12, 2017 7:16 AM | Anonymous

    Written by Guest Blogger, Mark Brewer, Experienced Talent Development Professional and 2018 SEWI-ATD VP of Special Projects.

    Do you listen to yourself?  Our family of professions is sometimes (rightly) accused of using jargon, HR-speak, Consultant-speak or psycho-babble. I suspect it doesn’t exactly open our clients’ hearts and minds to us. I saw an example this week. A bullet in a training slide read “Cognition precedes behavior.” The audience was a mixed group of managers from a variety of professions.  One of a hundred bullets on dozens of slides, I’m betting that one flew right over their heads.  Not because they aren’t smart enough to get it, but because the author made it unnecessarily difficult to get it. A simple and important idea fell by the wayside.  Why throw up barriers?  I’d like to think I would have gone with “Thinking precedes action,” or maybe even “We think before we do.” But I’m better at critiquing others than myself.

    Big words don’t impress. They build walls. Feel free to tell me I’m wrong.  Just use little words please.

    (Oh yeah, and turn off the lights when you leave!)

  • September 12, 2017 8:19 AM | Brian Mason (Administrator)

    Today we continue the theme on budgeting. 

    How do executives see the learning and development budget? Is it a cost, an investment, or a combination of the two?

    Find out here what Jack and Patti Phillips recommends to do when the "gorilla" shows up and you're in a precarious position.



  • September 09, 2017 3:09 PM | Brian Mason (Administrator)

    Please join us September 14th for The Next Big Thing!, a mind-expanding event where you'll hear from experts in the talent development field who share some leading-edge applications and best practices, as well as their thoughts on technology and learning in the future.  Register here!

    In preparation for the event, review the top facts you should know about training reinforcement from the makers of Mindmarker, one of the applications you’ll see at The Next Big Thing!


  • September 06, 2017 5:43 PM | Brian Mason (Administrator)
    It’s tough to ask for money if you can’t clearly articulate how it fits into the overarching learning strategy. Before building your budget, account for the various projects, deliverables and initiatives that are in progress and on the horizon along with their anticipated ROI. For additional tips, review the Chief Learning Officer article here
  • September 04, 2017 8:32 PM | Laura Chartier (Administrator)
    You might see the mindfulness boom as a fad or as a corporate revolution. Although it’s a practice commonly hyped for having the ability to improve leadership skills, some research suggests that leaders would do well to consider the intricate connection between mindfulness and broader emotional intelligence competencies as they seek to develop in their careers.

    In the Harvard Business Review article, "Without Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness Doesn’t Work," Daniel Goleman and Matthew Lippincott expound upon how they believe this to be true.

    Want to learn more about Mindfulness & Learning? Attend our October 6th event, hosted by Wheaton Franciscan.

  • September 01, 2017 3:02 PM | Laura Chartier (Administrator)

    Building a strong, standardized strategy and examining your e-learning to ensure that it has universal design and source material that is easy to translate and localize, is essential to any training department seeking to educate international learners and can add up to an engaging experience for all.  Click here to read The Impact of Words is Felt Beyond eLearning, by Pamela Hogle for Learning Solutions Magazine.


  • August 30, 2017 4:45 PM | Brian Mason (Administrator)

    Please join us for an insightful session with Susan Lubar Solvang and learn to integrate mindfulness practices into your talent development process on October 6, 2017.

    In preparation for the event, learn more about mindfulness in the workplace by reading this Forbes article which highlights "With workplace stress, self management, work-life balance and leadership burnout becoming increasingly focal, the benefits of mindfulness are likely to produce better leaders and managers of talent."

    Register here!


  • August 14, 2017 1:47 PM | Laura Chartier (Administrator)
    Written by Guest Blogger, Whit Shiller, Stick at Fish Sticks Comedy; Faculty Member at Fish Sticks University; and Executive Director at Comedy With Impact

    The Power of Expectations in Training & Development

    Expectations are set around us and by us all the time. They can be positive. They can be negative. Some expectations from childhood continue to weigh us down or lift us up years, even decades, later. Despite their prevalence, most expectations are unspoken and usually unrecognized. That generally gives them more power than they deserve, which also means that calling them out or recognizing them can have more of an impact than you might expect.

    With a focus on training and development situations, let me suggest three mind shifts that will positively impact your learners’ results:

    1. Reset Low Expectations
      We tend to “over-focus” on those who don’t perform well. That means there’s a natural drag on expectations over time if we don’t course correct by re-focusing on what people have accomplished. Further, the pressure trainers face to achieve results creates disincentives to set the goals too high. Low, easily achievable goals, while good for stats, creates boredom and artificially caps growth.

      As you approach your next session, gives some thought to whether you’ve set difficult, but realistic, objectives. Evaluate whether lower achievers have been overly impacted by how you think your learners will do and adapt as necessary in your next session. Because your expectations of your learners impact their results, you’ll find achievement and interest levels will be higher when making these adjustments -- and that’s good for everyone involved.

    2. Reduce the Stakes
      High expectations are great as people tend to rise to the level that’s expected of them. But pursuing those high expectations with high consequences of failure during training and preparation can lead to poor outcomes. Ultimately, your learners will have to perform when the stakes are high, but if struggles with training and preparation are over-emphasized, it becomes more likely that your learners won’t thrive during live action. There are 100’s of sports analogies here, but I’ll leave those to you to consider on your own time.

      Many learners, when given appropriately high expectations, will be overly self-critical or express self-doubt. Nip that in the bud as soon as it presents itself. Coach them back to the reality of where they’re at in the process so they don’t short circuit the growth that’s coming.

      One quick note: while this is a mind shift for your learners, it’s also potentially a mind shift for you. While you’re in game time when training, you need to make sure that you haven’t raised the stakes too high for the learners just because you’re measured on their success. Be focused on what the stakes are for your learners and you’ll serve them better. If it’s helpful, think of it this way: the best tight rope walkers look more toward the platform on the other side then on the ground below.

    3. Believe in Your Learners
      I recognize that the three mind shifts I’m sharing here are all generally stated. This third one is probably that much more so, but stay with me. This one makes the most difference and makes the other two easier to implement.

      Great educators (and trainers) do not just impart wisdom and knowledge. They don’t just explain processes and techniques. They encourage. They motivate. They inspire. Then they watch with pride as their students achieve great things. How awesome is that? But you can’t encourage, motivate or inspire people that you’re convinced will fall flat on their face. You have to honestly believe they can succeed. If you don’t, your learners will intuitively sense it and they won’t be encouraged, they won’t be motivated and they won’t be inspired.

      So ask yourself: do I believe my learners can achieve all that’s asked of them and more? If the answer is no, figure out why and how to change that answer. If the answer is yes, follow it up with whether your expectations are high enough. If not figure out how to change that answer, too.

    Expectations don’t equal or guarantee results – but they do affect them. By resetting low expectations, reducing the stakes if they get too high, and honestly, and with conviction, believing in your learners, you give yourself and your learners a greater chance of success. Try all three, and I expect you’ll agree.


    About the Author

    Whit Shiller is an improviser – not just in life, but on stage and in the training room.  He’s performed in over 1,000 professional improv comedy shows from coast-to-coast, with the last ten years with the Milwaukee and Dallas based group, Fish Sticks Comedy.  In that time, he and some of the other Sticks have facilitated numerous improv-based workshops on topics as diverse as inter-generational communication to collaborative culture to inventive thinking.  Now under the branding of Fish Sticks University, Whit and the other faculty members offer some of the most engaging and fun workshop experiences while maintaining a noticeably high level of focus on client-identified business, personal and organizational goals.

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