Build a tower, build a team

Tom Wujec's TED talk about team building is one of my absolut favorits! It goes hand in hand with my 20 years of working experience, on things that works very well and things that could backfire, even if the intention is good. It is also the basis of Agile, how to build a team that performs well.

Visual aids

Many meetings is conducted by people sitting around a table and just talking, and it seems that we often just talk around the issue or having problem to unite around what we are trying to solve. I have learned that I often have problem with doing several things at the time like listening, formulate an answer to a question, sorting out thoughts and going back and forth between different ideas and pulling facts from memory. We are also often driven with a feeling of what we think is correct or not, but without having all the "facts on the table" and since most of us just can hold between 3-8 things in our head at the same time, where very few of us can hold more than 5 things at the same time,  we will have a hard time to come to a conclusion because we will not have the same "picture".
I know from experience that when using visual aids, like post-it notes and drawing on a whiteboard, often clarifies things and it is easier to talk around the issue, we have a much easier time to see a pattern if we can see the things in front of us, but often there is a resistance to use these tools together in a group. But we know from TV, specially from crime shows that we need to get all the facts on the table using pictures and text, take a step back and a pattern will emerge and we catch the killer. The same thing works when talking about issues, new requirements and plans.

Today I was listening in on a meeting about a small project, it seemed that no one could agree on anything (the issue, the challenges or how to proceed with the meeting) and it seemed that we got nowhere, after 45 minutes it started to feel hopeless and people started to get restless, so I prompted on using post-it's to explore some of the ideas.
We wrote down the things that was needed to be done and posted it on a whiteboard.
We saw quickly that the original ide was not that huge of a workload or complicated as many felt.
We all felt comfortably that we choose the right solution and everyone knows what to do.
We also agreed on a plan on how to do it.

All in less than 40 minutes.

I was not always a believer; I thought that I could hold everything in my head and never learned to write things down, I am not good at drawing or have a nice handwriting, and I did not like to stand in front of people, not even colleagues, and I did not think that I was "visual". All but about drawing or having a nice handwriting has changed.

Then it is official...

Sony Ericsson purchased Ericsson's shares for 1,05 billion euro. I have heard the rumours for some time now, but it did not seem possible due to some license owner issues. But for a long time now it has seemed that Sony have had more interest in Sony Ericsson than Ericsson; from hardware to services and applications.

Rädslan för att göra fel stoppar innovation och utveckling

Min kollega Magnus Wikholm på Avega Group kommer att hålla en diskussion om rädslan att göra fel den 18/11 kl 11:00 på vårt kontor i Stockholm.

Rädslan för att göra fel lägger en våt filt över innovation och utveckling. Många organisationers ledning och medarbetare är så fyllda av rädsla för att göra fel att beslutsprocesser och utveckling stannar upp eller kompliceras. Potentialen för effektivisering är därmed enorm. Att utforska nya världar och pröva nya grepp är grunden för framgångsrika företag och organisationer men då krävs en kultur som tillåter och till och med bejakar nytänkande och att man ser fel som en naturlig del. Delaktighet i innovation och nytänkande skapar glädje och trivsel på arbetsplatsen och ger förutsättningar för att bygga mer lättrörliga företag

Se kraften i att göra fel som en möjlighet. Vill du vara med och diskutera med andra i branschen, lett av Magnus, så är du välkommen att kontakta Magnus via epost Magnus.Wikholm (at)

Productive meetings

Every year we have a conference at my company, Avega Group. The definitive highlight of the conference is the use of Lightnings talks and Open Space Technology, where 300+ persons come together every year and share their knowledge and thoughts. I am looking forward for the conference every year, I always come back with my head spinning - full with new ideas and insights.

Lightning talks are 10 minutes presentations where anyone can talk about anything, it is usually about processes, conflict handling, developing methods, testing, and so on. You dont have to talk the whole 10 minutes, but you are not allowed to talk longer, this means that you really need to get down to business and just spread the core message. Lightning talks can be used at breakfast- or lunch meetings to large conferences. It can be used to spread ideas in companies or as a inspiration to an Open Space Technology meeting. 

Open Space Technology is a really strange phenomena, it is self organisation when it works as best. It is always impressive to see how all the planning is coming together on-site with several hundreds of persons, no agenda and no plan, using just one law and four principles.

The law of two feet - which states simply, if at any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing – use you two feet and move to some place more to you liking. Such a place might be another group, or even outside into the sunshine.

Principle 1 - Whoever comes is the right people, which reminds people in the small groups that getting something done is not a matter of having 100,000 people and the chairman of the board. The fundamental requirement is people who care to do something. And by showing up, that essential care is demonstrated.

Principle 2 - Whatever happens is the only thing that could have, keeps people focused on the here and now, and eliminates all of the could-have-beens, should-have-beens or might-have-beens. What is is the only thing there is at the moment.

Principle 3 - Whenever it starts is the right time alerts people to the fact that inspired performance and genuine creativity rarely, if ever, pay attention to the clock. They happen (or not) when they happen. 

Principle 4 - When it’s over it’s over. In a word, don’t waste time. Do what you have to do, and when its done, move on to something more useful.

Conversation - Staying in dialogue

I have noticed that some of the obstacles you face when discussing any subject is to stay in dialogue, specially when discussing on internet.  One of the feelings you constantly battle are the feeling of being threatened.

When you start being threatened you start to protect yourself either by going to silence or violence. Silence is when you stop adding to the dialogue since you dont want to be regarded as stupid or you feel that the person you talk to is not worth your opinion. Violence is when you stop listening and start acting out your feelings.
We are complex beings, we can have complex thoughts and even conflicting thoughts when we speak or listen, many of these thoughts are feelings that is constantly in the way of listening. So in a conversation you are interpreting what the person is saying by adding your own feelings to the mix, this means that the outcome could be that an innocent question from one person makes you feel threatened and you cut him off or that you respond totally different with another person. 

When we are having a conversation face to face, our bodies is also adding to the conversation; Angry, sad, afraid, stressed, calm, happy, and so on. This is of course missed in the written language and is a huge source of misunderstanding and why so many internet forums always seems to derail. There is also a culture of using Command and Conquer methods, which makes it hard for even the most balanced person to not loose his temper and go to silence or violence 

On being wrong

A few days ago I finished Kathryn Schulz book - On being wrong, and it is really "an idea worth spreading" (She also have a TED talk which you can find here:

I found the book very inspiring. I think it puts some of our communication problems in a new focus. We all know that the hardest thing when you communicate is to stay in dialogue, we need to listen and fight the feelings we are having, to stay focused on the meaning of the conversation. A misunderstanding can create a feeling which can lead to that you will move from a dialogue to discussion or worse.

Most of us are also afraid of talking in public, we are afraid of making mistakes, being misunderstood, or being wrong (specially when talking to colleagues). 

So where does Kathryn Schulz book fit in? We are afraid of being wrong, not to be wrong, but the feeling of being wrong. This feeling is suppressing people to add their insights to the pool of knowledge in dialogues, meetings or at work. We think of conversation like if they were a game where you can win, that someone is keeping score whenever we are being wrong. We have for a very long time learned, in schools and at work, that it is better to find small error in some fact or the language used by someone than actually form our own opinion, since we do not have to risk anything ourself and we feel good when we find a small error within the argument coming from the other person. We have learned that it is good to look at the detail of a discussion and not the meaning of the discussion. 

How many conversations/meetings have you walked away from, unfulfilled, with a feeling that we are just talking around the issue instead of the issue? Talking only about the details of the arguments instead of the meaning of the conversation?