Recipe For Cooking Up a Good Idea

Ideas for new programs or products can spike interest in the news coming from your organization. Since innovation can and does come from anywhere and anyone, here are some ways to be a fantastic facilitator in your company’s next brainstorming exercise.

1) Clarify the challenge. A good facilitator works with the project client well before bringing anyone else to the party to describe concisely what problem the group is being asked to help solve. The best brainstorming briefs are stated in one sentence. Share the problem statement when you invite people to the brainstorm session so they can begin coming up with their ideas before they even get in the room.

2) Bring outsiders in. Get to unexpected ways of thinking by taking some inspiration from sources completely unrelated to your company or even your industry. Start by determining the essence of the challenge. Think about where or who else in the world tackles a similar problem. See what you can borrow from their approach that could be adapted to you. It might help to bring in an expert, or hold a focus group, or have everyone watch an intriguing YouTube documentary and then talk about anything inspiring from that exchange.

For example, you are in the hotel business. You get inspiration on how to greet guests from watching a group of street performers who enlist casual audience members in a warm and welcoming fashion.

3) Poke some holes. The early stages of brainstorming always include ground rules to encourage expansive thinking. No idea is too crazy or expensive. But at some point in your role facilitating the brainstorming, you shift the focus to using the diverse experience in the room to strengthen a few of the group’s favorite ideas. One exercise to help is called, “Why It Failed.” Ask the group to imagine themselves a year in the future after having implemented an idea only to see it fail. The group offers up reasons why it may have failed. Then spend a few minutes adjusting the idea to improve on that aspect and make it a better candidate to take forward to your leadership team for approval.