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Six Great Ways to Ruin a Brainstorm

Six Great Ways to Ruin a Brainstorm


    The brainstorm is the most popular group creativity exercise. It is quick, easy and it works. But many organizations have become frustrated with brainstorms and have stopped using them. They say brainstorms are old-fashioned and no longer effective. But the real reason for the frustrations is that the brainstorms are not facilitated properly. A well-run brainstorm is fun and energetic. It will generate plenty of good ideas. But a poor brainstorm can be frustrating and demotivational. Let’s look at some simple ways to ruin your next brainstorm meeting.

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    1. Having no clear objectives

    A brainstorm with a vague or unclear purpose will wander and lose its way. So set a clear objective. The purpose of the brainstorm is to generate many creative ideas to answer a specific goal. It is best to express the goal as a question. A wooly objective is not helpful. ‘How can we do better?’ is not as good as ‘How can we double sales in the next 12 months?’ However, the parameters of the questions should not be too detailed or it can close out lateral possibilities. ‘How can we double sales, through existing channels and with the current product set?’ is probably too constrained. Once the question has been agreed it is written up clearly for all to see.

    It is worth setting objectives for the number of ideas to be generated and the time to be spent. ‘We are looking to generate 60 ideas in the next 20 minutes. Then we will whittle them down to 4 or 5 really good ones.’

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    2. Too homogenous a group

    If everyone is from the same department then creativity can be inhibited and you may get ‘group think’. Choose the group carefully. The best size is somewhere between six and twelve. Too few people and there are not enough diverse inputs. Too many people and it is hard to control and retain everyone’s commitment. Sprinkle the group with a few outsiders from other areas or even from outside the business – people who can bring some different perspectives and wacky ideas. A good mix of people works best – varied ages, men and women, experienced and fresh in, etc.

    3. Letting the boss act as facilitator

    Beware of having an autocratic boss with his or her team. They can inhibit or shape the discussion. If the boss is present then it is better to have a good independent facilitator – someone who can encourage input from everyone and stop one person from dominating. The worst formula for a brainstorm is generally the department manager leading the meeting and acting as scribe and censor at the same time.

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    4. Allowing early criticism

    The most important rule of brainstorming is – suspend judgment. In order to encourage a wealth of wacky ideas it is essential that no one is critical, negative or judgmental about an idea. Any idea that is uttered – no matter how stupid – must be written down. The rule about suspending judgement during the idea generation phase is so important that it is worth enforcing rigorously. A good technique is to issue water pistols; anyone who is critical gets squirted.

    5. Settling for a few ideas.

    Don’t get a handful of ideas and then start analyzing. Quantity is great. The more ideas the better. Brainstorming is one the few activities in life where quantity improves quality. Think of it as a Darwinian process. The more separate ideas that are generated the greater the chance that some will be fit enough to survive. You need stacks of energy and buzz driving lots of wacky ideas. Crazy thoughts that are completely unworkable are often the springboards for other ideas that can be adapted into great new solutions. So keep the crazy ideas coming – you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find one prince!

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    6. No closure or follow through.

    Don’t stop the meeting after generating lots of ideas with a vague promise to follow up. If people see no real outcomes they will become frustrated with the process and lose faith. You should quickly analyze the ideas at the meeting. One of the best ways is to divide the proposals into three categories – promising, interesting or reject. If any of the promising ideas are real no-brainers – so good that they should be implemented straight away then give them to someone as an action item immediately.

    You should categorize and collect the ideas. On a separate flipchart write all the promising and interesting ideas which are marketing ideas say and on another chart all the sales ideas etc. This process of rearranging the ideas can help you see new combinations and possibilities. Some people use post it notes at this stage so that they can easily move ideas around.

    If you are pressed for time then an alternative method of selecting the best ideas is to give everyone five points. They can allocate points to their favorite ideas in any way that they want. They can give one point to five separate ideas or all five to one idea. Then you total the points and select the best for further action.

    Close the meeting by thanking everyone for their input. Mention again one of two of the best, most inventive or funniest ideas. Then see which ideas you can implement – even if they are small things.
    People enjoy short, high-energy brainstorms that lead to actions. These meetings can motivate people, improve efficiency and drive innovation.

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    Paul Sloane

    Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

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    Last Updated on October 28, 2020

    The Crucial Letter Your SMART Goal Is Missing

    The Crucial Letter Your SMART Goal Is Missing

    SMART goals are a simple, logical way to organize your goals as you set them throughout life. Not only does this technique help you identify reachable goals, but it helps break down goals into smaller and more manageable pieces.

