Remember Mad Libs? These fill-in-the-blank booklets entertain youngsters by letting them compose their own wacky stories.
Apply the same idea to lead brainstorming sessions. Begin by collaborating with your team to identify key topics to discuss. Examples include innovation, communication and creativity.
Then create a fun exercise in which you invite participants to complete a series of sentences. Under “innovation,” for instance, instruct the group to choose the missing word in sentences such as, “At this company, innovation thrives when _____.” or “It’s easy to be innovative when _____.”
As team members shout out responses, they will engage in lively discussions about why certain sentences make sense. Their give-and-take can produce surprising breakthroughs as they explore what constitutes, say, successful communication or free-flowing creativity.
Another technique to unleash outside-the-box ideas is to ask everyone to bring a prop to the next brainstorming meeting. The object can be a mechanical tool, an antique artifact, or an unusual or homemade musical instrument.
Challenge the group to guess the purpose of each item. If this rings a bell, you may recall an old television game show called Liar’s Club that followed the same formula. Celebrity guests would inspect a mysterious object and describe its use (only one told the truth).
As your employees speculate about the function of each featured item, they will flex their imaginations and develop camaraderie. This lighthearted activity can bring diverse team members together and place them on equal footing.
Many teams fail to think creatively because individuals feel self-conscious speaking up for fear of embarrassing themselves. By orchestrating group exercises in which everyone looks a bit silly, you break down defenses and raise the collective comfort level.
To persuade someone more readily, admit bits of weakness upfront. Acknowledge that your argument has a few minor holes or confess where your negotiating position lacks leverage. By leveling with others, you build trust. People will assume that you’ve just divulged the most damning information that they might otherwise un-cover later. This will allay their remaining suspicions and clear the way for their buy-in.