Brainstorming Series: Getting Your Ideas To “Pop”

Most ideas aren’t ideas…they are the “kernels” of ideas that still need to be popped.

So, how do you get you beyond the useless output of typical Brainstorming sessions?  In Compression Planning it’s simple.  You “Churn” the ideas.

But what exactly does “Churn” mean? You know you have a “churned idea” when it has been enhanced to meet the following three criteria:

  1. You can assign it to someone (and they know exactly what it means).
  2. You can put a preliminary cost to it.  Is it a $100 idea or a $10,000 idea?
  3. You can develop a rough prototype of the idea…a quick test to learn from.

Jerry McNellis was conducting an in-house training with a group of engineering consultants from GE.  The group had previously been trained in traditional brainstorming.  Jerry was getting resistance from the group about “Churning.”  So he split up them up into two groups and both groups tackled the same issue.  Jerry facilitated one using the “churning” methodology and the other group used their traditional approach.

After working the issue for an hour, both groups got back together.  Jerry’s group presented their output first and the other group just shook their heads and said “now we get it.”

You see, most ideas aren’t “ideas” – they are what I call “kernels.” They still need to be popped to get to anything meaningful and that’s where “Churning” comes in.

Many people share thoughts at the “kernel” level.  Think of these thoughts as “guiding principles” because they “guide” the development of an idea.

Ideation typically starts with something along the following lines “Make it fast…make it easy for our customers….engage our customers upfront.”  While on the surface they seem like ideas, step back and ask yourself if they meet the above criteria.  Can you assign them to someone so they know exactly what they are supposed to do?  Can you put a cost to any of them?  How about sketching out a prototype of what it might look like?

No, you can’t.

Now, think about the difference if you work the previous “kernel ideas” into the following “churned ideas.”

1.  “Guarantee that a customer does not have to wait on the phone for a representative for more than 60 seconds.”  Assign it?  Cost it?  Prototype it?  You bet.

2.  “Provide three billing choices for attendees of our training seminars.”  Assign it?  Cost it?  Prototype it?  I know I can!

3.  “Provide an opt-in form on our website’s homepage that offers participants a free White Paper on Leading Off-Site Retreats.”  Again, assign it?  Cost it?  Prototype it?  Yes to all three.

In the next blog I’ll lay out the simple implementation steps to start using “Churning” in your next ideation session.

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One Response to Brainstorming Series: Getting Your Ideas To “Pop”

  1. Jay Duffy July 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

    Pat – your analogy with the kernel is a great way to get across the value of churning vs. brainstorming

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