’30 new ideas for the PMO’.
A great title, for what was the House of Genius at the last PMO Flashmob event, which means the audience gave their insights and shared their experiences for the benefit of another PMO practitioner with an existing problem.
We didn’t record the session like we normally do because Chatham House Rules applied.
What we can do is share how it worked and how you too could use the same technique or approach in your organisation. I guess you could call it a type of facilitation technique which could be used with project teams and with the PMO team itself. It’s also good for any kind of Community of Practice event too where you’re looking to share knowledge in a gathering or forum.
We came across the idea from a recent book called The Art of the Gathering by Priya Parker, which gave us the idea based on a networking event which started in the US.
The House of Genius is Simple
Here’s how it works.
One person presents a current problem or challenge they are facing and need help or insights with.
They tell the audience (the House) what the challenge is for about 3 minutes.
The House then have 5 minutes to ask any questions that might help clarify the problem.
After that, each member of the House has up to one minute to make suggestions on how the problem might be solved.
The suggestions could be something based on their own previous experiences. It could be sharing a resource – like a website, book or a person who could help further.
It can be something directly relatable to the overall challenge , r it might be something that addresses a part of it – for example, the PMO is under threat of being disbanded. Help and insights can be about the whole disbanding problem, maybe from someone who has been there before or it might be something that looks at handling stakeholder relations which may help as a technique to be used to help manage the situation.
Throughout the House offering their insights and help, the person who shared the original challenge is not allowed to speak. They are in listen only mode, and furiously taking notes based on the help being offered from the House.
Once everyone has contributed, the person with the challenge is now allowed to speak and shared what they found useful about some of the insights. There can then be oan pen dialogue between them and the House for the remaining minutes.
Timed right and with audience numbers around 30 people – the whole session takes about 40-45 minutes.
The PMO House of Genius
So how did we get on?
Here’s a few insights into how the session worked.
We added in an ‘I feel your pain!’ option for the House members
We started using this suggestion on the second and third rounds. It did three things – one, it allowed everyone to speak and contribute (just getting used to speaking into a microphone is a useful experience!).
It also enabled the microphone to be passed around in an orderly way rather than the moderator running up and down.
And most importantly, it allowed people who were unsure of whether to contribute or not to have that option. We found that people who were relunctant in the first rounds started to build up their confidence when they knew they would have to at least say “I feel your pain!” So they started adding a few more words of encouragement too.
It’s daunting being in the chair
But what you get out of it is worth it. Everyone who took part and shared their challenge with the House found it nerve wracking but judging by the number of notes they were frantically writing, the session seemed to do the trick.
It also helps if the session is deemed to be a ‘safe environment’. That means reassuring everyone that there are no wrong or right answers; that what got said in the room, stays in the room; and ultimately it’s PMO Flashmob and we’re all here to get the most out of events and support each other along the way.
It’s a great way to share knowledge in a room
The sessions – we had three of them, all different types of challenges – was a great way to hear from EVERYONE in the room which is something you can’t normally do at a networking event.
What was also interesting is even though you might not have that same challenge, as a member of the House ,there was always something to take away from each session yourself.
We also found that in the breaks the conversations also carried on naturally about what people were hearing about which is what you need when you’re trying to bring people together, to make them feel comfortable and want to meet and connect with others.
I think it’s safe to say it was a winner for PMO Flashmob. It was a nice vibes night; full of lovely PMO goodness being shared over drinks and pizza.
Each of the problem sharers got a lot out of it, they’ve even suggested that we schedule a retrospective event further down the line where they can share how some of the ideas shared on the night got used by them in the day job and how it worked out for them.
I think we’ll do it again. . . all we need are three more brave people to share their challenges with the House.
Will people use the format back at work? A few people mentioned they might try it. What do you think? Is the House of Genius concept something you could utilise?