July 25, 2013 fm

What Can We Learn From Number Pyramids?

The other day I checked some results in Álvaro’s math workbook. His task was to fill in the correct numbers in a number pyramid. He’d done a great job; I acknowledged his mathematical skills. Álvaro smiled. He was proud.

Days later I led a charisma seminar for one of my Geneva-based clients. In this special format we spent one morning on leadership topics like team building, communicating objectives or effective meetings. The participants faced a great challenge. They had to prepare 15-minute mini workshops about those topics. Apart from former lessons learned in that particular seminar I observed something that reminded me of Álvaro’s number pyramid.

One of the participants used one-to-one dialogs with a number of people in the group. She asked open questions to individuals like, ABC, what do you think about situation XYZ? People responded with non-energetic 2-minute monologues. One after another. The workshop leader generated individual ideas and opinions represented by the first layer of the number pyramid above – 2, 5, 3, 2.

Other participants used a different approach. They divided the team in subgroups of two. We discussed issues and presented our subgroup results. It was more energetic; we were more engaged, and the results were better and to the point. Those workshop leaders generated aggregated and more solution-oriented ideas. The individual values were higher – just as indicated by the second layer of the number pyramid – 7, 8.

One of the guys topped it all. He chose a 3-step approach: individual, subgroup, group. After 15 minutes only, we had a precise and tangible proposal for improvement. He moved up another layer – 15.

Based on my experience, group work will always beat individual thinking. It’s a great element not only for workshops, but for any business meeting.

Fortunately, Álvaro still doesn’t know what a business meeting is. He just wants his number pyramids.

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