By Susan Robertson
The short answer? BOTH. Or NEITHER. It’s solely dependent on how the meeting is structured and managed,
A recent study found that online interactions result in less creativity than face-to-face. The reason: when online, people mostly stare at the screen, rather than letting their eyes wander around, which sparks more divergent thought. But the flaw with this study was that the conditions that actually result in creative thinking were not set; not in the online nor the in-person experiments. So, even though the in-person interactions were slightly more creative, neither were very creative at all, in the absolute.
Effective creative thinking requires adherence to specific guidelines. If done casually, without guidelines, it won’t be effective regardless of online or in-person.
10 RULES FOR BRAINSTORMING SUCCESS – In any environment.
- FREE THEM FROM FEAR – It’s very difficult for people to share ideas if they’re concerned about negative consequences. A climate that helps people get past the fear is critical. One key principle is to prohibit any evaluation (even positive evaluation) during the idea generation phase. All evaluation occurs only after idea generation is complete.
- USE THE POWER OF THE GROUP. Build, combine, and create new ideas in the moment. Don’t just collect ideas that people have already had. The building and combining is where the magic happens. Break up into pairs or small groups to encourage even more building and combining.
- GET OUTSIDE STIMULOUS. Asking the same people to sit in the same place and review the same information won’t result in exciting, new ideas. Talk to your customers, talk to other experts, explore what other industries are doing. Have the in-person meeting in a park or museum. If online, mail everyone some dollar-store toys in advance, or play music or show unusual pictures.
- ENCOURAGE THE CRAZY. Something often heard at the beginning of a brainstorming: “Every idea is a good idea.” Followed by a collective eye roll because no one believes it. While it’s not true that every idea is a practical idea, it is true that every idea can offer useful stimulus for additional ideas. Sometimes ideas thrown in as jokes can be the spark that leads to new direction and a winning idea. So allow, encourage, and use every idea, even if only for creative fodder.
- IT’S A NUMBERS GAME. The more “at bats” you have, the more likely you are to hit a home-run. Drive for quantity. Ensure the session is long enough to generate lots. If you only spend 10 minutes, don’t expect great results.
- LAUGH A LOT. Humor stimulates creativity, so let it happen. One easy way – have everyone introduce themselves by answering a fun or silly question. Here’s one used in a session in December – “What’s something you DON’T need more of for the holidays?” The resulting answers were hilarious, and some even started sparking real ideas.
- HOMEWORK IS REQUIRED. Both individual and group efforts are critical for success. Insist on individual preparation. Ensure everyone knows the goal, and ask them to do some homework in advance.
- IT’S NOT CASUAL. Effective brainstorming requires skillful facilitation, which is a different set of skills from managing other meeting types. There must be a designated facilitator, who is NOT the primary problem owner. The role of the facilitator is to objectively manage the process. Ideally, the facilitator should be someone who has no stake in the outcome and can remain neutral to all content. Designate a facilitator far enough in advance that the person has time to fully plan the session, and potentially to study up on how to do it well.
- IF IT LOOKS LIKE A DUCK, BUT DOESN’T ACT LIKE A DUCK, IT’S NOT A DUCK. If you can’t, or don’t intend to, follow the guidelines for successful brainstorming, then don’t call it brainstorming. For example, a meeting that just becomes a stage for one person to spout their opinions isn’t useful. And if a brainstorming is not organized and structured appropriately, everyone will feel how ineffective it is, and they’ll be sure to skip your next session. So, either set up for success, or don’t bother.
- YOU’RE NOT DONE UNTIL YOU DECIDE. Everyone has been in this situation; it’s the end of a brainstorming session, a long list of ideas has been created, and someone volunteers to type up the list. And…. that’s it. There’s no action, or at least none that we’re aware of. It’s demotivating to spend time and energy generating ideas only to feel they went nowhere. Plan time for selecting and prioritizing the ideas during the session. Spend at least an equal amount of time on converging as you do on diverging. Yes, you read that right. If you generate ideas for an hour, also spend at least an hour on selecting, clarifying, and planning. If you leave with a huge list of nebulous, potential ideas, that’s not success. The outcome should be a short list of clear ideas, and a plan for action.
