Brainstorming Series: Laying the Foundation for Rich Ideas

There are three “foundational aspects” that need to be present to have a good ideation session in Compression Planning.

  • You must have the right players present. This seems obvious but it often isn’t. If you have a need for an ideation session with the Marketing Department, most sessions will be made up of “marketing people.”

In CP sessions, we push for diversity of thought. It adds a richness to the ideas created and developed. Many times the breakthrough ideas are developed by someone who is not close to the topic. They share something, a twist on how business is normally done, and the experts can then take that idea and make something useful out of it.

Think of who you would typically invite and ask yourself “who else could bring insights that will help tackle this issue?”

  • Every  session needs a “champion,” an owner. Is the topic legitimately commissioned? Or is it just an exercise in “engagement?” Every session needs to have someone who can take action with the output – either to directly implement it or take it and “run it up the flagpole” for sign-off before implementation
  • There must be structure to guide the creativity and development of ideas. This goes against some of the current thought processes out there that structure squashes “creativity.”

Hogwash. Structure the time for the group and give them the reasons they are there (Overall Purpose, Purpose of this Session, Non-Purposes). Also provide them with pertinent background specifically tailored to the “Purpose of this Session.” Now, clearly state the questions you want the group to address…the “answers” to your session purpose(s).

The foundation has been laid. You may now begin the ideation session. Without having the above present, any energy spent on the generation of ideas is wasted.

Now, how specifically how do I “churn” ideas?

You listen…intensely. Remember, you are listening to see if and when an idea meets the following three criteria:

  1. You can assign it.
  2. You can put a preliminary cost to it.
  3. You can develop a rough prototype.

You are passing judgment on the “completeness of the idea” based on those criteria, not on the actual idea itself.

Ask your first “Header/Question” and step back and be prepared to listen. Be prepared with the following statements to help your participants churn their ideas:

  1. Say more about that…
  2. Propose something (timeframe, quantity, cost, etc.)
  3. How do you personally see it?
  4. “I believe we should…”

If your participants are sharing the “tried and true” types of ideas, come back and churn them by asking:

  • How can we put a unique twist on XYZ product/service?
  • How will we get people to come to us specifically for this service?

Go for prototypes. Go for ideas that have action embedded in them. Develop, buy, research, explore.

A trick we learned is that you typically need to have a minimum of 8-10 words printed on a card to capture the specificity.

You also need to have someone who can document and doesn’t feel the need to “smarten up the idea.” Their role is to capture the idea in the words in which it was shared. This is more a role of a court reporter than an “editor.”

Churning is sometimes difficult for groups to grasp.  When your group finally “gets it” you want to make sure you have the help lined up to capture the rich ideas being generated.

For even more reading on churning, please read the blog on “Developing Actionable Ideas.”

Brainstorming Series


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