Monday, 19 October 2009

Roundtables and Being Promiscuous

This post was triggered by a post on "007 Unlicensed to Test" about "bounce buddies" - people to bounce ideas off.

I use and really appreciate the use of bouncing ideas off of others. It's a good way to learn and refine your thoughts. I do this in my daily work. In another way blogging is a form of the idea bouncing - putting thoughts and ideas out to generate a discussion (I very much believe in blog discussion rather than blog preaching!)

I have two approaches to my "idea bouncing" in my work environment - one is informal and the other is slightly less informal (but not formal).

The Round Table
The seed for the idea came from my manager - a regular meeting of test leaders. I developed this idea into a roundtable discussion.

If you google for "round table discussion" you'll see different flavours of how they should work. The pattern we follow closest is here.

One of the ideas behind the roundtable discussion is to have a discussion of equals - all having an equal contribution - anyone can contribute with a discussion topic and all have the option to have a say.

The semi-informal gathering is a enabler for bouncing ideas - all are busy with different schedules of meetings and so having an opportunity of a small oasis to bounce ideas around is great. We only started this a few weeks ago, but it's been very positive so far.
I'd started a similar weekly meeting - with similar intentions - in a different group some years ago. Due to the nature of the discussions this became known as the "weekly complaints meeting". The current version is staying truer to the idea of a round table discussion so far.

I don't use this term in the sexual context but rather the idea of having an indiscriminent approach to who I bounce ideas off. This is infectious (again not sexually!) If you behave in a very open way about asking questions or views on ideas then the receiver is more ready to do the same back - ask their own questions or say "what do you think about xyz?"

That is a very positive result!

Firstly, you might not have the polished idea when starting to talk to somebody - but by the end of the discussion you're going to have clarified some things - maybe it was a bad idea, there were some points overlooked, you get a lot of positive feedback or you come up with a new idea on an unrelated topic.

Secondly, the other person is encouraged to ask you their own questions (assuming you respond) - re-inforcing the importance of a two-way flow in any discussion.

For me, this type of discussion typically happens by the coffee machine, in the corridor, a visit to somebody's desk or an email.

These two ways of bouncing ideas around and getting feedback have a very positive impact on my working life (even if the feedback isn't positive!) They are great ways to communicate and great ways to encourage communication.

Blogging is another way - although less fire-sure about getting the feedback.

So, do you actively bounce ideas around and if so what methods do you use?


  1. Hi Simon,

    I think any person in any industry who believes they have the answer straight away is misguided.

    Bouncing ideas around is how good ideas become awesome ideas. I personally like to sit down and bounce it around a roundtable if I can.

    Other than that I ping it out via twitter, the blog or Instant Chat clients and open it up for more.

    My point of view is that everyone in my team has the potential for super ideas. I worked with someone once who said the seniors should tell the juniors what to do. I disagree. I think we should open the ideas up and get buy in from all involved. The juniors have good ideas too. And they are more often willing to accept ideas from above if they've had some input to them.

    Cool post.


  2. Hi Rob,

    Good comments!

    The junior/new team members are sometimes the ones with the different perspectives (not stuck in a rut) - so that's always a valuable source for input.

    Round tables imply no seniority in the discussion - I run them as a "reluctant chairman" - just there to move the discussion along and not actually direct the discussion...