Whether in-person or online, creativity happens when the correct conditions are set. If you’re doing it casually, without guidelines, and without skillful facilitation, it may not be tremendously effective. However, with appropriate focus on the process and environment, and by following these rules, you can effectively generate creative solutions in any setting.
About the Author: Susan Robertson empowers individuals, teams, and organizations to more nimbly adapt to change, by transforming thinking from “why we can’t” to “how might we?” She is a creative thinking expert with over 20 years of experience speaking and coaching in Fortune 500 companies. As an instructor on applied creativity at Harvard, Susan brings a scientific foundation to enhancing human creativity. To learn more, please go to: https://susanrobertson.co/.
Every year in the spring, Amy B., a buyer for a large retail chain store, hosts an Easter egg decorating teambuilding party, where she and a bunch of her suppliers spend an entire afternoon coloring and bedazzling hard-boiled eggs. None of them bring their kids—they do this for the sheer pleasure of out-of-the office bonding, creating interesting and attractive objects. The group is always amazed at the creativity of the resulting eggs. (And in case you’re wondering, no, none of them are artists.)
So why, as adults, don’t people exercise their inner child-like creativity more often? And what is it about the Easter egg party that allows them to so freely generate and express such range and diversity of ideas? There are several factors—all of which also apply to innovation.
Each egg represents a very low commitment. It is cheap in both time and materials to try any idea they think of, so they try lots of ideas. If one doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter—it’s just one egg. Similarly, in your innovation work, you need to consider and try out many ideas, to ensure that only the best ones move forward. As innovation projects proceed through a company, they get more expensive—in money, time, and labor—at each successive phase. Developing Fail Fast, Fail Cheap methodologies allows you to try out lots of ideas early on, while it’s still cheap.
They leverage not only individual creativity, but also use the power of the group. Someone will think of an idea to try, and then toss it out to the group. Then everyone contributes ideas for how best to accomplish it. No one ever says, “Yes, but that won’t work.” Everyone just thinks of ways to help make it better. The resulting final solutions are nearly always significantly better than what the person would have tried originally. In many companies, the “Yes, But” phenomenon is all too common, and can be very damaging to creativity and innovation. Most ideas aren’t perfect when they’re first conceived, but teams act like they should be. They point out all the problems in an emerging idea before they ever attempt to find out if there’s anything good about it. For innovation and creative problem solving to thrive, it’s critical to create an environment that nurtures ideas rather than stifles them, so you get the benefit of the best thinking of the entire team.
They are willing to start over when something clearly isn’t working. One woman brought eggs that were not naturally white; instead, they were brown. It wasn’t clear that dyeing them would work very well, if at all. And, in fact, the first few attempts didn’t work. So, she scraped off all the color on her unsuccessful eggs several times. But when she chose red, yellow, and orange colors and left them in the dye bath long enough, she got some of the most uniquely rich and vividly colored eggs anyone had ever seen. Unfortunately, in large organizations, too many innovation projects that aren’t quite hitting the mark proceed too far. It’s important to recognize when an idea isn’t working, and then be willing to start again when you need to.
Reframing the goal results in more divergent ideas. The woman with the brown eggs also tried other methods of decorating the eggs, not just coloring them with dye. Once she reframed the problem from coloring eggs to decorating eggs, everyone else also began creating the most innovative and unusual eggs of all. This reframing of the problem is a critical step in effective problem-solving and innovation. This is because the way a problem is stated affects the potential solutions you will think of. So when addressing any obstacle, it’s a good idea to question the way the challenge or problem is worded, to see if you can reframe it to get to different and better solutions.
So the next time you find yourself with eggs to decorate—or a challenge to meet—keep these tips in mind to help you think more creatively and come up with more innovative solutions…
- Fail fast, fail cheap. Test many possible ideas.
- Leverage individual and group creativity; “Yes, and” instead of “Yes, but”.
- Be willing to start over when the idea isn’t working.
- Reframe the opportunity to expand your thinking.
