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Author Topic: german brainstorming  (Read 2022 times)

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Offline sdog

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german brainstorming
« on: January 10, 2011, 07:03:44 AM »
In brainstorming, an US invention from the 50s, "Killer Phrases" are not allowed. German brainstorming is much more deeply rooted in the mentality. There are also no 'killer phrases' there is only a phrase. Regardless how silly the idea is, this is in fact most of the time not silly at all, the first answer is always:

"Das geht nicht!"

 (It won't work) Then you have to think hard to find some very good arguments that on the contrary it will work indeed. If one also presents them very convincingly the reward is the answer:

"Das geht so nicht!"

A most gratifying answer that is. To make it more easily understandable i'll highlight the difference: "Das geht so nicht!" The english translation "This won't work like that" does only partially transport the meaning. Perhaps a much more descriptive translation would be: "In principle this could work, but there are a few issues, in fact i can come up with ten at least." At this point the cooperation of that person is won, trying to actually make it work. If it wouldn't work they would feel, and rightfully be considered, to be a fool or naive at best, for having believed so easily something that never could have workd out would. The general comment would be: "Das hab ich doch gleich gesagt." (I told you so.)

Some think this is the secret behind solid german engineering, but it is also the downfall of tourism. As the discourse is the same for the brilliant idea to build rocket boosters and an ejection seat in a car and the audacious attempt to get a cup of passable tea* in a café.

*boiling water and a pre-warmed mug; It can't be that difficult.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2011, 07:21:57 AM by sdog »

Offline moblet

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Re: german brainstorming
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2011, 11:36:21 AM »
Sounds a bit like something we say in English - "Bah! Get nicked!" Also a dampener in a brainstorming session. Meanwhile I'm still trying to work out how this helps to make a BMW good at going around corners.

Do many German brainstorming sessions degenerate into fist fights?

For a moment I thought you were going to say "ejection seat in a helicopter"...

*shouldn't tea be one of the haulage commodities in pakBritain?

Offline rainer

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Re: german brainstorming
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2011, 02:27:20 PM »
I can't hesitate to mention some more "typical German" killer arguments, which are used very often by the same persons in a cascading matter.

"Das haben wir schon immer so gemacht."
"We'v ever done it in this way." Avoids the need to explain the reasons why it is done in this way.

"Das haben wir noch nie so gemacht."
"We've never done it in this way." Avoids all changes.

"Wo kämen wir denn da hin?"
Hardly translatable. "Where would we land by following your purpose?!" - See above, but more aggressive.

"Da könnte ja jeder kommen!"
Almost untranslatable. "What if everybody comes up like that?!" Rejects clearly and unpolitely your right to recommend anything at all. If you would be allowed to speak up, they should allow anyone. Urgs.

Offline sdog

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Re: german brainstorming
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2011, 06:32:09 PM »
There's another phrase that's quite similar to the one above that marked success in convincing the german, but it actually means something completely different:

"Also, das geht so nicht!"

While "Das geht so nicht" meant it doesn't work like this, but it would in a different way, the addition of the 'Also' completely changed the meaning to something one'd get for asking or doing something that is completely out of question, regardless of feasibility. Examples would be: Pushing an elderly lady into the ditch to get into a bus earlier. Asking a clerk to speed up a process by jumping over not necessary parts. Or for what it matters, to suggest a waitress to make the tea yourself.

So if you ever get to germany, be carefull if you hear this phrase, it is easy to spot as the stress is on the 'das' and quite distinctively so: "Also DAS geht so nicht!"

;-)
The advantage for the BMW's steering lies perhaps that german engineers won't give up on getting those answers. They will just have to form a very good and well thought of suggestion before they can start the discussion. Then all of the other engineers will find hundreds of flaws, but they also will try to find a way to iron them out. This won't happen all of the time, so quite often not so bad ideas are dropped until something better comes up.

This naturally fits quite well into the processes i learned into systems theory, with one of the key elements: "The status-quo is always a viable alternative." This also has the effect that german engineers are kind of immune to killer phrases, in the proper brainstorming process, they typically just consider them as constructive criticism.

