Performance Management Company Blog

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

Tag: brainstorming

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.

If you want a simple “icebreaker” animation as a discussion-starter, we just uploaded a new animation to our tools for improvement, one that you can purchase and easily use with any workgroup:

This Icebreaker Toolkit comes complete with delivery ideas and support materials. Plus, you can always contact me directly, since I LOVE to play with ideas. Find more information here:

 https://www.performancemanagementcompany.com/square-wheels-animation-icebreaker

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.

Square Wheels team bonding image for team building and innovation

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!

Dr. Scott SimmermanDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement products. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who designs simple, powerful learning tools.

See the powerful new teambuilding game, The Collaboration Journey Challenge

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com
 See his poems and performance haiku poems at www.poemsontheworkplace.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Square Wheels® is a registered trademark of Performance Management Company

 

 

On Brainstorming and workplace productivity improvement

I recently responded to a LinkedIn post on the theme of Brainstorming. And I am reminded about how some people are new at this while I have been facilitating performance improvement discussions for nearly 40 years (gee, can it really be that long?)

“Times fun when you are having flies.” (Kermit the Frog)

One of the keys to success in these kinds of activities is to generate some peer support for the ideas and “lightly” use the ground rules — but NOT to make the rules so tight that people feel that the rules are more important than the ideas. I have seen some “control freak facilitators” focus so much on the rules that people feel that NO comment can be made other than the sharing of an idea. I really feel that this serves only to limit contributions. The session CAN be a debate, if it is done with the intention of generating NEW ideas and different viewpoints.

I allow some divergent discussion, but I also will lightly use the Rule of 80 / 20, which simply says the obvious: “80% of the discussion will occur in the first 20% of the time and the remaining 20% will take 80% of the time. So, anyone can call “80/20″ and we can then move on to more ideas…” (That really works well, in my experience!)

It is MOST important, I think, that the ideas be anchored to some business improvement issue and that people have a chance to get their creativity juices flowing before the discussion gets going.

The tool I use is Square Wheels One, which is readily available on my website. One does not require a tool but this process of generating ideas through projection is certainly a solid one for creativity.

We use the Square Wheels cartoon to help generate ideas for business improvement

We use the Square Wheels cartoon to help generate ideas for business improvement

I present that as, “How most organizations really work,” so as to not make them defensive (the word “your” added in there is pretty much guaranteed to generate some resistance and defensiveness!). A KEY is to allow them, “One Minute of Silent Contemplation Time.” This enables the slower information processers to think about possibilities before getting swarmed by the faster ones. It also allows for divergent thinking to arise — different people will go off in different directions.

With tables of no more than 6 people — more will decrease collaboration and participation — you allow them to first think individually and then allow them to discuss their different issues and ideas. I let this run until the energy begins to dissipate and then move it to a group discussion. You can use easel pads for each table, dot-voting for best ideas and all sorts of other frameworks for getting everyone involved in all ideas.

THEN, you can begin to tighten the thinking and bring them closer toward focusing on key issues and ideas — we call this “funneling.”

Getting people involved helps generate better ideas as well as ownership involvement and engagement


If you build a sense of energy and involvement and peer support for ideas in your openings, and anchor the activities toward “business improvement paradigms,” I think you will find that your brainstorming will be much improved. If people feel safe in sharing their ideas about a funny wagon with obvious improvement opportunities, they are MUCH more likely to participate in the sharing of their ideas about specific business improvement concepts in the open discussions.

Everyone needs to participate, mainly because, “Nobody ever washes a rental car,” and it is not so much about ideas as it is about the IMPLEMENTATION of those ideas afterwards for most organizations.

Between the idea and the reality,
Between the motion and the act,
Falls the Shadow.

T.S. Eliot

You can see more about Square Wheels at http://www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

For the FUN of It!

(BTW, I am a certified professional facilitator by the IAF and have been facilitating and implementing ideas for workplace improvement since 1978. )

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