Inspiring Team Creativity for Business

The creative outcome of a business team depends on the nature of the group of individuals you assemble (the more dynamic, inspired, 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.

Applying the LCS system to nurture new ideas

You don't want to squash brand-new ideas before they have a chance to develop, so you should react by using 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.
  • 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.

Assembling 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.

To inspire creativity, change the scene. Go to a park, a coffeehouse, or a hotel lobby. The same old places can lead to the same old thinking, so be inventive.

4. Establish ground rules.

Explain what you want the group to achieve. Introduce the LCS system (see the previous section) so that participants have a tool that allows them to make positive contributions to the session.

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 to review later. Remember, the best ideas are often side comments, so capture the offbeat comments as well as the mainstream discussion

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.

Finding business ideas within your work environment

A survey of 500 of the fastest-growing companies in America showed that nearly half grew directly out of the founders' previous work environments. In other words, the founders created these companies after looking around at what they were doing and saying, "There has to be a better way to do this."

When considering new business possibilities, keep in mind that 99 percent of all businesses (both old and new) fall into one of three broad categories:

  • Products for sale
  • Services for hire
  • Distribution and delivery

Consider the range of products that your industry offers:
Can you think of innovative ways to make them better?
Can you imagine a product that completely replaces them?

Consider the services that your industry offers:
Do you notice problems with consistency?
What isn't being done that should be?
What do customers complain about?

Ask yourself similar questions about your distribution and delivery systems:
What are the most serious bottlenecks?
Can you think of clever ways to improve distribution?
Can you envision a radically new delivery system?

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