How to Structure Brainstorming Exercises for Maximum Business Success

by | Oct 20, 2015

brainstorming_blog_jul_7When sitting down to write this article on structuring brainstorming exercises for maximum business success, I am reminded of a story that illustrates the essence of “how to” and “how not to” approach this.

One evening, a little girl was helping her mother prepare a fish dinner. She watched as her mother cut off the fish’s head and tail and placed it in a baking pan.

“Mother, why do you remove the head and tail?” asked the little girl.

Her mother replied, “Hmm? Your grandmother always did it that way and so do I”

Not satisfied with the answer, the little girl asked her grandmother. “Grandma, why do you cut the head and tail off the fish before baking it?

“I don’t know. Your great grandmother always did it that way and so do I”

Still curious, the little girl went to her great grandmother and asked, “Granny, why do you cut the head and tail off fish before you bake it?

Granny replied, “Because I have a small baking pan and it was too small to fit a whole fish”.

This story reminds me of how easily we accept what we’ve been told. I can’t tell you how often I have heard an employee and then their managers and say things like:

“We’ve always done it that way. Why change things now?”

“If we try doing it differently, we’d have to retrain everyone.” “That would be hard!”

“That’s just the way it is around here. Things never change.”

“We tried to solve that problem a bunch of times, but have basically given up”

“The process is just too complicated to change.”

As a Leader, it’s your responsibility to pay close attention to these kinds of statements. Whether they are coming out of your mouth or the mouth of others, accepting the status quo sends the wrong message to your employees, and eventually stifles the motivation and creativity within your organization.

Thomas Edison once said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” He had a refreshingly unique approach to failure as just one step closer to “success”. Brainstorming exercises may not get to the solution right away, but they will enable a process that if “open to new ideas and ways of doing things” will lead to a better solution inevitably.

If leaders don’t believe that every challenge can be solved (or improved upon) with a fresh way of thinking, how can they inspire others to look for new and innovative solutions?

I challenge you to encourage your employees to think outside the box; to welcome new ideas and instill a “we can do that” attitude within your organization.

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