Saturday, July 25, 2015

Secrets to Brainstorming

Today's organizations believe that to be successful in long run, Innovation is the key. Its an era where organizations are appointing Chief Innovation Officers and Innovation Managers. 

But innovation is not just like another packaged product that you buy, unpack and use it in a business processes. To innovate it is not necessary to have a great or out of the world idea. But, an out of the world execution strategy of even a simple idea can give birth to great innovations. Great execution of any idea does not happen at the blink of eye, neither it happens overnight. It requires vision and insight to look at things that others are not able to (or even if they do they often neglect), experience, brainstorming, perseverance and a lot of patience.

If we look at the great innovations that have happened in the past, we will find that their fathers possessed all these qualities (atleast a couple of the qualities). Take a look at the life of Thomas Edison, Right Brothers, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, John F Kennedy, all have been great innovators. If we look at the recent past, our country has had innovators like Mohandas K Gandhi. Of course he was an innovator; in the manner he brought people of India together to achieve Independence, was no less than an innovation. However, it did not happen all at once. A lot of brainstorming went into adopting such method and a lot of patience and perseverance to convince people.

But going forward I am not going to speak much about innovation, because this article is about how Brainstorming can make you an innovator and help you bring success to your business. To be an innovator you don't have to be the oracle of some big company, infact you can be anyone from the rank-and-file employee to the CEO of any organization. All you need is the power to brainstorm.

NOTE: The content on Brainstorming in this article is inspired from the book "The Ten Faces of Innovation", by TOM KELLY. I wanted to share this interesting topic from this book, with friends, colleagues and with people who dream to innovate some day or the other. There is no intention to offend the author.

While thinking of pioneering something great, the first thing that strikes one's mind is that, 'where should we start from?' To set on the right track and start moving can be quite complex and equivocal. But there are surely many ways to get a quick ROI (Return on Innovation; in this case). 

One of the simplest ways is to spark-off an activity of Brainstorming from end-to-end within your organization. Brainstorming process diffuses high energy across the organization, its fun and moreover it helps to boost the morale of the people involved in it. 

To foster a culture of innovation, you need to foster a culture of brainstorming within your organization. To begin with, try to float simple topics, because the initial purpose is to help employees adapt to the technique and start generating ideas. Initiate topics like 'how to provide impeccable service to customers', or 'how to run the business in these times of recession'.

My suggestion is to try to conduct such sessions at any place, but conference rooms because they are generally charged with waves of discipline and latent hostility. Try occupying a separate space on the premise and using it as a brainstorming lab, or initiate such sessions over lunch or sponsored pizza and savouries get-together. Build an environment of ease and friendliness. Allow people who are filled with self-confidence and energy to take the lead, and group people with different experiences and disparate backgrounds, and who posses spry thinking. 

If you are part of the senior management, then here is a word of caution for you: do not participate from the start to the end of such sessions. Instead, it is better to get-in, initiate the session and then get-out of the way to leave space for fresh ideas from employees to pour in. Tom believes that the presence of senior executive can sometimes be counterproductive. But always try to charge the group during dead-air moments or when they run out of energy or ideas.

As exercise is essential to health, so is regular brainstorming for the success of an organization. If the nature of your business allows, then inspire your people to cast-off their regular work patterns and start thinking out of the box. According to Bob Sutton, who is a professor at Stanford; there are many clear-cut benefits of regular brainstorming. A few of them are:
  • It help preserve and leverage Organizational Memory,
  • It makes you wiser and help create balance between what you know and develop a habit to listen to ideas that pose a challenge to your views,
  • Brainstorming helps people to express themselves and provides them with a chance to stand out and excel in the organization.
There are of course many other benefits of brainstorming. But I would like to stop here!

If this article has helped you in some or the other way, please let me know and pass on to the people you think, can benefit from it. I would be glad that you provide your feedback. (Kshitij Jain)

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