Yesterday I sat with a team that had to make a pressing decision. The decision was fraught, as many decisions are, with “if-then” possibilities. You know how these conversations go, right? “If we do A, then B could happen. But if we do C, then D might happen.” And of course, none of the possible outcomes seemed all that appealing. The team would get close to a potential solution and then one of those pesky “if-then” possibilities would surface.
About an hour into the conversation, one of the team members said, “Oh wait a minute, what if we did X.” She went on to explain how X would mitigate certain of the more concerning “if-then” possibilities. The team discussed and refined the idea, adding some color and texture to it. We walked out of the meeting aligned on the solution and feeling content with the process that enabled it.
You’ve been in these moments too. Your team is stuck trying to figure something out and suddenly someone has the eureka moment. When a person has the eureka moment, we often congratulate him or her for it. “Great idea Dave.” “Nice going Sally, great thoughts.” But is it really accurate to assign ownership of the eureka idea to the person who has it? Did the person who had the insight really have that idea? Is it really “hers?” I say, no.
The aha-moment is usually a tribal affair. It may end with one person putting the cherry on top, but it’s dependent on the effort of the collective. It’s unlikely that the person in the meeting I attended would have had the idea without all of the conversation leading up to it. It was a layering of ideas that led to the insight. I call this layering of ideas, idea-weaving. Here’s how I describe idea-weaving in my book, Tribal Alchemy: Mining Your Team’s Collective Ingenuity.
As we’ve seen, multiple perspectives enable tribes to generate varied and robust ideas. When it comes to tribal vision, idea generation gives a tribe the initial “stuff for the conversation.” Idea generation is important because it becomes part of a tribe’s raw materials. However, idea generation alone is not enough to lead a tribe to insight. We need to add another dynamic to idea generation.
I call this next action idea weaving. Idea weaving occurs when pieces of perspectives are retrieved from the conversation and layered together in order to make a more robust collective idea. It’s the collective idea, this superidea, that provides a tribe with the possibility of alchemy. The alchemy of ideas leads to the alchemy of action.
When your team meets to discuss, dialogue or decide, remember idea-weaving. It’s the layering of many ideas that leads to the insight. When you begin the meeting, make insight the stated goal. State it. “We need to gain insight around X issue.” Then, converse with anticipation. As ideas emerge, weave them together, layer them, experiment with combinations, and you will be more likely to get that aha moment. Once that moment arrives (in whatever form) congratulate the tribe. You did it together.