    However, there is one crucial element (or letter) that is missing from this acronym. This missing letter can potentially make it harder for you to reach your goal – no matter how well you have broken down your goal into different pieces and action steps. However, once you understand this missing piece, you’ll be able to use it to move forward with your goals.

    What Are Smart Goals?

    If you are not familiar with the SMART goal setting technique and what the acronym means, here is a brief rundown with a simple example:

    • S = Specific — Your goal has to be specific enough (“I want to lose 4 inches off my waist”).
    • M = Measurable — You can measure your waistline every week to keep track of your progress.
    • A = Achievable — Do you think that you can do this? Or are you going too far by getting rid of yet another 4 inches? Or should you expand the goal to 5 inches; is that within reach?
    • R = Realistic — Is your lifestyle stable enough that you can commit to this goal?  Are you mentally prepared to do this? Do you have the resources you need for this goal?
    • T = Time-framed — You could want to achieve this goal within a week or within six months, but it should have a specific time frame.

    As you can see, when you break down your goals like this, they become much more manageable and concrete than just saying “I want to to be slimmer.”

    All fine and well, except that there is a crucial letter missing in this package – another letter “A.”

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    The Missing Letter

    The other letter “A” stands for accountability, and this is a great way to make sure that your defined plan is actually executed and is not left just on the talking or planning level. Even if you have crafted a masterful plan by using the SMART goal technique, it becomes useless if you don’t actually execute it. To make sure you start the execution phase, you want to throw some accountability into the mix.

    By having some external pressure on your back (in the form of accountability), you are more likely to take action on your goal steps than if you just keep the plan to yourself. Accountability is based on the fact that you want to stand behind your words and save face. When you announce your goal to the world, you realize that the world is now watching you, and you don’t want to let the world down.

    Accountability is also about facing the expectations of others. If you announce a goal or a task in public, other people are expecting you will achieve the tasks and goals you have laid out for yourself.

    Watch this video and find out how by having dependable accountability, you can reach your goal more efficiently:

    Ways to Implement the Letter “A” in Your Goal

    There are plenty of ways you can go about creating accountability. Choose which one will work to motivate you the most.

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    1. Keep It to Yourself

    I was a bit hesitant to include this, since in this scenario you are not telling others about your plans or tasks. However, for some people this might work since your conscience is your accountability partner in this situation. And you don’t want to let your conscience down.

    2. Announce It to Other People

    Your people could be your colleagues at work, your local golf club buddies, the subscribers and readers of your blog, or your Twitter followers. I would say that accountability is more effective when dealing with “offline people.” Being accountable face-to-face to someone is very effective.

    I’m in no way underestimating the power of “online people” either. If you are trying to form solid relationships with others online, you want to keep your word – even if you don’t necessarily meet the people in the same sense as in the offline world.

    3. Find an Accountability Partner

    A more intimate way of being accountable is to find an accountability partner. This could be a friend or spouse, but it needs to be someone you feel comfortable reporting to. When this route is chosen, you might decide to call your partner on a frequent basis to tell them how well you are progressing on the goal.

    4. Get on Stickk.com

    If none of the above ways work for you, it’s time to put Stickk into play.

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    Stickk.com is a website where you can announce your goal (“Commitment Contract”), and to make you even more committed to reaching that goal, there is money at stake. Money is not mandatory to get set up with Stickk, but knowing that you will lose a certain amount of money if you don’t reach your goal can give you an extra push to get stuff done.

    5. Join Mastermind Groups

    A mastermind group is a group of like-minded people gathering on a frequent basis (online or offline), trying to push each other closer to their goals. This type of accountability is very common in the business world. When you are in a mastermind group and you have set the objectives you want to achieve by the next meeting, you want to get stuff done and fulfill other’s expectations.

    Mastermind groups are a great way to improve your productivity and reach your goals with the help of others.

    6. Hire a Coach

    If you really want to get personal attention for your goals, then hiring a personal coach may be the best way to stay accountable.

    Not only are you accountable to your coach, but you also have to pay for his/her attention. This makes the coach option even more effective. You want to make sure you do everything you can to get the assignments done before the deadline you two have set. So, there is a money factor to keep you accountable as well. Since you want to quickly move forward, this option is a very effective for staying accountable with your SMART goals.

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    The Bottom Line

    Next time, set your goal using “SMARTA,” instead. Add that letter “A” to the SMART goal setting technique:

    Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-framed, Accountable.

    The accountability factor of reaching your goals may be just the thing you need to make them a reality.

    More Tips on SMART Goals

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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