Even your best attempts at providing a good structure for a team meeting might not turn out to be productive. This phenomenon occurs when personalities, opinions, and attitudes clash. More so when the proverbial meeting dominators silence the other team members, who choose to remain quiet to maintain team conformity.
In the video that follows, we will explore a powerful analytical thinking tool called Distillation.
This model is designed to encourage diverse ideas in a structured manner while seeking team consensus and is vital to effective team decisions
Let us take another example.
Your team is struggling to reach an agreement about the right way forward. Manisha, the most dominant member of your team, immediately makes a suggestion and starts talking about its benefits. Rohit argues that that his own idea is more efficient, and Jyoti, who often has brilliant ideas, is too overwhelmed by Manisha and Rohit to speak up.
You’re soon ready to adjourn the meeting!
If you work in a team, this scenario may sound familiar. It can be difficult to get a group of people to reach consensus on a decision, especially when – personalities, viewpoints, and attitudes clash. This is where Distillation model can help you to reach a consensus and get the most effective ideas / solutions to a problem.
By using the model, you can get everyone in the group involved in developing a solution, so that each person feels ownership of the final decision. This helps you build a – more productive,
– committed team.
The model also encourages people to come up with creative ideas without fear of being judged. This helps the group develops – better solutions and – make better decisions.
Every manager needs to be able to make good decisions. You cannot always take charge and be autocratic, particularly in situations where you need inputs from others. When a decision will likely impact your team, it’s best to use a collaborative process.
A systematic approach to getting – inputs and views from others, such as the Distillation Model, allows you to bring consistency and order to a process that might otherwise feel idiosyncratic and instinctive. It can also help you to determine the most effective means of reaching a decision.
b) Introduction to Walt Disney Concept:
This lesson will acquaint you with the Distillation model which is based on a strategy that Walt Disney used to create so many of the many brilliant concepts that are the stuff of legend today.
Walt Disney discovered that creativity on its own was not enough to be successful. He pioneered a multi-faceted method of teamwork and synergy that led to his phenomenal success, which we present in this lesson.
He came upon a process to turn his dreams into a reality. The Disney Creativity Model termed as Distillation, has three steps as given below:
Before the team commences the “Ideation” the project team has to complete the following steps:
a) List down all the people to be included for the distillation process. – As far as possible, the project team should include almost all who are going to be affected by the said “change” (if it is a change initiative) Electra font or all those who are – currently working on / all those having deeper knowledge or insights on the subject to be discussed (if it is an initiative to get ideas / suggestions on a subject) Electra font
b) Discuss and set the criteria for the evaluation of ideas generated – This means what are those key criteria which should or must be fulfilled for an idea to be accepted example implementation time or budget. This is an important preliminary step and the success of the distillation tool depends a lot on the careful selection of these criteria. Care should be taken to ensure that the criteria are only shared during Step 3 which means the Judgment phase.
Let us now see each step in detail:
1. Ideation: The team gathers together in a room. Everyone gets a pen and paper. The leader communicates the ideation theme, for example “I have gathered you here today so that we can put our heads together on what we can do to have more fun at work”
First of all, team members have the option of putting their names down on the ideation paper or going anonymous. The leader mentions that at no point will any idea be linked to anyone’s name in this session. The leader asks people to think of and write down as many ideas as possible on the sheet of paper provided. It needs to be very clear to all that the focus is on quantity of ideas.
The ideas do not need to make sense, and team members are not expected to justify or rationalise the ideas in any form. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous or far-fetched the idea sounds. If it relates to the ideation theme, it needs to go down on the sheet. This is an individual exercise, and it relates to the 1st room in the Walt Disney model. The leader then collects everyone’s sheets.
2. Collation: This is a separate activity done by the leader after Step 1.
The leader then collates and cleans the data generated in step 1. (duplicated ideas and similar thoughts). No judgement is allowed as yet. The leader (along with a think-tank group if available) tries to co-ordinate ideas and checks if they link together in any way, or if they merge to form a larger idea).
The list of ideas is again collated and a primary sense check is done, where overly outrageous and abstract ideas that haven’t merged with other ideas are eliminated.
3. Judgment: In this step, the team is assembled again. The leader asks the team to vote for ideas that he calls out from the list by a show of hands. The highest voted ideas on the list are noted. These ideas are usually evaluated first since the team will be more open to working with them.
The ideas are then critically evaluated for feasibility and effectiveness by filtering them through intensive judgement criteria. Evaluation is done respectfully, which means the idea may be criticised but not the person.
Every project will have its own judgment criteria. The ones listed below are the most common criterion that are used in the judgment process under distillation. Ideas that are accepted are those that pass-muster on each of these. For example, an idea that needs a financial outlay that is above the budget set, even if it meets all other criteria, is rejected.
The team could also decide that an idea need not meet every criterion identified, but perhaps a certain percentage (say 80%) of the criteria to be accepted.
Finally, add the estimated impact of implementing the said idea or suggestion.
When can we use Distillation model:
The model could be used in situations when: (list not exhaustive)
a) Avoids Groupthink: In a simple group discussion there is a danger of “Groupthink. Have you ever thought about speaking up in a meeting and then decided against it because you did not want to appear unsupportive of the group’s efforts? Or led a team in which the team members were reluctant to express their own opinions?
If so, you have probably been a victim of “Groupthink”.
Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when the desire for group consensus overrides people’s common sense desire to present alternatives, critique a position, or express an unpopular opinion. Here, the desire for group cohesion effectively drives out good decision-making and problem solving.
Two well-known examples of Groupthink in action are the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster and the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Engineers of the space shuttle knew about some faulty parts months before takeoff, but they did not want negative press so they pushed ahead with the launch anyway.
Distillation model tries to avoid groupthink.
b) Avoids Illusion of Unanimity: Very often because no one speaks out, everyone in the group feels the group’s decision is unanimous. This is what causes it to spiral out of control.
c) Avoids Peer Pressure: When a team member expresses an opposing opinion or questions the rationale behind a decision, the rest of the team members work together to pressure or penalize that person into compliance.
“Well if you really feel that we’re making a mistake you can always leave the team.”
The distillation process is designed to be an enabler of effective team innovation. It is based on Walt Disney’s innovation model, and has been adapted for the workplace.
There are three distinct phases that distillation entails:
1) Ideation: Where people are encouraged to envisage possibilities for solutions, without fear of judgement
2) Collation: Where the leader and the think tank team collate and clean the ideation data, with a view to linking and connecting ideas to form better ideas, wherever possible
3) Judgement: Where the ideas are then critically evaluated for feasibility and effectiveness by filtering them through intensive judgement criteria.
If you’re trying to build a platform from where your team can innovate regularly and effectively, it is best to pick quick wins when trying out distillation with your team for the first time. This will build their morale and confidence, and they’ll be keen to keep these sessions going. You may eventually switch to more complex solutions later.
That was the lesson on Distillation. You can re-take it if you wish, or scroll down to view a slide deck outlining the key points from the lesson. Thereafter, take the quiz provided at the bottom of the screen.