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3 steps to generate great ideas

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in Meeting Management,Office Management

Say you want to gather your team to brainstorm to solve a problem. If you start by talking up your preferred solution, you may stifle the group’s creative input. Instead, show that you’re open to everyone’s ideas. Welcome even the most outlandish comments without judging what you hear.

To encourage free-flow sharing, explain that you’re going to divide the meeting into three parts:

  1. Opening. All ideas get a hearing. Anyone can throw a suggestion into the mix without debate.
  2. Narrowing. During this phase, your team scrutinizes the list of ideas and vets them. They may apply certain tests to each suggestion such as cost and practicality.
  3. Closing. The group evaluates or ranks each suggestion based on an agreed set of criteria. Then everyone decides on the top two or three ideas to implement.

Throughout the brainstorming process, don’t ignore seemingly unrelated or tangential comments. Instead, keep a separate list of these remarks (sometimes referred to as a “parking board”).

Periodically scan the list and ask the group, “Is there a best practice that we can apply here?”

When Tim Sanders was a senior executive at Yahoo!, he would use this technique to direct his team’s attention to “parking board” musings. Through this exercise, they sometimes found that they had identified a great solution. But they had previously ignored it because they were dwelling on the wrong problem.

As you urge everyone to chime in, be­­ware of allowing loudmouths to dominate the discussion. As an alternative, in­­vite the group to submit ideas on index cards.

— Adapted from Dealstorming, Tim Sanders, Portfolio/Penguin.

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