When someone asks me what I do, I’ve often had the urge to tell them I’m in the mind meld business. Thankfully, I haven’t yet gathered the courage to do that, mostly because I imagine them backing away from me slowly with a look of confusion and suspicion in their eyes.
But it’s true — I’m a practitioner of the mind meld, and I would encourage your company to do it too.
If you’re a Star Trek nerd like me, you already know all about the Vulcan Mind Meld. Even if you try to stay away from sci-fi space dramas (probably a good idea), no doubt you intuitively understand what a mind meld is when it’s mentioned due to its pop-culture status.
But for those that don’t know, wikipedia (as usual) describes it best: “[The mind meld is] a technique [used by the Vulcan race] for sharing thoughts, experiences, memories, and knowledge with another individual, essentially a limited form of telepathy.”
While not fully capturing the dramatic impact of the move as it’s used in the Star Trek franchise, this is typically how we use the term in real life — connecting people’s minds so they think as one and understand each other intuitively.
Maybe businesses would benefit from initiating mind melds (no funny hand-to-face gestures required).
It’s a great feeling when you are connected to someone so deeply that another person knows and understands you. We hope for this in our partners, family members, and closest friendships, but rarely do we expect it in other relationships — certainly not work relationships.
But why not? In business contexts we talk about relationship, communication, trust, alignment, empathy, and shared values all the time! If all those words are important, and they are(!), maybe businesses would benefit from initiating mind melds (no funny hand-to-face gestures required) intentionally and consistently.
But how? Well, the truth is that mind melds are happening all the time! It’s just done the old fashioned way — when two people work closely together, they learn how to understand each other, pushing through the failures and celebrating the successes to ultimately build deep trust and partnership.
But there are other ways to implement mind melds more efficiently across organizations. You might recognize these moments of deep connection by another name: Corporate offsite, leadership retreat, innovation workshop, and so on. If done well, these types of deep-thinking, collaborative efforts produce really strong mind melds, even though that usually wouldn’t be their stated objective.
So what are the hallmarks of a strong mind meld from one of these sessions? I propose there are three consistent outcomes that stem from facilitated offsites and workshops:
When I facilitate a vision session, a brand workshop, or a design sprint, one of the most important results, usually even more than the stated goals, is the simple alignment of everyone in the room. This alignment can take a number of forms, but ultimately it is about a group of people sharing the same vision, values, priorities, and goals, so that they become much more effective in the work they do together.
Trust falls get a bad rap, and rightfully so. Although well-intentioned, they are a trite substitute for the hard work needed to truly build trust. In the mind meld sessions that I have the privilege to facilitate, people are put right into the trenches, instilling trust through collaboration, getting to know one another, solving problems, and building on small successes.
3. New Possibilities
What happens when two or more people are able to combine their intellect, experiences, insights, and creativity together? We all know it when we see it: When facilitated by a thoughtful structure, it’s like jet fuel being poured into an idea engine, unlocking potential and generating breakthrough ideas that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
Alignment, trust, and breakthrough ideas are all essential ingredients for organizations to be successful and achieve their objectives. Business leaders get this intuitively, yet few realize that they can actually choose to make this happen across their orgs. It’s also true that it’s far easier to pay lip service to these concepts, but not invest resources and time, letting the busyness of business run unchecked.
So as the new year comes quickly upon us, let us commit to the important task of building alignment, trust, and new potential in our organizations. Make time for mind melds in your strategic and operating plans, whether at the executive or board level, within tactical teams, or across silos in your business. Dedicate the time and resources to consistently get your people from every level of the business into offsites or immersed in workshops, whether for a design sprint, a strategic planning session, a brand kickoff, or a culture mapping session.
Oh, one more thing…
Live long and prosper.