About the Author:
Susan Robertson empowers individuals, teams, and organizations to more nimbly adapt to change, by transforming thinking from “why we can’t” to “how might we?” She is a creative thinking expert with over 20 years of experience speaking and coaching in Fortune 500 companies. As an instructor on applied creativity at Harvard, Susan brings a scientific foundation to enhancing human creativity. To learn more, please go to:https://susanrobertson.co/
Regardless of what date the calendar shows, business is blooming – and the season for sowing success is officially here. The ways businesses can promote themselves is blooming, too – blogs, podcasts, social media, website search engine optimization, television, magazines! How can business owners, subject matter experts, and thought leaders weed out what will land on the rocks and what will bear fruit when it comes to publicity?
You see, a targeted publicity campaign is much like gardening. It requires an innate understanding of the medium where your expertise best fits, properly nurturing the attention that you generate, and reaping the rewards of increased awareness of your unique space in the business market.
So where to start? The soil, of course!
The Soil – Your Market
A successful publicity campaign starts with deep knowledge of where your knowledge works. Whether you excel at providing management solutions or the art of making the most of the clock, you don’t simply want to blast out your content like a defective garden hose. Just like different substrates, different avenues exist for your expertise – and you need to choose the one that’s best for your expressed goals.
Whether that means pitching your content out to a specific geographic area or DMA that pertains to a coming event, or providing comment on a national news story, you have to possess a keen awareness of where your knowledge best fits and the outcome that you’re hoping to elicit.
Sowing – Targeted Pitching
Just like you shouldn’t take a scattershot approach to planting seeds you hope will eventually produce fruit, you shouldn’t assume you can just cover each and every aspect of the media with a publicity campaign. It’s about targeted pitching of content to editors, writers, and producers.
Plant your expertise seeds where you have the strongest opportunity for success. That means having a firm grasp on your target market where you know you have a strong shot of developing enduring roots – not just a momentary glimpse of sunlight.
Nurturing – Building Relationships
Anyone who has ever seen that first seedling sprout in their garden or field knows that immediate feeling of elation. Things are happening! I wasn’t just tilling and watering this soil for no reason! It’s a burst of excitement in knowing that your work had paid off. But those same folks will can also identify with watching their work wilt on the vine and the inescapable thought that more could have been done.
Once you have started the process of pitching out your expertise – be it to daily newspapers in the form of interview availability, or articles to trade, industry, and association publications, it’s imperative that you nurture those leads by properly tracking and following up with the editors who have requested your comment or content.
One of the biggest mistakes that is made during a publicity campaign is fostering a one-sided relationship. Each one of those columnists and editors is looking to fill space with intriguing content on a consistent basis. Just like you wouldn’t prune your leaves or fertilize all at once when it’s convenient, you need to maintain a dialogue with those who are looking to you for answers.
That doesn’t mean to bombard them with emails or phone calls—it simply entails having a firm process in place to touch base on the status of your article or interview, and be ready to reach out when a mutually beneficial opportunity arises.
The Harvest – Frequency and Repetition
The pinnacle of sowing season is the harvest—where you can reap the rewards of your time, efforts, energy, and dedication. After months of tending to your crops, it’s finally time to take out your bushels and account for your yield.
In a PR campaign, the sowing season runs year-round as a well-targeted campaign means you’ll receive a bounty of coverage on a consistent basis – regardless of the date on the calendar.
To the Market – Benefiting from Publicity
Off to the market with your haul! This is where the hard work really pays off and you can assign a definitive, tangible value to the time investment to planting, tending, and harvesting your crop.
With publicity, post-placement marketing is a key, critical component in a campaign’s life cycle. Without effective marketing to the associations and industries who utilized your expertise in their publication you cannot truly capitalize on the commitment you made to growing your business or enhancing your audience at the outset.
Effectively marketing the publication that you receive involves outreach to the industries who found direct value in your content—be it your perspective in an interview or your unique selling propositions in articles. Without leveraging these placements and marketing to those industries, you’ll be left with a bounty without a buyer.
