CONSULTATION : Brainstorming Is Brilliant

We, like many companies, are feeling the pinch. I believe we need real spark to get things going. Is brainstorming an approach I should consider to improve our creativity?

Yes. Brainstorming is great idea and your team will become more creative in outlook by using the process. It is, however, imperative that you be open to the input of your team and that you don’t dismiss out of hand any ideas that are generated.
Structured brainstorming is essential for bringing ideas to the table. Ideas that encourage participation and effective listening, thought sharing and the freedom to toss in “crazy stuff” or, as management guru Tom Peters might say “the wow”, are critical to an effective enterprise. The process assists development of innovative solutions to existing problems. It builds trust and confidence in each other and generates cooperative, collaborative and unified team environment.
There are some generally accepted rules that should be adhered to, to maintain some control over the process. You don’t really want laissez-faire style meeting.
So, start with written question narrowly defining the problem you intend to work on. In formulating this question, don’t assume too much about how the problem might be solved.
Put large sign up in the brainstorming room declaring rule that prohibits “judgements, critiquing and debating” during brainstorming. This reminds participants to encourage, rather than discourage each other’s thinking.
Have only one conversation at time. To participate in particular conversation, make contribution by building on the ideas that others have contributed.
In addition to the ideas produced, brainstorming is valuable because everyone gets the chance to be heard and to be acknowledged by the group.
My advice is to start right now and establish your workplace as place where there is real climate of creativity and an enthusiasm for generating ideas. Your team and your business will both enjoy the benefits in no time.

I need to get my team to improve their work performance and results. I don’t have time to attend any structured programme and would appreciate some simply written and explained advice.

Yours is an oftentimes-stated problem and I empathise. But first you must ensure your team is committed to the organisation and the need to lift performance and results. I recommend you read book called Teamwork by Larson and LaFasto. It describes eight characteristics of effective teams, presenting them in checklist of principles to establishing teamwork. It will give you greater sense of what is required.
Then, you might need to consider introducing and implementing performance appraisal process.
Performance appraisals can be used in ways that encourage cooperation and facilitate improved communication between employer and employee in both subjective and objective ways. The technique allows you to focus on and attend to key results and then address the issues your team members need or want to discuss.
The implicit logic is that you establish clear guidelines regarding the individual’s position and job description, which spell out the role, responsibilities and the limits of authority. You can then have periodic meetings with the individual to review the quantity and quality of the results and achievements reached in the review period. In addition, goals should be agreed and set for the next period. I suggest you use SMART goals, which meet the criteria of being specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely.

Kevin Vincent, FNZIM, is Christchurch-based business consultant. [email protected]

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