Can you really hone skills with a single 90-minute workout?
Antonia Cowdry, VP organisational development at Deutsche Bank, put The Mind
Gym through its paces
The Mind Gym is such a simple concept it is extraordinary no
one thought of it sooner. What it does, is deliver 90-minute, face-to-face
mini-workshops on a wide range of leadership and management development
subjects ("life skills") supported by weekly e-mails. Each session is
on a different subject and there are over 60 to choose from.
In our time-poor world, where a day (or, heaven forbid, a
week) away from the office seems all but career suicide to many high-flying
executives, the idea of a 90-minute learning "injection" is deeply
seductive. Add to this, the chance to choose from such intriguing titles as
"Zoom learning", "2+2=Green" and "The beautiful
question", or to brush up on practical skills such as "Remembering
whats is name", "Building rapport" and "Getting things
done", and you sense that this is no normal training offer.
I consulted my colleagues and we agreed to give The Mind Gym
a trial. The first "workout" we chose was "Your impact on
others". Within moments, the group of 15 HR specialists who had assembled
in a meeting room one Thursday lunchtime were moving around, asking each other
questions and debating how different people perceive the same behaviour. Using
imaginary characters by the names of Roger, Bridget, Graham and Helen, The Mind
Gym coach quickly had us agreeing on the faults and strengths of varying
personality types. He went on to help us discover which characters we each tend
to be like (a cross between Roger and Bridget in my case) and therefore what we
can do to increase our impact on the other people we work with.
The psychological backing may be over 20 years old, but the
workshop is thoroughly modern with plenty of exercises, illustrations,
break-out groups and laughter. It is amazing how much can be packed into an
hour and a half.
You can tell how many teams in the bank have attended and
enjoyed this workout from conversations overheard in the corridors –
"You’re a Helen", "Naresh is a Graham, for sure". The
lasting benefit, however, is that people are learning to understand each other
more and evaluate each other less – a great gain for teamwork.
Next, I decided to attend "Zoom learning".
"At the end of the workout you will have discovered techniques to change
your learning lens from wide-angle to microscopic", it claims on the
relevant Web page. It also explains, "too much helicopter vision and practical
considerations are forgotten, but get stuck in the cornflakes and there is a
danger of high activity with minimal, or the wrong, impact". It makes
sense, but could The Mind Gym really help me control my "learning
After a few relevant warm-up exercises we were split into
teams of four and given a case study. Disturbed from a well-earned break on the
island of Mauritius, my team was instructed by company boss Donald H Laser II
to find out what was happening at Arkwright Photocopy, an ailing subsidiary
whose leadership team he had fired yesterday.
First, we were encouraged to paint as much of the big
picture as we could with the basic information we had, and we then had to
decide where to "zoom" for more detail by commissioning a report from
any two of the five divisions. My team decided on sales and marketing and
customer service. Armed with this extra information, we zoomed back out to
"floodlight" and revised our view of the main issues. We were about
to share our conclusions with the rest of the group when we were given another
chance to zoom in for more detail – there was an e-mail from each department
and we were again allowed to read any two. Whether it was luck or a consequence
of effective zooming, we picked ones that provided vital information and
revised our recommendations accordingly.
I don’t claim that I can now turn around an ailing business
in an hour. However, I do now consciously think about whether I am looking at a
problem in "floodlight" or "spotlight" mode and when to
move between the two.
Another valuable innovation from The Mind Gym is the
e-prompt. These are short e-mails sent to all participants once a week for a
month after the workshop. The content varies from short quizzes (match the nine
influencing styles to nine song titles, for example ‘Big Boss Man’ with
‘Pressure’), cartoons and brief exercises, to simple diagnostics and
no-nonsense reminders. None of them takes more than five minutes to complete
and they are a simple way to help sustain learning. There is also an opt-out
for those who feel that they receive quite enough e-mails already.
Deutsche Bank has run a wide range of workouts, including
"Body language", "Conflict handling", "Speed of sound
reading" and "Creativity for logical thinkers". The Mind Gym’s
claim that over 90% of participants say they will apply what they have learnt
is consistent with our participant feedback.
So, while these intensive and highly interactive sessions
aren’t ideal for those who prefer more reflective learning, and, rightly, do
not pretend to be a substitute for one-to-one coaching, they do provide a
valuable stimulus and very practical learning in a time-efficient and popular
We have found The Mind Gym to be a powerful tool, despite or
perhaps because of the simplicity of the concept, and it is helping us build
skills and develop culture across Deutsche Bank. Employees in the UK were the
first to try the workouts, and they are now proving a hit with Deutsche Bank’s
German graduates as well. The initial successes were with team leaders as part
of ongoing development and team building, but we are likely to incorporate
workouts into our induction programmes and other courses right across the
The 90-minute concept is a sure-fire winner in the demanding
world of investment banking. While we may develop our own workouts for some of
the more specialised areas, for leadership and general management skills The
Mind Gym will be hard to beat, with its high-impact workshops and lively,
knowledgeable coaches who deliver what they promise.
If you are an HR director and would like to share your
training experience or review a training course, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
For further details on The Mind Gym range of workouts, see www.themindgym.com or call +44 (0) 20