Imagine it’s Tuesday. A key project has reached an impasse, sandwiches are ordered and whiteboards are loaded up with lots of juicy dry-erase markers. It’s time for brainstorming.
Brainstorming sessions can be great, but they are only part of the solution. First, some preliminary work should be done. There should be plenty of communication with lots of “W” questions— What is the purpose? What is the real problem? What are our objectives? Which requirements must be met? WHY? After those answers are determined, and everyone is in agreement, feel free to brainstorm.
Unfortunately, because the answers to many “W” questions remain unresolved, many brainstorming sessions prove to be isolated events, disconnected from the larger picture, and even frustrating because nothing meaningful seems to come of them.
Innovation is the product of collaboration, communication, and research. There needs to be an innovation infrastructure in place to facilitate ongoing progress. This innovation infrastructure involves people (innovation mindset), and collaborative processes (innovation culture).
At the center of it all should be a shared method for innovative collaboration, including the development and evaluation of ideas, project management, regular feedback from participants, timely evaluation of feedback, testing and iteration, etc. Furthermore, those shared methods should embrace not only the inside (team members), but also the outside (customers and other outside voices).
The recent trend toward Enterprise 2.0 collaboration tools are a huge step in the right direction. However, as with brainstorming, as useful as they may be, tools are not enough in themselves. There must be a collaborative culture in place to effectively benefit from them.
Brainstorming is simply a group process for generating ideas. The act of brainstorming may make everyone feel better that they’ve taken some action, but it’s just a start.
Ideas should be collected in a non-judgemental manner, then ruthlessly filtered. This process should be continual, not just an isolated event.
A great tool to facilitate the process of ongoing idea generation and review is IdeaJam.
Before your next brainstorming session, get everyone together and ask lots of questions that begin with "W".