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How to Become the One That Everybody Looks Forward to Hearing Your Ideas

How to Become the One That Everybody Looks Forward to Hearing Your Ideas

Brainstorming is a matter of throwing out ideas and hoping they stick. You don’t have to evaluate the ideas before presenting them, but rather allow them to flow like a stream of consciousness until you come up with something that works as a single solution. But sometimes we can only generate a few ideas, even after a long period of time. Other times, we are full of possible solutions, but it turns out none of them are actually effective. This is why it’s vital to understand how brainstorming works so we can do it successfully.

Individual Brainstorming vs. Group Brainstorming: The Winner Is…

Most people assume brainstorming in a group is the best way to come up with numerous ideas. Some companies even require group brainstorming sessions among their employees. The more opinions you have, the more likely you are to find the right solution. Right? Not necessarily. Studies[1] have found that individual brainstorming is more effective than group brainstorming:

The empirical evidence clearly indicates that subjects brainstorming in small groups produce fewer ideas than the same number of subjects brainstorming individually…The role of social inhibition receives particular attention also in terms of suggestions for research.

This means the lack of success when it comes to group collaboration is largely due to the fear of sounding silly voicing ideas in a group; We censor our thoughts and only share the ones we think worth mentioning. In many cases, there tends to be a dominant voice in a group brainstorm who limits the potential by setting criteria. This can immediately hinder the group’s creativity, as it causes everyone to overthink and doubt themselves.

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Diffuse Mode vs. Focused Mode: Pick the Right Tool at the Right Time

Though brainstorming is all about abstract ideas, there are ways to organize those thoughts as they come to you. One of these strategies is to use Focused or Diffuse thinking, depending on the scenario. Focused thinking is exactly what it sound like – focusing. This is easier to do in a solo brainstorming session, as there are automatically less distractions. Diffused thinking is all about distractions, making it more ideal for a group collaboration.

Consider a flashlight. You can have a concentrated beam of light that only illuminates a small area very brightly or you can have a less concentrated beam that illuminates a much broader area with a dimmer light[2].

Focused thought allows your brain to analyze specific information and only work with what you allow yourself to use. Diffuse thinking multitasks with the presented information and doesn’t worry about getting too deep with any of the possible solutions. In keeping with the flashlight analogy, remember: Both flashlights will take you out of the darkness, but which one you use is solely dependent on whether you want a broad view of your path, or a narrow route.

5 Ways to Make Brainstorming More Effective

Whether working alone or in a group, there are steps to take in order to achieve success in brainstorming:

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Have a clear objective before you start brainstorming

Many people have the misconception that no boundaries should be set for brainstorming, but that’s false; even if you are happy to generate tons of ideas, they may end up being useless if they’re not helpful in fixing the problem.

Let’s say you are working on an annual fundraiser that seems to have declined in community participation recently. The objective would be to find out why the numbers are declining, not how to generate excitement about the event once more. Though both elements are important, you can’t come up with ideas about revamping the fundraising event until you determine the cause of disinterest.

Give yourself a time limit

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The shorter the better. Sit down with a pen and paper or a tape recorder if you prefer to say your ideas aloud. Keep an eye on the clock or the timer and begin to list off ideas. Allow them to flow out and don’t worry about analyzing them yet. Keep listing ideas that come to you until your time is up.

Be specific with the number of ideas you want to generate

Before you begin brainstorming, decide on a realistic number of ideas you want to come up with. This doesn’t mean all of the ideas have to be useful in the end, only that they exist[3].

Don’t duplicate your thoughts

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If you’re coming up with many similar points, you’re only deceiving yourself when it comes to your success. Using the fundraising example from point one, let’s say you come up with the following: People are no longer coming because they don’t like the event. The event is boring, so people don’t have any interest in coming. These are only two versions of the same thought. Always keep in mind that quality and quantity are equally important in brainstorming.

Imagine that you are someone else

How would they think? Does this mindset present solutions you wouldn’t have otherwise come up with? For instance, if your best friend is very creative and approaches things in ways you would typically shy away from, put yourself in their head space. What kind of right-brained ideas would they come up with as an explanation for a decline in fundraiser attendance? Once you’ve created a list, you can revisit it in your own mindset and narrow the focus.

Looking Ahead

Whether brainstorming on your own or in a group, if you take the steps outlined in this article, you set yourself up for success, not frustration. Some of you reading this may think, “but I don’t really have to brainstorm at work. I feel like we all collaborate pretty well.” If that’s true, that’s awesome! But consider being aware of your daily life and the problems you are sometimes faced with. Do you ever run through a list of possible solutions? If so, you’re brainstorming without thinking about it. Don’t be afraid to incorporate the tips you learned by reading this. Just because it’s your life and not your company doesn’t make problem-solving any less important.

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Heather Poole

Heather shares about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

How To Find Your Personal Values For Living a Fulfilling Life The 7 Types of Learners: What Kind of Learner Am I? What If All the Choices You Make Every Day Aren’t What You Need Most? What To Eat (And Not To Eat) When You Are Suffering From Inflammation! Yes Life Can Be Boring Sometimes. But There’re Some Tricks to Make It More Interesting

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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