Monday, October 20, 2008

What do you do after the brainstorm?

We get calls quite frequently from companies that want us to help them facilitate a brainstorm or idea campaign. Since we've run a number of them, we have consultants who are familiar with facilitating the brainstorm and we have a methodology that helps ensure a successfully defined and conducted event. One question we typically ask, however, often ends with a lot of silence on the other end of the phone. That question is - what will you do with the ideas after the brainstorm is complete?

You see, a brainstorm should be a beginning, not an end. Too many people see the event - the brainstorming meeting or the idea campaign - as the desired result, rather than just a beginning step in a process to build new products or services. Generating good ideas is not necessarily easy, but with the right preparation and facilitation you can generate hundreds of ideas, and rank or prioritize those ideas to identify the top 10, or top 20. What becomes more interesting, and adds more value, is the next step.

Once ideas are generated, you need to have a mechanism to consider them, evaluate them, and determine whether or not to create pilots or prototypes, and what the mechanisms are for commercialization. Without those subsequent steps, your ideation session is just creating ideas that for the most part will never be considered after the event. Probably one of the most important questions you can ask when you are invited to a brainstorming event is - can you describe for me how these ideas will be worked once the brainstorm is completed? In three months, what will be the result of these ideas? If you can't get a good answer to questions like these, then the session is either not well planned or the outcomes are uncertain, and both instances are problematic.

On the other hand, if you ask those questions and get confident, specific answers, then you should attend, because your ideas might be the catalyst for something even better. The important issue isn't the idea generation, but the work you do after the generation and how that work is managed and who is responsible for doing that work.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 10:23 AM


Blogger tomislav buljubasic said...

Of course, the main work follows after the brainstorming session.
I usually send personal mail to every attendee with notes about his/her ideas hearded on session.
It is essential not to lose those ideas.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Rumi Shivaz said...

Thanks Jeff for a great post. Totally agree with your comments because this has happened to me couple of times when I facilitated a session.

Now I discuss this point with the client when we are planning a session to ensure there is someone who will take responsibility to follow through the best ideas to the next stage.

But you have to ensure the person takes the responsibility has a very strong desire to make the idea a reality. Otherwise it becomes just another project and will be dead, sooner or later.

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently completed a brainstorming session for Mislabeling issues. I got 16 different potential causes that we ranked them using Characterisation Matrix in the same meeting. I decided to take another step by asking all participants to recommend one single line corrective action for each one of them. Please suggest me did I do the right thing or there is anothere effective method available. My plan is to generate a matrix with a summary for proposed corrective actions from team. I am kinda lost in this activity because the results from this brainstorming exercise were so close in their ranking that I never had this situation before. Please recommend me some options. thanks

10:41 PM  
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3:09 AM  

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