Katharine F. Needham is one of the chief experts on electronic banking in the nation's capital, but she uses a very low-tech trick to break the ice with bankers.

For years Ms. Needham has loosened up executives by asking them to place a cork from a wine bottle in the well between each thumb and index finger. They then have to try and shift the corks from one hand to the other. It sounds simple, but some of the smartest bankers end up locking their hands together in failure, she says.

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