Since i'm here in Toronto i began to understand much better why the killer phrases had to be forbidden in brainstorming. There is no negative criticism, and people consider it offensive to be criticised. It's the "If it's not nice, don't say it." mentality. Well, this is much stronger in Japan, and i'm quite convinced brainstorming is absolutely impossible there. They still build extremely good industrial products, and were technological leaders for quite a while. So it really does not have such a large influence, or rather there are other methods to get reliable innovation.

Offline moblet

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Re: german brainstorming
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2011, 03:17:52 AM »
So if you ever get to germany, be carefull if you hear this phrase
If I ever get to Germany I think I will organise a brainstorming session just so I can watch.
Quote from: sdog
The advantage for the BMW's steering lies perhaps that german engineers won't give up on getting those answers. They will just have to form a very good and well thought of suggestion before they can start the discussion. Then all of the other engineers will find hundreds of flaws, but they also will try to find a way to iron them out. This won't happen all of the time, so quite often not so bad ideas are dropped until something better comes up.
I was starting to think the same thing.
Quote from: sdog
this is much stronger in Japan, and i'm quite convinced brainstorming is absolutely impossible there. They still build extremely good industrial products, and were technological leaders for quite a while. So it really does not have such a large influence, or rather there are other methods to get reliable innovation.
In my limited understanding of Japanese innovation and achievement it seems that in many cases it is driven by a persistent individual stubbornly going in their own direction, which is the opposite of what is expected in many other aspects of Japanese society, although the Toyota Production System, in its pure form, takes great notice of employee suggestions. Ironically part of Japan's industrial success is credited to an American, W E Deming, who taught concepts of quality and process management there in the 1950's. The Japanese saw the value of his ideas and started putting them into practice. Meanwhile most American manufacturers ignored him.

Offline prissi

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Re: german brainstorming
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2011, 09:53:31 AM »
I rather would say that brainstorming (albeit on a very subtle level) is inherit in the japanese emphasis of groups. Although those have a leader, a good leader seems to know when to listen.

Other than that to me japanese engineering is a little like russian one: Just in case make things a little stronger, because breaking fast is considered "impolite" to the customers.

Just looking at what japanese trains had to withstand while the whole system is operated with specification that in other country is only used for streetcars (like 1m track, 3000 V DC, 17 t maximum axle load, narrow curves, long stretches of single line tracks). Especially impressive is of course the Tokyo urban rail system. (And not to forget: some of these trains run for more than 30 years, every day pushed to their limits considering load and acceleration.)

The last time german trains were built like that was in 1970 the Br103 engine; with 12000 kW peak power it was the strongest engine in germany ever and could run 600t trains at 200km/h over 5%o gradients. One egine did run an avarage speed over a MONTH of 67km/h. In the 1980 the average speed of all engines on a day was still 60km/h. They misused it in front of goods trains and neglect maintance from 1990 but it was still the main engine for long distance travel in germany until 2002.

Offline isidoro

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Re: german brainstorming
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2011, 11:34:05 PM »
[...]
Ironically part of Japan's industrial success is credited to an American, W E Deming, who taught concepts of quality and process management there in the 1950's. The Japanese saw the value of his ideas and started putting them into practice. Meanwhile most American manufacturers ignored him.

And what is the cost of all those concepts in terms of human beings' welfare?

Unfortunately, nowadays Quality concepts are clearly overrated.  While the quality of a screwdriver is quite easy to measure, the quality of things in which human beings are involved (e.g. teaching) is not as easily measured.  And we are suffering from that...  Not to mention that an effect typical of quantum mechanics (how to measure affects the outcome of the measure) happens.  You have to deal with hundreds of sheets of paper, thousands of surveys... and that takes from the time you have to do productive work... sigh...

And last, but not least, for me the mere concept of Quality theories ("you always have to improve") is, to say the least, tiring...  Please, tell me what I have to do to be good and don't tell me that that "place" doesn't even exist.