By Martin Gilliard

Catchball is a Japanese idea improvement and enhancement method that also encourages buy in amongst its participants.

As a starting point this method requires someone to already have an idea e.g. a new product, process improvement, enhancement or strategic vision for the future. Then just like a game of catch-ball the idea is “thrown” around the room to each of the participants.

A man catching a ball

(Photo Credit: Dave Hosford)

As a participant “catches” an idea then they are challenged to try and improve or expand on the idea. They might add a new feature to the idea or remove something that they feel doesn't add value. Once that person has finished explaining her improvements then the idea is “thrown” to the next person who attempts to improve the idea yet further. Over time the intended goal is that all of these gradual improvements will lead to some project that all feel is really worth pursuing.

This technique encourages buy in as all of the participants can gain sense of shared ownership for the creation of the idea.

It works well when a particular policy, strategy or company objective is defined by a company’s leaders. Instead of the leaders dictating the objective it is thrown to employees in lower levels of the organisations who then get the opportunity to refine, review and discuss it before throwing it back to the organisations leaders.

This process of tossing an idea back and forth ultimately enables the creation of a better, more accepted solution.

The method helps with the following:

  • Gaining management buy in and commitment to the teams ideas
  • Enabling all to have the opportunity to provide input
  • Early identification of problems
  • Communication
  • Providing a mechanism for all workers to initiate improvements
  • Better understanding by all concerned
  • Quicker implementation
  • Engagement

The technique supposedly expands upon the Socratic method of dialogue which was first expressed by Plato.

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