Power of Trivial — Discuss Your Favorite Programming Language to Build Your Team

You have an experience that you brought some discussion topic to your team but result in silence, don’t you? The style of team building is also changing after COVID-19. I think we have much more chance to have the situation like the above as the number of remote meeting increases.

This article describes how to encourage the team to participate in the discussion actively so that we can build a productive and positive engineering team atmosphere.

Bike Shed Effect – Power of Trivials

Have you heard about Bike Shed Effect? This is also called as “law of triviality” meaning people tend to actively participate more on trivial topics than serious ones.

Let’s assume that we are discussing an estimation to build a nuclear power plant. Most of the attendees will be silent. However, if you post a new discussion topic about whether we should build a bike shed in our office, everybody starts to participate in the discussion actively. This is because the topic is very close to ourselves and does not come with responsibilities.

There are typical engineering topics that engineers obsess over. “What is your favorite text editor?” or “What is your favorite Linux distribution?” are examples. Those result in pretty random discussions but people eager to talk their thought. This is because the topic is trivial.

Trivial Discussion to Build Team

I recently joined a team-building event. The event was quite successful. Many people joined the event and enjoyed it. The event involved all participants and discussed trivial topics instead of a quarter goal, business philosophy, or strategies (Of course, we did serious discussion in another session).

The participant joined the discussion by scanning a QR code on the screen. Then the real-time poll result displayed on the screen. The coordinator made some questions like “Which location do you prefer if we relocate office?” or “What other department do you like to work in?”. There is some engineering question like “what is your favorite programming language?”. The discussion was excited because of unexpected results sometimes.

Build Atmosphere by Trivials

I believe that we have much fewer chances to chat with our team members. Let’s talk about “your favorite programming language”. Or you can even talk about “complains about your unfavorite programming language”. The discussion will be excited based on people’s preferences. The discussion never results in an awkward relationship afterward because the topic is not connected to our main business.

The team joins the business discussion actively after warming up with trivial topics.

Global team builder from Tokyo. Engineering manager to build international engineering organization.