Method: bias storm
The bias storm is a method we apply at the start of collaboration, when the people who have to collaborate come from different backgrounds, cultures or organizations. The method aims to get prejudices they might have about the other in the open. Talking about these prejudices helps to understand the other and clears the road for fruitful future collaboration.
How it works
This method should be used during the initial session of people who have to collaborate. Immediately after the initial round of who is who and why are we here together today, form pairs of people from different backgrounds, cultures, organizations or whatever barrier you wish to level. Ask these pairs to write down on sticky notes what prejudices their colleagues might have against people from the other “side”. It is important not to ask what prejudices they have; as that might result in only the politically correct responses. While they are writing these down, walk around and stimulate them with questions such as: “What did your colleages say when they heard you had this session?”.
After a few minutes, when you notice that “the popcorn stops popping” ask the people from one “side” to read out what they have written down. Write key terms on a big piece of paper. Try to defer any defence (“I would like to react on that…”, “Let me put that straight…”) to the next phase. Then ask the people from the other side to read out what they have written down and collect their key terms on a different piece of paper. Then start the next phase by just asking “Who would like to react?”
Our experience is that this method is a powerful starter for cross-organizational collaboration projects.