With business back in full bloom, events are currently being planned and organizations are seeking experts to enrich their audiences with their point-of-view. To enjoy the full range of benefits of a publicity campaign you must think like a farmer or gardener—determine the fertile soil for your content, sow the seeds of your expertise with targeted pitching, with a green thumb frame-of-mind (in a monetary context, of course), nurture the relationships built, and then leverage your placements to begin marketing your content.
As the gardeners and farmers among you know, it doesn’t happen overnight. But with time, care, and dedication you’ll enjoy the rewards of a fruitful publicity endeavor.
About the Author:
Russell Trahan is the Owner/President of PR/PR Public Relations and the Author of Sell Yourself Without Saying A Word. PR/PR/ Public Relations is a boutique agency specializing in thought-leaders and subject-matter experts. He positions his clients’ expertise in front of their target market. PR/PR Public Relations has a 20+ year history of getting 100% of their clients results. For more information, please visit: www.PRPR.net.
There is no magic pill, button or wand that you wave that will quickly fix or treat the ails of your culture. We live in an instant gratification world where people/employees/leaders want things to change for the better immediately. They want the negativity, dysfunction and toxic elements of the organization to be eradicated overnight. But when it comes to your company culture there is no vaccine!
However, developing people and culture isn’t a drive-thru pharmacy. It takes time. It’s a process. It requires intentional rehab and development of how we show up as leaders and the culture we create with those around us. It takes commitment, discipline and focus.
Culture is dynamic which means it is being shaped moment by moment every single day by the way we Think, Act and Interact. Every member of your cultural ecosystem impacts the culture each moment and adds or detracts from the culture with their thoughts, actions and interactions. The best leaders and organizations realize that in a world that is changing quickly and where it is often easier to disengage, disconnect and become disillusioned or even disgruntled, they must have a proactive strategy to align the minds and hearts of their people.
The best team cultures don’t just magically happen, they are intentionally designed and led along the culture-shaping process. It’s not reactionary, it’s proactive. The best team cultures proactively teach, practice, rehab and work on developing the mindsets and behaviors throughout their ecosystem.
4 “musts” for leading your culture through times of change:
- Name It — You must be able to name what is working and what isn’t working within your culture. Honestly. It’s not a time for blowing smoke or making excuses, the best teams have the ability to be honest with one another and name the very best of their culture and spot the areas that are troubling. Only after we are able to name the current state of our culture are we able to move the culture forward.
- Define It — If you can’t describe the culture you are trying to create in the future than you can’t be surprised when it doesn’t exist. Language Drives Behavior. This is why the most successful and compelling teams and cultures have Values language that is clearly defined and linked to action and behavior. They have a vision for the future culture they want to create and clearly define the values they believe will guide them in that direction. Values become a compass for their journey not a poster on the wall.
- Plan It — The word culture gets thrown around very loosely by many leaders and within some organizations and then only becomes talk. It becomes vague and the words do not line up with action. The best leaders and organizations realize they need a cultural strategy and plan of attack. Culture is not an “add on” to the work you do, it is everything. So what’s the plan?
- Anchor It — Teams an organizations that lead significant culture change know they must anchor the values of their culture in everything they do. The vision they have for the future and the values that will guide them there become a living and breathing element for the ways in which they hire, onboard, develop emerging leaders, do performance evaluations, lead meetings and raise the bar on leadership throughout every level.
So, is your culture waiting for a magic vaccine or are you proactively rehabbing the culture you want?
The best cultures don’t just magically happen. They are grown, developed, cultivated and led with intentionality. The process for developing high-performing and engaged cultures never stops and the best leaders, teams and organizations are committed to the continuous journey of development, vision, communication, engagement, authenticity, and action. The best leaders invest in their cultures and realize the health of the organization is an ongoing process that never stops.
At your next visit to your Doctor you’re welcome to get the vaccine, but for your company culture, remember, there is no vaccine for that!
About the Author:
Jason V. Barger is the globally-celebrated author of Thermostat Cultures, ReMember and Step Back from the Baggage Claim as well as the host of The Thermostat podcast. As Founder of Step Back Leadership Consulting, he is a coveted keynote speaker, leadership coach and organizational consultant who is committed to engaging the minds and hearts of people and growing compelling cultures. Learn more at JasonVBarger.com