One aspect of change management involves the use of brainstorming .
In Kevin and Shawn Coyne’s book : BRAINSTEERING: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas some new ideas are provided for more effective brainstorming based on the proposition that many attempts at brainstorming are doomed . The flow of ideas may be fast and furious with traditional brainstorming but they can be ultimately shallow
The authors propose seven main principles that inform a ” brainsteering” approach . A more structured but not constraining approach.
1. Know your organisations decision making criteria : this considers the company will use to make decisions about any ideas generated. There is a need to understand existing strategic and tactical aims.For example ideas used may need to be practical, affordable and profitable within a year .
2, Ask the right questions : Academic research implies that loosely structured sessions are inferior to approaches that use structure as the best way is to use questions as the platform for ideas generation. /for example the authors suggest that 15 -20 questions are appropriate for a workshop attended by about 20 people.Typical questions might be around trying to understand the customer experience , how to reduce complexity, what existing policies and procedures should be challenged.
3. Choose the right people : Pick the people who can answer the questions you are posing and have regard for their special knowledge.
4. Divide and Conquer : Don’t hold on rambling discussion – break into sub groups of 3-5 people ( no fewer and no more based on the idea that the social norm is to speak up in smaller rather than larger groups) and let them focus on one question for 30 minutes . So overall take the 15 -20 questions and split them between the subgroups ( about 5 questions each) .Furthermore where possible assign questions to groups that are best able to handle them.
5. On your marks ,get set,go ! : Orient the full group by clarifying expectations . Prepare participants for the possibility that they might only generate 2-3 worthy ideas and that this is balanced by the fact that by the need of the day all of the sub groups will have generated a wealth of ideas.
6.Wrap it up : By the end of a typical day each subgroup tends to produce about 15 interesting ideas for further exploration so there could be 60 ideas generated by a 20 person team . Have each subgroup narrow its list of ideas to a top few and then share all of the top ideas with the whole group to motivate and inspire all participants. the group should not pick winners or a winner. Close the day on a high note and describe exactly what steps will be taken to choose winning ideas and how they will learn about final decisions.
7. Follow up quickly : Decisions and other follow up activities should be rapid, well managed and thorough. Concrete action generated from brainstorm sessions can decline quickly as time passes and the momentum is lost. This part of the process must be clearly in place and agreed before any brainsteering session. There should be excellent communication to all participants covering all of the ideas and the rationale for selection and rejection at this stage.
The overall thinking behind this approach is that whilst traditional brainstorming is fast and furious it can be ultimately shallow. By using a more focused,question based approach their is an opportunity to capture better ideas from participants