Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0203, May 10, 2005 | 7,000 Subscribers..

Dear friends,

This week we profile another creativity tool called "The Simplex Process," a powerful and sophisticated approach to innovation suitable for projects and organizations of almost any scale. The Process is an eight-stage cycle that inspires continuous improvement.

If you are involved or plan to be involved facilitating or managing virtual teams, you'll want to attend our upcoming 5-day teleclass starting June 13th called
Managing People You Rarely See. This teleclass will be of interest to facilitators and leaders working with virtual groups. Click here to check out the details on this class, and if you're interested, register now to take advantage of our early registration discount by May 20th.

Due to the great reception we received on "The Improvisational Facilitator" teleclass, we've scheduled two additional sessions of this class in June. One in a five-day format and the other in a 4-week format. This class presents powerful, practical improv techniques that are actually inner attitudes and practices that you can use to immediately enhance your facilitation, training, and group leadership skills. This class is very interactive and uses many innovative experiential activities that will surely surprise you. I'm really looking forward to stepping through this process with you and hope to see many of you there. Please see details at the bottom of this issue.

In this Issue:

Feature Article: An Integrated Problem-Solving Process

Book Resource:
The Power of Innovation

5-Day Teleclass: The Improvisational Facilitator

Have a great week!

Steve Davis


Starts June 13th
Click here for details

Starts June 6th
Click here for details

Self-Guided Version
Click here for details

Group Management Skill

An Integrated Problem-Solving Process
Using the Simplex tool for comprehensive problem-solving and continuous improvement.

The Point

Simplex is an industrial-strength creativity tool. Rather than seeing creativity as a single straight-line process, Simplex sees it as the continuous cycle it should be. Completion and implementation of one cycle of creativity leads straight into the next cycle of creative improvement. Simplex uses the following eight stages explained in detail below.


1. Problem finding. Often finding the right problem to solve is the most difficult part of the creative process. When using Simplex, actively seek problems out. Wherever they exist you have opportunities for change and improvement.

Problems may be obvious, or can be flushed out using trigger questions like the ones below:

  • What would your customers want you to improve?
  • What could they be doing better if we could help them?
  • Who else could we help using our core competencies?
  • What small problems do we have which could grow into bigger ones?
  • What slows our work or makes it more difficult? What do we often fail to achieve?
  • How can we improve quality?
  • What are our competitors doing that we could do?
  • What is frustrating and irritating?
  • These questions deal with problems that exist now. It is also useful to try to look into the future. Think about how you expect markets and customers to change over the next few years; the problems you may experience as your organization expands; and social, political and legal changes that may affect it.

At this stage you may not have enough information to formulate your problem precisely. Do not worry about this until step 3!

2. Fact Finding. The next stage is to find out as much information relating to the problem as possible. This gives you the depth of knowledge you need to:

  • Use the best ideas your competitors have had
  • Understand customers needs in more detail
  • Know what has already been tried
  • Fully understand any processes, components, services or technologies that you may need to use
  • Ensure that the benefits of solving the problem will be worth the effort you will put into it

This stage also involves assessing the quality of the information that you have. Here it is worth listing your assumptions and checking that they are correct.

3. Problem definition. By the time you reach this stage, you should know roughly what the problem is and should have a good understanding of the facts relating to it. From here the thing to do is to crystallize the exact problem or problems you want to solve.

It is important to solve a problem at the right level. If you ask questions that are too broad, then you will never have enough resources to answer them effectively. If you ask questions that are too narrow, you may end up fixing symptoms of a problem, rather than the problem itself.

Min Basadur (who created the Simplex Process) suggests using the question 'Why?' to broaden a question, and 'What's stopping you?' to narrow it. For example, if your problem is one of trees dying, ask 'Why do I want to keep trees healthy?'. This might broaden the question to 'How can I maintain the quality of our environment?'.

A 'What's stopping you?' here could be 'I do not know how to control a disease killing the tree'. Big problems are normally made up of many smaller ones. This is the stage at which you can use a technique like Drill-Down to break the problem down to its component parts.

4. Idea finding. The next stage is to generate as many ideas as possible. Ways of doing this range from asking other people for their opinions, through programmed creativity tools and lateral thinking techniques to brainstorming. Do not evaluate ideas during this stage. Instead, concentrate on generating many ideas as possible. Bad ideas often trigger good ones.

5. Selection & Evaluation. Once you have a number of possible solutions to your problem, it is time to select the best one. The best solution may be obvious. If it is not, then it is important to think through the criteria you will use to select the best idea. The Decision Making Techniques section of Mind Tools lays out a number of good methods for this. Particularly useful techniques may be Decision Trees, Paired Comparison Analysis and Grid Analysis.

Once you have selected an idea, develop it as far as possible. It is then essential to evaluate it to see if it is good enough to be considered worth using. It is important not to let your ego get in the way of your common sense. If your idea does not give big enough benefit, then either see if you can generate more ideas, or restart the whole process. You can waste years of your life developing creative ideas that no-one wants.

