Here at Helm, as a glance at our events calendar shows, we do like what we call a Many Heads. These are usually a dinner, but can also be lunch or breakfast. We're not even against hosting a Many Heads brunch.
Helm is an exclusive community for founders of scale-ups beyond £1m, with only two rules: no sales and no ego. And the idea of our Many Heads events is that a group of members come together to help each other solve a challenge or problem.
Where does the idea of many heads being better come from?
Most English idioms seem to come from the Bible or Shakespeare. And the earliest recorded use of the phrase “two heads are better than one” dates back to the former. To be precise, to Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12. There, it states “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labour.”
The idea clearly took off. By 1546 it was a common enough idiom to make an appearance in John Heywood's pamphlet of proverbs. A Dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of all the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue is still available today, via the more modern medium of Amazon.
By the time of Heywood’s version, the proverb has taken a slightly different turn, introducing the idea that it very much depends whose heads you bring together. “Some heades haue taken two headis better then one. But ten heads without wit, I wene as good none.”
What evidence is there that a Helm Many Heads will help?
Ten heads without wit I wene as good as none. Indeed.
Two or more heads being better than one is exactly the sort of theory researchers love to explore scientifically. Is it really true, is there hard evidence to prove it, or does it just sound good? Well, there have been various studies into exactly this question. For those with an academic bent, this is an excellent (and very detailed) analysis of one such study
The evidence of various studies - not to mention the extensive research James Surowiecki put into his excellent book The Wisdom of Crowds- shows that better outcomes are achieved by people working together to solve problems. But all the research points to some necessary conditions being present.
Being blunt, the first condition is that the group doesn’t consist of what Heywood dubbed “ten heads without wit”. At Helm we carefully vet and manage the application process to make sure that those who join are a good fit for the club. To date, we are not aware of a founder being able to join with anything other than an abundance of wit. And plenty of charm to boot.
The second crucial condition to achieve a positive outcome is that the people in the group are prepared to join in an open and frank discussion of challenges and solutions. And here we get to the metaphorical meat and drink of a Many Heads event - the sharing of challenges and open discussion of potential solutions is the reason they exist.
For the record, the literal meat and drink is well, meat and drink (although non-meat options are always available).
For those keen to discover more, there is an entire section of the internet more or less dedicated to offering scientific proof that a Helm Many Heads dinner will help you arrive at a better solution to a current challenge than you could arrive at on your own.
But will I enjoy sharing problems at a Helm Many Heads event?
Even putting to one side the evidence that supports you getting a better solution for any challenge you bring to the table at a Many Heads event, there are other reasons to come along.
A core element of the Helm proposition is our Give and Get ethos - the idea that founders can get huge value from being able to help, coach and advise fellow founders who are experiencing a problem or challenge they have previously solved. A Many Heads event is a great way to offer this kind of help to fellow founders.
But perhaps the most important aspect of any Helm in-person event is fun. These are not stuffy, overly managed networking events. There’s no homework and no chores. This is a relaxed, fun event with peers, sharing fabulous food and drink in a lovely restaurant.
What’s not to enjoy about that? And you get to come away with a fresh perspective on your business.
If we were to follow in John Heywood’s footsteps and produce our own pamphlet of quotes from Many Heads events, it’s a toss-up as to which would be the front runners, but our money would be on “I’d never thought of it like that”, “that’s a great idea, I’ll try that”, or “can you send me their contact details, please?”. Then again, it’s just as likely to be simply “delicious”.
Helm Many Heads events are open to members only. For details of all forthcoming events take look at our calendar.