Create a free account to continue

Bring Back Show Tell, Part 1

Enhance communications, share best practices, challenge your teams, and build a greater sense of community and sharing by installing a periodic sharing of current works.

By ALAN NICOL, Executive Member, AlanNicolSolutions LLC

Enhance communications, share best practices, challenge your teams, and build a greater sense of community and sharing by installing a periodic sharing of current works. Let your product development and other project teams present their projects and designs to the rest of your organization in a relaxed setting.

A friend and colleague shared with me one of the practices the business for which he works regularly executes. The product design and development specialty business regularly conducts show-and-tell events. Everyone looks forward to them.

It was a strange conversation on my part. He was telling me about it as part of general conversation as we were walking, so for him it was just an interesting tidbit. However, while he described how his business goes about it, I experienced a flood of thoughts both inspired and reflective.

Numerous times in my career I have longed to be able to share the great elements of the many designs and projects with a greater audience. When I was younger, I admit, there was some desire to show off the really innovative discoveries and inventions our teams had created. As a more mature engineer, the motivation was more a desire to share discoveries that might make things easier for other teams if the lessons could just be effectively shared.

Also, I was struck with a recollection of all the many times I lamented how little I knew about the other people, teams and projects going on inside of my own business. I hated being surprised at seeing a new product on a retail shelf with our company’s brand name on it, and I had no idea we were working on it or that it had launched.

It made me feel disappointed that communications were so poor. It also made me feel hurt that no one cared to think we, the engineers and other little people, might be interested.

Finally, I recalled that, on some occasions, one of my previous employers held a competition for the year’s best programs and projects. I had the good fortune to participate in the competition, presenting one of our business unit’s projects as a representative of the team.

Aside from the good feelings that come from being allowed to participate and compete, I recall how much I really enjoyed meeting other engineers from all around the corporation, seeing their projects, marveling at the inventiveness, the problem-solving, the demonstration, and explanation of advanced engineering skills and techniques, and drooling over the designs and prototypes. It was tremendously impactful to this young (at the time) engineer.

So, as my friend was casually telling me about his business’ show-and-tell practices, I nearly lost my footing. “We should all be doing that,” I thought. Think of all the great sharing and morale that could come from it.

As I pondered the idea, I could only think of two reasons why an organization would not want to do this. The first is the obvious disruption to productivity. The second is the concern for compromising confidential, proprietary or secret information, especially in government contract service businesses. I think that both concerns can be easily overcome.

Concerning the disruption, I think that there is more to be gained than lost in the way of productivity. When people feel proud, encouraged, appreciated, and part of something greater than themselves, they are eager to proceed to the best of their ability and endurance. Also, there are simple ways to minimize the disruption.

Regarding the security of information, we just need to make some decisions. First, I suspect that the threat is much smaller than our initial reaction might lead us to fear. It would be a very rare case in which everyone who would observe or participate in the show-and-tell isn’t already contractually bound to preserve secrecy. A simple reminder that the information shared is not to be discussed off the premises or with visitors should suffice.

In some cases, a team may be working on something top secret and the rest of the organization may not be authorized to knowledge of the project. In such cases, the participants probably already know the rules and are resigned to not sharing. Their feelings should not be hurt. However, after the project is complete and made public, they might share, or there might be some elements of overcoming challenges or using techniques that could be shared without compromising sensitive information.

Please tune into the Chemical Equipment Daily for part two of this two-part series. What’s your take? Please feel free to comment below! For more information, please visit