News and thoughts from CS Odessa, maker of the ConceptDraw product line: ConceptDraw PRO, ConceptDraw PROJECT and ConceptDraw MINDMAP.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Brainstorming is Great--When It's Tied to Action

If you've ever been in a corporate brainstorming session (and I've been in more than a few), it's easy to get pessimistic. Yes, we've spent all this wonderful time together, filling up giant sticky notes, using different color markers--maybe even playing with slinkys, modeling clay, and yo-yos. But what do we actually accomplish?

Too often, months go by until you or one of your coworkers asked that inevitable question: Whatever happened to all those ideas we generated way back when? Is there a new service in the works we haven't heard about yet? Is our tagline changing? Or have all those flip charts ended up in someone manager's bottom drawer?

What if those "Big Idea People" had to take ownership of their ideas?
When was the last time you started with a brainstorming session and ended the session by assigning tasks to each participant to help make those new ideas become a reality? Have you EVER had a session that ended like that? The beautiful thing about ConceptDraw MINDMAP is that it makes this transition from brainstorming to concrete action easy to accomplish.

The general flow of a brainstorming session like this actually starts before the session itself. In fact, there has been a lot of discussion lately about how to conduct brainstorming sessions. I won't go into all that. Suffice to say that I think a really good way to prepare for a brainstorming session is to tell everyone in advance what you are going to be brainstorming about, and give them a chance to get some ideas together before the session starts.

(Click on image to enlarge.)

The Lean, Clean, Effective Brainstorming Machine
Once you've done that, then the session steps are:

  1. Conduct the brainstorming session by getting input from each participant. Take the ideas they've come up with prior to the session and add them to a mind map projected for everyone in the room to see. If you have more than one topic on the agenda, address each topic one at a time.
  2. For each topic, have the participants discuss and debate the merits of each person's ideas. People should be respectful of each other. But they don't need to be overly polite: If they don't like an idea, they should be encouraged to say why; to be honest--and maybe to offer an alternative.
  3. Hopefully, with honest, creative exchanges like these, you can come to a point where everyone agrees on some great new ideas. But now, rather than simply congratulating each other on your brilliant thinking, go one step further: Have everyone is the session take personal responsibility to move one or more ideas forward.

    Enter their commitments right into the map. If one ideas is to gather research, write down who will do that, and when they will do it by. If someone else needs to be brought into the discussion, make sure someone is assigned to do that--along with when they will do it by.

  4. Instruct people to record the actions or information they were responsible for right on the map, like they have in the following map image (Click on it to enlarge it.)

One Seamless, Efficient Process
Now with this last step, something interesting has happened: Your Brainstorming Map has just turned into your Meeting Map. The next time this groups come together to discuss this project, you simply open up the map and you instantly have at your fingertips the kind of information that can sometimes takes the larger part of a meeting just to find.

I'm sure you can see where this leads: Ideas once lost in the bottom drawer are now front and center, with resources and due dates assigned. This is a big deal. Because companies are nothing more than the ideas of the people who work there--put into action.

Give ConceptDraw MINDMAP a try the next time you want to go beyond brainstorming and right into action to make your ideas a reality.

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