September 17, 2012 at 1:48 pm #169405
We are getting ready to kick off our 2013 strategic goals brainstorming session and I want it to be different. I don’t want the same old, same old everyone throws out ideas on stickies or poster boards and often turning into bitch sessions of what’s wrong with the department as a whole. How can I facilitate a meaningful, actionable change focused meeting knowing that there will be a lot of naysayers in the group?
Was there something that you did or something that you experienced that was particularly memorable and productive that you can suggest? I want it to be engaging and fun. Candy and a prize are already part of the equation but I don’t have any cool “stuff” to give away.
Thanks for your suggestions!
September 17, 2012 at 2:51 pm #169425
We just hosted an event in which “journey mapping” was used as an approach to discover new ways of thinking.
In this case it dealt with customer service in government, but I’d imagine it could be a great twist on a traditional brainstorming process. Also, consider the IDEO method:
We used their brainstorming method at Next Gen last year to work through some tough government problems – and it worked very well.
September 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm #169423
Thanks Andy! Both interesting articles. I think there is some stuff I can use here.
September 17, 2012 at 5:21 pm #169421
Always an art to do well.
One minor trick I like is tossing a ball. Instead of asking question and waiting for anyone to speak, after the facilitator asks a question, throw the ball to 1 person to start off and after they talk, they can throw it to whomever they choose. Ensures that more people get involved (especially the more shy ones) & avoids awkward silences
September 17, 2012 at 6:23 pm #169419
Sometimes successful strategic brainstorming requires shutting down the naysayers in the room. You may not be able to avoid leaving them out of the discussion, so how do you deal with them?
September 18, 2012 at 2:55 am #169417
The key is a great facilitator. Sometimes worth hiring one, if it’s really important.
September 18, 2012 at 1:27 pm #169413
Get a reading of the people in advance who will be participating in the brainstorming session, in terms of two characteristics – people who are idea-creators or seekers, and those who tend to protect the status quo. There will be some in the middle that you won’t be able to characterize in either camp – that’s OK, simply split them so that you get roughly equal numbers in the two camps. Create multiple teams by pairing up in twos or fours equal numbers from each camp. Instruct the idea-creators/seekers to generate ideas; the status quo folks are to evaluate against what the organization does well today, and should be preserved. Bring the teams together and have each team present the best of its ideas, bounced against what the organization does well today. See if that works for you.
September 18, 2012 at 1:28 pm #169411
I would send the invitaiton specifying that you are looking for ways to improve the organization. Then at the meeting when people say “We don’t get enough training” you can ask “So I understand you to say we need more training opportunities?” If the employee says “No we need training in accordance with our competnecy gaps”, again ask “So you want training according to your competency gaps, right?” and they can say yes.
You can also go around the round and ask for input until no one has anything left to say.
You could also have people give their input on post its and have them post them according to category such as strategic planning, customer service, leadership issues or what have you. This allows people to give input while remaining anonymous.
Regardless you may not write what the employees agree on or you defeat the purpose of the session and loose crediblity.
September 18, 2012 at 2:19 pm #169409
Karen “Kari” UhlmanParticipant
There are four basic rules in brainstorming. These are intended to reduce social inhibitions among group members.
- Focus on quantity: This rule is a means of enhancing divergent production, aiming to facilitate problem solving.
- Withhold criticism: In brainstorming, criticism of ideas generated should be put ‘on hold’. Instead, participants should focus on extending or adding to ideas, reserving criticism for a later ‘critical stage’ of the process.
- Welcome unusual ideas: To get a good and long list of ideas, unusal ideas are welcomed. They can be generated by looking from new perspectives and suspending assumptions. These new ways of thinking may provide solutions.
- Combine and improve ideas: Good ideas may be combined to form a single better good idea, as suggested by the slogan “1+1=3”. It is believed to stimulate the building of ideas by a process of association.
September 21, 2012 at 3:03 pm #169407
R. Anne HullParticipant
Tossing the ball is great, provided you establish some think time before your start. Silence isn’t perceived as awkward by everyone. Many people (not labeling here) need time to think before speaking. Yes, we need to be able to “think on our feet,” but not necessarily in brainstorming.
So if your “shy ones” get tossed the ball without a few moments to prepare, they are put on the spot. If they are embarrassed because they aren’t ready to contribute, they may say they have nothing, or say something that isn’t what they really want to say. In both instances, they risk losing face.
Let the silence be OK, especially on a telecon. The wheels are still turning. Set a time limit and don’t cut it short just because no one is speaking. The silent people may be your most creative, broad-minded thinkers.
You can also try the round robin approach where everyone speaks in turn. That way you know when you’ll be ‘up.’
Also, ensure your pre-meeting agenda includes the brainstorming item with the problem/goal statement.
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