Like it or not, business creativity has increasingly become a group process. The lesson is that the increasing complexity of human knowledge, coupled with the escalating difficulty of business situations, means that silo departments must work together to advance improved solutions. Otherwise, your business will remain mediocre or become stale.
Goldmine found in your people
Ben Jones, professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University has studied brainstorming extensively (19.9 million peer-reviewed academic papers in fact).
A lone genius like Einstein cannot individually solve the incredibly complex problems for our 21st century. For example, Professor Jones compared the Wright brothers’ aerial achievement to a Fortune 50 company: “Now Boeing needs hundreds of engineers just to design and produce the engines.”
This is not groupthink where everyone agrees with management, not at all. You’ll want to use these steps to prepare for a traditional brainstorming meeting.
Recently, I attended the American Marketing Association’s meeting with guest speaker, Tim Earnhart. His session reminded me how brainstorming is within our toolbox but rarely used. Here are excerpts from his engaging presentation.
- Choose a moderator (preferably outside consultant) who has diplomatic skills to encourage freewheeling discussion particularly if the CXOs are present. The best way to come up with good solutions is to come up with many solutions. Later on, the moderator will ask the participants to evaluate the merit of the ideas.
- In advance, send the invitation which is hand-delivered (creates curiosity) with succinctly stated goal statements to gain your attendance and of course, engage your attention.
- Communicate the time commitment, preferably beginning at 9 am ending no more than two hours later. If no firm conclusions were drawn, you’ll reconvene the group as soon as possible.
- Invite more, rather than less people. Just maybe, the visiting intern has a fresh perspective and will contribute a “wow” idea.
- Write all ideas on the white board or post-it notes, no judgment offered yet.
- Have drinks, fun food and other stimulating items (stress balls, nerf guns, etc.) to make the meeting more enjoyable. Scented magic markers hype up the group, with grape being the most favorite one.
- Move around; get active to keep energy levels up. Ask participants to switch seats, if need be.
- Engage the audience one-by-one with the opportunity to remove the worst ideas. Like this: one person stands up and selects the worst ones and discards them to the “delete board.” The next person can visit the “delete idea” section and add that one back into consideration again. In this way, the loads of suggestions will be whittled down and groupthink is avoided by individual contributions.
- Recap the key ideas verbally and write a summary discovery document with timelines for accountability of the session. Clear tactics for all to understand should be the end-result.
- Moderator is tasked with assigning steps for corresponding departments
Takeaways: More Dynamic and Interpersonal Relationships
When people work together as a team, they not only become more invested in the project, they become more invested in one another as well. Team members support one another, even outside of the team structure, and adapt to each other’s working styles.
The team relationship may result in teamwork approaches even outside of the official teamwork structure. Guess what happens? You might see employees lending a hand on other assignments and sharing ideas or brainstorms to propel each other along to reach personal and professional goals.
The next time you’re stumped about a decision or can’t move forward, try these traditional approaches. You might be surprised by how effective they (still) are.