Sometimes you just need to laugh …


This is the glass door I ran into on my first morning in a new office.  Five minutes after I arrived.  And I had to laugh at myself!  “Way to go brainiac.  Good thing no one was watching that one.”  Then I giggled.

Messing up, making mistakes, looking stupid in front of others – these are things that often cause people to put up walls around themselves as a means of self preservation.  No one wants other people to look at them and roll their eyes.  No one wants to be “that person.”  Unfortunately, the need to self preserve hinders a team’s ability to be transparent, take risks, and share ideas openly.

As a scrum master or coach we need to be aware of the human nature that says, “protect yourself,” and help develop a culture of safety so team members can learn to trust one another and bring out the best in one another.  Part of the scrum master’s role is to help the team have the best communications possible.  Safe discussions in a team happen when everyone’s ideas are valued and respected.  Great ideas come forth when no single idea has to be the winner.  Instead of allowing people to fight for their position like there is a trophy at stake, teach them how each person can contribute to the ideas of the others and build the best solution for the problem at hand so everyone can win.

Facilitating brainstorming sessions can help a team to foster the ability to throw a bunch of thoughts together and safely come up with the best solution possible.  Help them dream a little using post it notes, index cards, or white boards since all of these are easily disposable.  No ideas are out of bounds.  If you had no constraints how could you solve this problem? Everyone throw out at least 3 ways we could solve this problem – include at least one logical, one risky, and one fun resolution.  This is your timebox – Go!  Once every serious, crazy, risky, and logical thought is on the table the team can review them all and dream and laugh together.

The premise of this method is that no one holds too tightly to any ideas.  Having them throw in multiple resolutions that include the outrageous and risky along with the logical helps them to have contributions that they know we may decide not to use.   What can be really amazing is when an idea that the contributing person thought was dumb or outrageous is just what the team needs to move forward.  Using this process teaches the team to put every option on the table.  Then, sort through those to see what pieces they can put together or add to in order to solve their problem.  The ones that don’t fit into the best solution just get set aside and the best solution wins.

Don’t underestimate the power of laughter.  An individual who can laugh at themselves can learn that they don’t have to prove that they are the smartest person in the room.  A team that can laugh together can dream together safely.    A team that dreams together relies on the collective wisdom of the whole.

Oh … by the way… this … is the second door I ran into … on the afternoon of my first day!


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