This week’s newsletter is dedicated to the fine art and science of ideation, innovation and creativity, topics near and dear to my heart.

The contents of this newsletter this week is reprinted with the permission of my good friends at Idea Champions (IdeaChampions.com).

Many companies these days, are singing the praises of innovation and creativity. As the economy continues to contract, forward-thinking organizations are increasingly looking for new ways to get an edge, go beyond the status quo, and differentiate themselves from the competition. To kickstart their efforts, they usually seek new ideas and strategies, both incremental and breakthrough – new seeds of possibility sometimes referred to as the “fuzzy front end of innovation.” There are, of course, many ways a company can accomplish this. One way is to provide a selected group of internal change agents with the tools and knowhow to facilitate much more effective and productive ideation, or brainstorm, sessions. That’s what this newsletter is all about.

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”

- John Cage

THE IMPORTANCE OF PREPARATION

One tenet from the popular “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu, a book whose advice on military strategy has been converted to the business world, tells us that “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” While we imagine that’s perfectly true for war, we KNOW that’s perfectly true for facilitating brainstorm sessions. And we also know that preparation is one area where most brainstorm sessions fail before they ever happen. There is MUCH an effective brainstorm facilitator has to do before the participants ever walk into the ideation room, from preparing the room to preparing his/her own state of mind. One such element most often overlooked is having identified the right question to brainstorm. Another is to connect with the participants, one on one, beforehand in order to get their perspective and get them thinking about the challenge to be addressed in the brainstorm.

Yes, the effort you make before facilitating a brainstorm session is key to your success. But so is the effort that comes after. All too often, however, the post-brainstorm process is more like the old Albert and Costello “Who’s On First?” routine … but not nearly as funny. A confused scramble. Part voodoo. Part hustling to round up the horses after the barn door has been left open. If you want to get the most possible value from the brainstorm sessions you lead, get your post-session game plan together at least 48 hours before your session even begins. Understand what your role is in the follow-up phase as well as the role of your internal client. Set up debrief or pitch meetings ahead of time. And figure out what kind of support champions will need to move selected ideas through “the system.”

Here’s what usually happens.

KICK OUR TIRES ON NOVEMBER 19th

Many of my clients tell me that they brainstorm regularly. But when we observe their sessions, it soon becomes apparent that what they call brainstorm sessions are actually more like brain-mist sessions … or maybe brain-drain sessions. Lots of coffee. Lots of sneak peaks at smart phones. Lots of plate-spinning by the facilitator, but with questionable results - usually leading to an overall feeling of malaise, doubt, and the palpable dread of having to lead or participate in future sessions. That’s why I have partnered with Idea Champions, an innovation consulting company, and am  inviting anyone within driving distance of NYC to join us, on 11/19, for 90 minutes to get a fresh look at the art and science of brainstorming, kickstarting their own process of becoming more effective facilitators of ideation. No charge. No hustle. No thousand-calorie muffins.  If you like what you experience with us, we can explore next steps at your leisure.

Our new brainstorm website

In defense of brainstorming

Ideas as Problems

Facilitating brainstorm sessions

50 quotes on possibility

When dogs spark big ideas

What our clients say

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