Innovation is fast becoming one of the most sought-after cornerstones of any business. After all, in today’s rapidly evolving digital world, the ability to adapt to change is critical to any enterprise’s survival.
The regular shifts in the S&P 500 are testament to this need for nimble and agile business practices, with businesses that fail to revolutionise their ideas and technological leanings quickly being overtaken by newer, more progressive start-ups.
So how do established businesses go about playing catch-up? Do you import global experts? Restructure your entire workflow system? Or is the solve a whole lot simpler?
Brainstorming is a sure-fire way to generate a mass of innovative ideas at a fractional cost. After all, it’s not a shortage of ideas that’s handicapping innovation, but rather business’s inability to nurture and apply them. Studies show that lower-level employees, who have been given the appropriate forum to share and promote their thinking to a receptive audience, have in fact generated some of the best business ideas over the past decade. So why then has brainstorming seemingly fallen out of favour?
This simple yet effective tool is often overlooked as a result of a bad reputation borne of poorly executed sessions in the past. In many instances, poor planning, myriad distractions and sub-par facilitation have resulted in many a brainstorm session gone wrong, causing many enterprises to view it as nothing more than a time waster.
But to ignore the power of brainstorming is to deny your business the opportunity to become truly innovative – a risk no enterprise in the digital age can afford to take. So how do you make your group strategy sessions more productive and beneficial to business? Here are 4 key tips to better your brainstorming:
SET YOUR OBJECTIVES
Before entering into discussions, create an agenda that highlights the key objectives and discussion points ahead of time. This will help your team prepare their thoughts, and assist in keeping the conversation focused and goal-oriented. Yes, brainstorming is all about freedom of thought, but without structure, these sessions can quickly head off track.
AIM FOR THE SKY
Whilst the need for structure is important, you also don’t want to restrict your employees’ thinking, so it’s important that you create a safe space in which even the wildest, most impractical ideas can be thrown into the mix. In many instances, employees will withhold their thinking for fear of being criticized, so it’s vital for any facilitator to promote a receptive, encouraging environment that promotes and celebrates blue sky thinking.
MAKE IT VISUAL
Never underestimate the power of visuals as a stimulant for creative thinking. Simply discussing concepts and ideas can be effective, but remember that not everyone feels adequately equipped to express themselves verbally. By allowing brainstorm participants to use drawings or diagrams to illustrate their thinking, you’ll find that concepts are easier to understand and build upon, and will succeed in instilling greater confidence in those with a lesser propensity for verbosity.
One of the major shortcomings of brainstorm sessions is that there is often no follow-up, and ideas are simply left to peter out and die. So once you’ve decided on a new idea to pursue, take the time to document everything required to make the dream a reality. Who’s responsible for what? When will you regroup? By establishing clear timelines and deliverables, you’ll be able to keep the conversation flowing and transform your great ideas into bold business innovations.