Ronald Gross

CONVENE, May 2000


The title of this column is the most important principle for building great teams and great organizations. It is also the most compelling rationale for bringing people together in conferences and conventions.

As a meeting planner or convention manager, you know how much information, energy, creativity, and resourcefulness is generated at one of your successful meetings. Everywhere you eavesdrop, you hear attendees discovering that they know more and are more creative together, than when operating in isolation.

So in my own presentations, I like to demonstrate how true this is. I want them to experience, right in the session, how much smarter and more creative they are when they work together effectively.

"You're each very smart at what you do," I acknowledge at the start, "or you wouldn't among the top people in your field who turn up at this convention. But if you join forces with the person on either side of you, your little team of three will be smarter than any of you are as individuals."

It's easy to demonstrate this with a few simple warm-ups, such as asking them to determine which direction is North. (I also note that the most reliable "Lifeline" for contestants on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" is to Poll the Audience ­- when the entire studio audience uses their Responder Pads to pick answer A, B, C, or D, they almost always come up with the correct answer!)

Then, I cite the principle in action in organizations like Disney, Apple Computers, and Continental Airlines.

Now, I pose a significant challenge from the conferee's own field, abd have the groups work on it. I teach them a powerful new strategy to orchestrate their team effort ­ for examples, see "Six Hats for Thinking", Convene, XXX, or "Rocket Your Team", Convene, XXX XXX.

A session with 300 people will invariably come up with a range of solutions that astounds them. The results were dramatic at recent conferences in several different fields:

Primary care physicians produced 90 practical ways to enhance their empathy with patients and thereby increase patient satisfaction, compliance with their recommendations, and health outcomes.

Telecommunications re-sellers generated 150 ideas for increasing profits despite restrictive regulations.

Hotel-chain executives devised 10 powerful and practical ways to upgrade their amenties for a category of guest who they wanted to attract.

There are three Rs for maximum success for such sessions:

1. Relevance: I draw the issue or problem from the client and sponsor, so that we are right "on target" with a topic that everyone is concerned about.

2. Resources: I provide an exhilarating technique to use which guarantees results ­ and which participants learn how to use for the rest of their careers.

3. Results: The output is shared, captured, and disseminated (via appropriate media ranging from posting in the conference environment, to publication in the "conference daily," to eventual distribution in a newsletter or on a web-site.

Participants leave with a powerful "job aid" in the form of a reproducible poster declaring that ALL OF US ARE SMARTER THAN ANY OF US. On the reverse are the 7 principles of creative collaboration which they put right to work in their team and their organization.

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