There are two excellent techniques for doing this. One is Edward de Bono's 6 Thinking Hats, which is an excellent tool for qualitative analysis. The other is Cost/Benefit Analysis, which gives you a good basis for financially based decisions.

6. Planning. Once you have selected an idea, and are confident that your idea is worthwhile, then it is time to plan its implementation.

The best way of doing this is to set this out as an Action Plan, which lays out the who, what, when, where, why and how of making it work. For large projects it may be worth using more formal planning techniques.

7. Sell Idea. Up to this stage you may have done all this work on your own or with a small committee. Now you will have to sell the idea to the people who must support it. This might be your boss, a bank manager or other people involved with the project. In selling the project you will have to address not only the practicality of the project, but also things such internal politics, hidden fear of change, etc.

8. Action. Finally, after all the creativity and preparation, comes action! This is where all the careful work and planning pays off. Once the action is firmly under way, return to stage 1, Problem Finding, to continue improving your idea.

The Simplex Process is a powerful, sophisticated approach to innovation. It is suitable for projects and organizations of almost any scale. The Process is an eight-stage cycle. Upon completion of the eight stages you start it again to find and solve another problem. This helps to ensure continuous improvement. By moving through these stages you ensure that you solve the most significant problems with the best solutions available to you. This process can help you to be intensely creative.

© Mind Tools Ltd, 1995 2005


Use the Simplex technique right now to solve a problem you have right now in your business or personal life.
Please send us your comments.


The Power of Innovation, by Min Basadur

The Power of Innovation clearly and informatively offers a unified strategy for problem solving that is applicable to any situation. The book details a highly effective process that can leverage the creative thinking skills of every individual for sustainable competitive advantage.

In the Spotlight

The Improvisational Facilitator

It's easier than you think...your life is already an improv!

Learn improv techniques to become a more effective facilitator, trainer, and group leader

The Improvisational Facilitator Teleclass

The inner attitudes of facilitators, trainers, and leaders is the key to their success with groups. However, very few trainings address the development of those inner qualities that can make a good leader great. That's why I'm thrilled to be offering this class where we'll present powerful, practical improv techniques that are actually inner attitudes and practices that you can use to immediately enhance your facilitation, training, and group leadership skills.

This dynamic teleclass, led by master trainer, Sue Walden, is for anyone who facilitates, manages, teaches, mediates, coaches, counsels, directs any group. This highly interactive course provides an experiential approach using very novel exercises to help you build the skills to create an environment for participation; one that encourages openness and risk-taking for you and groups.

Benefits to you of participating from this Improv Training...
1. Gain tools that will help you relax and have a lot more fun with your groups.
2. Learn simple strategies that will help you to be more open and flexible to the specific and dynamic needs of your groups.
. Be able to connect whatever people share to the group purpose or theme.
4. Get a lot more comfortable being "in the moment" with your groups..
5. You won't panic when you "lose your place."
6. Come to enjoy dealing with the "unexpected" in your groups.
7. Never have speaker's block again.
8. Discover reservoirs of creativity within you that you didn't know existed.
9. Collaborate and learn from a community of your peers, all passionate about empowering groups.

Comments from past participants...

I've been to lots of teleclasses but have never done offline partner exercises like this and they worked great, they really heightened the learning. Excellent resource book.

How the Training works...
1. You dial into your class every day for a 75-90 minute focused training segment using a conferencing bridge.
2. Several times we will leave the bridge line for short 8-12 minute periods to give you the opportunity to engage in short exercises with a partner to practice and deepen your skills.
3. You work through a learning/resource workbook which accompanies the class including practice assignments after each session.
4. You will have the opportunity to discuss issues on the subject matter with the instructors and your classmates via an online listserve during the course.
5. During the course, you may access the instructors via email for help or situational questions.

Improvisational Facilitator Training Agenda...
Here's what you'll be learning and doing during the course...

Being present to your natural creativity

  • Overview
  • Introducing the Parking Lot
  • Awareness experience
  • What is your default facilitation skill set?
  • Improv Core Skills that support facilitation
  • Exploring 1st Core Skill: Present Time
  • The "Voice Mirror," a simple and powerful listening tool
  • Facilitation Applications

Building the "muscle" that encourages participation

  • Check in on practice assignment
  • Explore 2nd Core Skill: Openness
  • Experiencing the look and feel of openness
  • Building the openness “muscle”
  • The "Yes and..." approach
  • Facilitation Applications

Making flexibility a way of being

  • Check in about practice assignment
  • Explore 3rd Core Skill: Flexibility
  • Combining Being Present and Open to become more flexible
  • Identify unexpected challenges in facilitating
  • Building the options and possibilities “muscle”
  • Facilitation Applications

Witnessing the magic

  • Check in about practice assignment
  • Introduce “The Observer”
  • Apply Core Skills to self
  • Getting present with self
  • Quiet the inner critic
  • Think on your feet
  • Be aware of your language
  • Facilitation Applications

