The Journey from Wacky to Winning

Interview with IdeaConnection Facilitator David Gleiser
By Jane Mundy
Trust is a pre-requisite on the journey from wacky ideas to a prize-winning solution. "You've got to be able to trust each other and trust the system in which you are working," says David Gleiser, one of IdeaConnection's facilitators.

He has steered several problem-solvers on the journey to a successful solution; journeys that often began with haywire ideas that not one team member thought would wind up as a winning solution.

"If people work under an umbrella of trust they will take risks and think anew rather than think how they normally do," says Gleiser, from Bogotá, Colombia. "In order to think new thoughts or solutions they have to take risks and cognitive risks only happen with trust."

photo of David GleiserWhen his team first meets around the virtual table, Gleiser introduces himself and tells a few jokes to break the ice and improve the ability to socialize. "Everyone wants to trust the system and at first, that can be very difficult," Gleiser explains, adding that jokes don't necessarily generate trust. He then encourages the four or five problem solvers to introduce themselves. They discuss their backgrounds, work and sometimes family; publications (if applicable), what they did for their PhD dissertation, etc. Trust grows.

With Gleiser and his 'set of creativity tools' at the helm the team moves forward at an amazing pace – they only have 12 weeks to arrive at the end of their journey, to solve the problem. "My favorite tool is asking these guys to explain things to me, "he says. "Taking account that I am no scientist, they have to explain ideas like I am a child, and this encourages everyone to put complex thinking into simple terms."

Gleiser's tool proves extremely useful because team members come from different disciplines. For instance, the biologist may not understand the engineer. "When the biologist explains something to me as a layman, the engineer listens and understands without having to ask questions and thereby saves face."

If David is in the driver's seat, at what point is the team all in the same vehicle? Sometimes they aren't on the same journey. Gleiser says they can work on their own solution, perhaps on another level – a chemical level or a genetic level, say. "When the problem solvers start throwing solutions from their own disciplines at the rest of the team I get them to do some homework – to prepare a presentation for the next meeting," says Gleiser. "This allows them to explain what they are thinking, and it might trigger ideas for the rest of the team. A different kind of thinking encourages other comments, and that can result in a solution."

And trust builds friendships. Gleiser says he has made very good friends with problem solvers worldwide, from India and Australia to the U.S and Canada." I like to work with the same team so I try to encourage them to return to new challenges as a team," he says. "Maybe one guy leaves and a new guy comes aboard; overall each challenge is very enriching and meeting all of these people is very exciting."

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