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Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Roll Better Ideas Forward – Improve Engagement and Innovation

The old brainstorming process works. It just does not work very well. And there are lots of ideas about how to make it better. In past blogs, I’ve  shared a number of ideas and techniques to improve the quality and quantity of ideas. You can see this recent post, for one set of thoughts:  “On Brainstorming and workplace productivity improvement” – the link.

Woody Allen called the brain his second most favorite organ.

This is your brain.

Brainstorming is pretty well understood and is a common technique used by people for idea generation. It originated back in 1942, with a BBDO ad executive named Alex Osborn who used the approach and coined the term “brainstorming.” He used these four rules of involvement and engagement:

1. Focus on quantity. More ideas are better and you can always separate the good from the less good
2. Withhold criticism. There are no bad ideas in a brainstorm and you want to just keep things flowing.
3. Welcome the unusual ideas. Look at things from every perspective and withhold judgment.
4. Combine and improve ideas. Things are synergistic and a bad idea can generate a good one. Recapitulate and juggle thoughts.

This approach is so common that I would guess 50% of supervisors could tell you the rules and they are often presented First Thing when facilitators use the technique. It has not changed much. The only real issue is that this is not the best way to generate involvement and engagement and ideas.

Research says that some of the best ideas actually come when people are alone and doing “considered consideration” of issues and opportunities and working in groups at a fast pace may miss some of the better ideas. An article last year in the New Yorker shared some fundamental ideas about how to optimize impacts. (find “GroupThink, The brainstorming myth” by Jonah Lehrer here)

Basically, research has shown that groups using classic brainstorming approaches generate fewer ideas than people who work alone and then assemble and pool their ideas. 

What seems evident from this and other research on idea generation and innovation is that the best ideas and solutions to organizational issues seem to come from group discussions about ideas generated in isolation.

This research supports what it is that makes our Square Wheels One illustration such a great engagement tool, since it sets up a short solitary time for idea generation followed by some group processing of ideas and sharing of different perspectives and it changes the language of talking about organizational issues.

Getting people to talk about issues and opportunities is getting them to consider options and possibilities, and the power and strength of this visual metaphor allows them to return to these same organizational improvement issues down the road. You put their brain on fire!

Your brain on fire after brainstorming

Your brain on fire after brainstorming

The Square Wheels are everywhere, and so are the Round Ones. And once you start this process of issue identification, positive group processing, peer support, commitment to implement and the resulting praise and recognition for successes or movements toward success, you generate a more positive and engaging work environment.

All through the use of a metaphor about how organizations really work. Square Wheels One is the illustration that sets up the discussions of how things really work in most organizations and helps people to project their thoughts and ideas about their workplace on to the visual. They can work individually for a few moments and then collaborate as a group to expand their viewpoints.

SWs - Why use SWs RWs

The reality is that the Round Wheels are already in the wagon.
We just need to take some time to look for things to implement!
Sharing improves engagement / innovation and impacts teamwork.

Celebration color green train

The most revolutionary solutions spring from group discussion of ideas hatched in isolation. Let Square Wheels cartoons work for you.

(Brain on fire from CartoonaDay.com)

For the FUN of It!

Scott small pic

Dr. Scott Simmerman sells inexpensive and powerful organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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1 Comment

  1. There is a nice infographic hitting many of these brainstorming issues at http://brandongaille.com/brainstorming-session-ideas-techniques-and-examples/

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