By: Bill Pilchak – 7/10/14
Possibly because attorneys spend so much of their time analyzing, reporting and arguing events others have experienced and thoughts others have expressed, I have always recognized the importance of capturing pearls of wisdom, interesting observations and valuable information when a group gets together. Whether in a firm work session, a client meeting to learn facts underlying newly-filed litigation, a Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors meeting or other venues, I have always understood that collecting tidbits that are thrown out during group discussions is important. If not somehow saved, a great idea or argument may be lost forever.
Accordingly, when the Auburn Hills Chamber of Commerce Board conducted a retreat at Oakland University’s OU INCubator recently, I was in awe. The purpose of our meeting was to revisit our Chamber’s mission statement and develop a vision for the future, but any corporation or group can secure the facility to focus its team on any subject.
The OU INCubator’s facility is arrayed in concentric semi-circle rows, easily accommodating 30-35 people. The room can be configured for larger groups. The layout allows each on the team to make eye-contact with each other, if and when eye-contact is needed. Each of the participants has a keyboard. At the front of the room is a huge video display. The program leader, having worked with the team leadership, presents introductory thoughts to the group.
And that’s where the excitement begins. OU INCubator has technology that allows each participant to keyboard his or her thoughts which appear on the screen, with the contributors remaining anonymous. There are no stupid questions, but if a question belies one’s lack of knowledge, the group does not know which of the team is filling in a gap in their experience at the moment. That and other aspects of the INCubator’s program, assure that all synergies keep moving in a positive direction.
Participants can comment on aspects of the concepts introduced by the program leader, or build upon comments posted by others. Soon, there is an explosion of ideas branching off in visually depicted directions. Concepts can be debated on-screen. An instant thumbs up or down vote could be taken at any time, expanding or cutting off expansion on a subject raised. You can almost hear the electricity of brain waves crackling. Should a point be exclaimed verbally, the leader will keyboard that thought onto the screen as well.
That same process can be repeated for a series of ideas or subjects worked out by team leadership and OU INCurbator. At the end of the session, not only have ideas been developed to the nth degree by a focused group, but all the thoughts generated are captured in the program. In other words, the team leaders are provided with a document or electronic data capturing all the brainstorming that occurred during the session.
It’s not surprising that Oakland University’s program would be so well suited to enhance business. OU INC’s Executive Director, Amy Butler, Prior to moving to OU INC, was the Director of the Bureau of Energy Systems, for the Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth for the State of Michigan. In that role, she aligned Michigan’s energy sector initiatives, promoted economic growth and job creation for Michigan’s transition to the energy economy. Her focus throughout her career has been assuring resources funded by the public at large enhance Michigan’s business opportunities.