One of the simplest, shortest, and most effective business ideas is to encourage people to establish support and challenge groups. Practiced by many organizations worldwide, these are an indispensable way to build teamwork, productivity, and effectiveness at work.
A support and challenge group consists of four or fi ve colleagues of a similar level or status, who meet, informally, at regular intervals (perhaps once a month or once a week). Each individual takes a turn for ten minutes or so explaining a challenge or issue that they face. The others listen and then ask questions, helping their colleague understand the key issues and where the solution might lie. This should be done without prescribing a solution; the key is to support the individual and challenge their thinking and assumptions.
The British retail pharmacist chain Boots is among many that have used the technique successfully. Support and challenge groups work for several reasons:
Speaking about an issue or challenge can help provide perspective and clarify the issues, even without the comments of colleagues.
The views of others can provide a different approach to a challenge—or simply provide encouragement and strength. Either way, the involvement of others is helpful.
People gain greater understanding of each issue and the challenges they face. Being aware of common issues encourages people to collaborate more
Listening to someone else’s challenge enables individuals to sharpen their own thinking and approach.
Gather together a group of colleagues, explain the concept (to provide support and challenge each other’s thinking), and arrange to meet regularly.
One person keeps time—a speaker should take no more than ten minutes to explain their challenge.
Ensure that the speaker is heard in silence, without interruption.
Take it in turns to ask questions and comment. A questioning approach is particularly effective.
Move on to the next individual and repeat the process.