The Making Of: My Most Brilliant Ideas

The dump-engage-merge cycle

It’s rare, but sometimes I struggle to find a good solution to a problem. However, I found a very simple technique to help me in such situations, and it’s very straightforward to execute. I usually apply it during 1:1s, but if you don’t have direct reports, I suppose you can do it around the water cooler, or coffee machine as well.

I call it the dump-engage-merge cycle, but let’s consider that name a work in progress. I’m open to better naming suggestions (there’s only two hard problems in computer science).

Here’s how it works.

During a 1:1 meeting, if there’s no obvious urgent topics to discuss, I dump the problem I have onto somebody.

“I’ve been thinking on how to improve sharing knowledge around the topic of X. my best idea thus far is to get people to set up a slot whenever they’re have an initial design of the X kind, and ask others (specifically those with more experience in X) to challenge them. What do you think?”

Note: the question at the end is the engage, a trigger to involve the other party and add some value.

“That sounds an awful lot like the weekly session Y that we already have in the calendar, perhaps we can expand the scope of that meeting and include this as well? That way we don’t fill up people’s calendars with all kinds of regular meetings.”

I do a mental merge of what I pushed and the result of engagement to get ready for the next cycle.


1:1 with the next person.

“I’ve been thinking on how to improve sharing knowledge around the topic of X. I’ve discussed this idea with P, and our current idea is to expand the scope of meeting Y, during which we’d also have teams present initial designs of the X kind, and ask others (specifically those with more experience in X who will be in the audience anyway) to challenge them. What do you think?”

“I like the idea, but I’m afraid this will make meeting Y a mess, and too long. I agree with P that adding even more recurring meetings isn’t a good idea. So perhaps this should just be organized as hoc.”

Dumped. Engaged. Merged.


1:1 with the next person.

“I’ve been thinking on how to improve sharing knowledge around the topic of X. I’ve discussed this idea with P and P2, and while we considered expanding the scope of meeting Y, by asking teams we’d also have teams present initial designs of the X kind, and ask others (specifically those with more experience in X who will be in the audience anyway) to challenge them. However, since this would pollute and prolong this meeting, now we’re considering an ad hoc meeting whenever there’s a need. What do you think?”“I like it, the risk is that organizing an ad hoc meeting is a hassle, but we can consider this an engineering manager’s job. Also, I’d be selective in inviting people. I’d just invite people you know who have something to contribute, but still let others know it’s happening and they can join if they want.”


The Announcement

“Hello all, I have a brilliant idea…”