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Brainstorming? First, set ground rules

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Erica was a failed entrepreneur getting a second chance when she realized that her new company was going down just as surely as her own had.

Desperate to do something, she latched onto an old-timer, Raymond, who brought together a group of volunteers brainstorming ways to right the ship. Raymond agreed to lead the group in putting together strategies they would offer the company.

He set ground rules:

“First, no covert ops. We do everything aboveboard and out in the open.

Second, no coup. We are not targeting personnel. We are offering suggestions about policy.

Third, always be helpful. We will never challenge anybody’s ability. We will just try to provide them with constructive alternatives.”

They worked on their proposals for weeks. Erica noted Raymond’s self-effacing style—he would turn off his cellphone, saying he couldn’t handle distractions, ask for an agenda, saying his mind was apt to wander, and keep things simple, saying he had trouble comparing more than two options at a time.

After each proposal, Raymond would play devil’s advocate, asking, “Does this feel wrong to anybody?”

Spoiler alert: In the end, they were heard.

— Adapted from The Social Animal, David Brooks, Random House.

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