I wonder what the word ‘Mastermind’ means to you? For some it may bring back memories of placing coloured pegs into round holes, to break codes. For others, it might be a TV quiz show. For me however, it means something completely different.

Imagine you have an important problem, the classic approach to solving it is to find a colleague or friend to turn to for advice. Although this trusted method can work, for complex problems there is a much better way – one that only takes an hour to kick off.  We at Bayard call it ‘Mastermind’ but other named variants exist too.  The good thing about Mastermind is that the process can be a powerful learning session, not only for the person with the problem but also for the people chosen to help solve it.

The technique is simple. The problem owner invites five or six people with diverse backgrounds and mindsets to their mastermind session. A facilitator is appointed and the problem owner begins by explaining their situation.  Once that is done, the problem solvers, one by one, give their immediate feedback; the idea being to re-assure the problem owner that he or she has been understood and has their full support and understanding. In the next round, the problem owner goes into more detail and the solvers reflect and prepare their questions. And so it continues from one round to another, without any debate whatsoever, each cycle going ever deeper into the core of the issue. Finally, the Mastermind session concludes with an “if I were in your shoes” round where each of the problem solver gives their unique advice.  The facilitator wraps up by giving time to the problem owner to thank the solvers and to bring the session to a positive conclusion. All this might sound a bit vague here, but I can assure you Mastermind is a very powerful technique and has to be experienced to fully appreciate its benefits.

Last weekend, I initiated a Mastermind session with some of my fellow Bayardeers. Apart from receiving some seemingly obvious, but hitherto overlooked advice, the sharing of my dilemma came as an enormous relief.  But most of all, what really impressed me is how much my participants gained by attending the session. They felt needed, useful and appreciated. And this surely is the best feeling of all, I mean, what more is there in life?

If I can give anyone a tip, it is to look up the technique up sometime – you never know when you might need it!

Have a good week,