When you’re working as a coach, the conventional wisdom says that any ideas should come from the person you are working with. They emerge if you give enough attention and support, ask interesting questions and listen. This is all true to a point.
I have been around, coached and consulted with lots of people, have buckets of experience and am easily able to produce valuable ideas. However, I don’t want to show off or bombard my clients. Coaching is about helping them, not boosting my ego.
Idea Ping Pong helps the client contribute ideas, and the coach offer ideas, but not take over. It’s fun too.
Idea Ping Pong
This simple technique works very well. You simply take turns producing ideas! You encourage and model building on ideas, not criticising them.
Let’s suppose the client’s issue is that the team meetings she chairs are not as productive as she would like them to be.
A conversation might go like this
Me: How do you feel about the meetings?
Client: Bored, irritated, frustrated.
Me: How would you like to feel about them?
Client: Excited, interested, happy
Me: What’s one thing you could do that would make you feel that way?
Client: Hold them somewhere more interesting sometimes. The room is dull. We could go offsite once in a while.
Me: Would you like an idea from me? If so, we could take turns for a few minutes and play “Idea ping pong” (Explain what that is)
Me: You could ask the people how they feel about the meeting, just go round and ask for a word or two and for everyone else to listen. They might well be bored too.
Client: If they are bored, and I think they are, I could ask them to play “Idea Ping Pong” in pairs about what needs to happen to make the meetings less boring!
Me: Great idea! You could ask the people, who put the most interesting ideas, to put them into practice. Then more people would want the meeting to succeed.
Just keep going until you naturally run out of energy. In just a few minutes you will both have ideas you would never have had by yourself. The combination of support and challenge, constructive competition and collaboration are very stimulating. This works well in pairs and works equally well in a group. You could use many small groups in a large meeting. Then you could stop halfway through, share the results between groups, and continue.
It’s important to remember that the output of Idea Ping Pong is ideas. The decision on what to do with them, if anything, remains with the client.
I would be very interested to hear what use you make of this technique.
A comment from a client (We did a two-way test over the phone).
Idea ping pong works. I’ve tried it face-to-face and over the telephone. It quickly generates a range of ideas. All you need is a problem and someone you trust.