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Welcome to Merge's Monthly Mega Minute - a bite-sized, yet substantial and practical, nugget of information that you can use immediately to enhance your professional and personal success.

Misinformation: an unusual approach to spur discussion and creative thinking

When seeking to solve an issue or a problem, or charged with evaluating or implementing a new initiative, you’ve probably approached your employees and co-workers to elicit ideas and engage in discussion. But often, it is difficult to get people involved in the dialogue. Usually, it’s not because people don’t have anything useful to offer; more likely it’s because they have other priorities and the assumption is that “someone else will respond”. But the ultimate outcome still is that you don’t get the participation levels that you’d like.

So consider a contrary approach. Rather than asking an open-ended question, seed your question with misinformation or an opposing viewpoint.

So instead of: How many staff members should we bring on shift for the Grand Opening?
Ask: What do you think about having two people on shift at the Grand Opening?
Because two people on shift for a Grand Opening is clearly not enough, your team members will be quick to speak up and contribute their input to the discussion.

Or, instead of: How can we create a process to automatically notify us when our inventory levels drop below a certain level?
Intentionally, make a statement that you know is false: Our computer system can be set up so that it automatically triggers a notification when inventory falls below a critical level. Let’s just use that functionality.
Immediately, you’ll get responses from the people who know this to be untrue, who luckily, are also are the very people who are most likely to give you the best insights on how to achieve your objective.

See how this works? This approach is based in Cunningham’s Law. Named after Ward Cunningham, the developer of the first wiki, this law states that:
The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question, it’s to post the wrong answer.

But it isn’t just Cunningham’s Law that understands this phenomenon. The French have a similar saying: prêcher le faux pour savoir le vrai. Which means “preach the wrong to know the true”. Even the FBI lists this “Deliberate false statements” approach as an elicitation technique in their training for FBI agents!

If you’re not getting the participation and involvement you’d like, then use Cunningham’s Law to your advantage. Include some misinformation or an opposing viewpoint in your “ask”, and then sit back and watch the dialogue develop.

Well, I’d love to know what you think. Have you seen Cunningham’s Law in action? Can you use misinformation as a deliberate technique to get your employees engaged and participative in important discussions? Have you used this approach before? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Comment directly on the blog at

Since our last issue of the Mega Minute on August 8, Merge has had two of her regular columns published in The Globe and Mail.

What does it (really) take to get promoted?

In this column, Merge debunks the common belief that “sucking up” to the boss is the only way to rise in the ranks. In What does it (really) take to get promoted, she outlines nine (other) ways to get ahead in the workplace.

The art of dealing with criticism at work

Criticism stings. In The better way to deal with criticism at work, Merge outlines a simple two-dimensional model leaders can use to first, evaluate the criticism, and then thoughtfully respond to it based on that assessment.

Turning Managers into Leaders

That Merge can give you valuable perspectives on disruption in your industry?

Lately, Merge has been speaking and writing on disruptive innovation and its tie-in to artificial intelligence for a variety of industries and market segments. Because she comes at the topic from a leadership perspective, she translates the fairly dense subject matter into what it means to leaders in their roles. By focusing on what leaders need to know, and perhaps more importantly, need to do, she cuts through the complexity and gives people what they really want (and appreciate) in a way that is succinct and practical. The reaction has been extremely positive, and she is being repeatedly asked to offer practical useable tips on this subject to those in leadership roles. If this topic is also of interest to you, please contact us, and we can send you additional information, including links to several of her articles that you might find very useful.

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