Brainstorm Business Planning Ideas with the LCS System

Not all creative thinking is done alone. Put a few heads together, and you may whip up a business planning hurricane. The outcome depends on the nature of the group of individuals you assemble (the more dynamic, inspired, freewheeling and innovative, the better) and the communication skills that the session leader brings into the room.

The quickest way to kill an idea is to say anything akin to any of the following:

  • It won’t work.

  • We’re not ready for that.

  • It isn’t practical.

  • It’s already been done.

  • That’s just plain stupid.

The group you assemble needs to remain open to all ideas presented in order to develop a healthy idea-generating environment.

Apply the LCS system to nurture new ideas

To nurture brand-new ideas and allow them to grow, use the three-part LCS system:

  • L is for likes, as in, “What I like about your idea…” Begin with some positive comments to encourage people to let loose with every creative idea that comes to mind. Not every idea will work. But even zany ideas can spark more practical and effective ones.

  • C is for concerns, as in, “What concerns me about your idea…” Sharing concerns begins dialogue that opens up and expands the creative process. As you point out a concern, someone else in the group is likely to offer a creative solution.

  • S is for suggestions, as in, “I have a few suggestions…” Offering suggestions moves the brainstorming session along and may lead to the generation of a brand-new set of ideas.

Assemble a brainstorming session

With the LCS system fresh in your brains, your group can take on a brainstorming session following these steps:

  1. Start with a small group of people you trust and admire.

    You can turn to friends, relatives, professional acquaintances — anyone you think may contribute a new and useful perspective.

  2. Invite a couple of ringers.

    Consider inviting a few people who can stretch the group’s thinking, challenge assumptions, and take the group in new and unexpected directions, even if these individuals may make you feel a bit uncomfortable.

  3. Choose the right time and place.

    The same old places can lead to the same old thinking, so be inventive. To inspire creativity, change the scene. Larger companies often hold brainstorming sessions at off-site retreats.

    If you’re a small company or sole proprietor, you can still meet in a place that inspires creativity, such as a park or local coffeehouse (as long as it’s not too crowded or noisy). Whatever location you choose, be sure to have everything you need for brainstorming — from an old-fashioned scratchpad to an iPad or digital voice recorder — handy.

  4. Establish ground rules.

    Explain what you want the group to achieve. Introduce the LCS system so that participants have a tool that allows them to make positive contributions to the session. Emphasize the fact that at this stage in planning, there are no bad ideas. The group should be encouraged to be as freewheeling as possible.

  5. Act as the group’s conductor.

    Keep the process moving without turning into a dictator. Use these tactics:

    • Encourage alternatives: How else can we do that?

    • Stimulate visionary thinking: What if we had no constraints?

    • Invite new perspectives: How would a child see this?

    • Ask for specifics: What exactly do you mean?

    • Clarify the next steps: How should we proceed on that?

  6. Record the results.

    Designate a person to take notes throughout the session or record the session. Remember, the best ideas are often side comments, so capture the offbeat comments as well as the mainstream discussion. Every idea, even ones that seem zany, can lead to something useful. Sometimes a great idea passes by so quickly that people only later say, “Hey, what was that idea we had?”

  7. Review your notes and thoughts while they’re still fresh.

    Set aside time after the brainstorming session to distill the discussion down to three or four ideas that you want to continue working on.

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