Further applications and applied Improv

  • Check in about practice assignment
  • Explore other applications of Improv Core Skills
  • Emptying the Parking Lot
  • Q & A with the Applied Improv Process

Also included with your training...
In addition to the training described above, you also receive:
1. Free Learning/Resource Workbook ($20 value) to help you drill down deep and master the art of improv for use in facilitation, training, leadership, and group work.
2. Free access to the RealAudio version of the training ($69 value).
3. Free pre-recorded one-hour real audio teleclass, "The Art of Improv in Facilitation, featuring Izzy Gesell, who discusses the use of humor and improvisational theater techniques as facilitation tools.($20 value).
4. Articles and resources around using Improv in leadership and facilitation:
- Collection of humor and improv resources.
__- The Six Paradoxes of Improv. Six paradoxes that will help free you to be a better facilitator
____and trainer.
__- Leadership Through Improv. Article on how Improv techniques can be applied to leadership.

The full cost of training/access is only $99 including the free items ( worth $109) listed above. Everything you read about above is included. And, we offer a 100%-satisfaction-guaranteed guarantee.

Immediately upon completion of your registration, you will receive an email with instructions to access the course and free article bank. This course is limited to 20 individuals on a first come basis.

I really enjoyed the Improv class. Great material, excellent delivery including the opportunities to "try it out" in partner settings. --Sandy Brown, Facilitator, Intel Corporation--

This teleclass will be offered in two separate formats. A 5-day, 75-minute class, starting June 6th, and a four-week, 90-minute class starting June 9th. Each session contains the same material simply offered in different time formats based on your preference.

Session 1:
5-Day Teleclass, meets 75 minutes everyday from 1:00PM to 2:15 PM EDT (NY Time), Monday through Friday, June 6-10th

Please click here to register for 5-Day Teleclass
June 6-10th

Session 2: Four-week Teleclass, meets 90 minutes every Thursday from 4:00PM to 5:30 PM EDT (NY Time), June 9th through June 30th

Please click here to register for 4 week Teleclass
Starting Thursday, June 9th

Self-Guided Real Audio Version
If you'd like to learn this material at your own pace and on your own schedule, you can purchase the real audio version of this teleclass complete with the learning guide. You'll be provided with access to recorded offerings of the five-hour teleclass (5 hours total) that you can listen to online and follow along in the learning guide is used in the live class. Click here to purchase for $69.

(Real Audio Only)

Click here to purchase the
Real Audio Version for $69

Self-Guided 5-Day CD Version
The Compact Disk (CD) version comes with all of the self-guided features listed above, together with 5 CD's you'll receive by mail that you can listen to anywhere you have access to a CD player. Click here to purchase for $79.

(CD's and Real Audio Only)

Click here to purchase the CD Version for $79
plus $4 Shipping and Handling

One-Day Live Version

Interested in a one-day "live" version of this class offered to your group? Email us to discuss options.

Your instructors

Sue Walden. Sue Walden is the Founder and Director of ImprovWorks, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to building Life Skills through Improvisation. Her experience includes a BA in Education and 26 years of teaching, performing and adapting and widely applying the techniques of improvisation. She approaches improv training as a powerful and joyful way to peel away constraints, restraints and inhibitions, allowing the naturally expressive, collaborative and creative self to emerge.

Sue is a skilled teacher in ImprovWorks' public workshop program, a dynamic corporate facilitator, an engaging speaker, an author (Working with Groups to Enhance Relationships, Whole Person Assoc.), the delightful "Playmeister" of both the public and corporate Recess! programs, the director and a regular performer with San Francisco's longest-running improvisational theater company, "Flash Family". She has been a member of the Specialty Staff for the year-long Co-Active Leadership Program since its inception eight years ago.

Her current passion is training trainers and consulting on how to design powerful experiential workshops. Sue promises that, in any of her programs, while the learning may be challenging, it will also be fun!

Steve Davis. Steve Davis, M.A., M.S., is an Facilitator's Coach, Infoprenuer, and free-lance human, helping facilitators, organizational leaders, educators, trainers, coaches and consultants present themselves confidently, access their creativity, empower their under-performing groups, enhance their facilitation skills, and build their business online and offline.

Steve spends most of his time building and running He also publishes a weekly ezine for facilitators called, the Master Facilitator Journal, continues to write ebooks, design teleclasses, and maintain a part-time coaching practice. His breadth of experience spans business, corporate management, engineering, teaching, spiritual psychology, and wellness, offering a pragmatic yet creative coaching foundation. To learn more about Steve, visit his website at

About the satisfaction guarantee
If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with this package, simply email us with a request to refund/credit your credit card in the full amount and we will do so immediately. It's our policy to do this and we honor this in every single case. This policy completely removes the buying risk for you and keeps our customer-satisfaction rates extremely high.

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