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V2-OMG!
2nd Sep 2010, 00:05
Off to another meeting involving a non-profit society I am involved with, and my fear is tonight's session will be a repeat of last, i.e. there will be a tremendous volley of ideas amongst some incredibly bright participants with an ecclectic background (retired airline captain, lawyer, entrepreneur, retired government manager, successful retailer, to name a few) yet our ideas never seem to leave the boardroom table.

Many of you work for large and small companies/corporations, or maybe are self-employed or involved in a society, club, association - whatever - my question is this: How do you activate your brainstorming into a tangible/successful result?

tony draper
2nd Sep 2010, 00:11
Committees never get nowt done,what you need is a Dictatorship.:)

V2-OMG!
2nd Sep 2010, 00:17
Tony, I think you have a point there. Committees tend to have a lot of what I call the "donut eaters." They come to the meeting, eat all the donuts, tell us we're doing everything wrong, then get up and leave.

Who would make the best dictator?

- the airline captain
- the lawyer
- the retired government manager
- the entrepreneur
- or the retailer?

Keef
2nd Sep 2010, 00:26
It's part two of the process.

Part 1 is brainstorming, with flipcharts and all the merry stuff.

Then you STOP doing that, have a coffee or whatever, and then SIFT the output and decide what you're going to take further. You distil, maybe merge stuff, and then make a shortlist of what's to do.

The first bit comes up with often brilliant ideas, and is wild: anyone is allowed to say anything. A good facilitator will help a lot (I had one of my own for a while).

The second bit needs firm and capable leadership. That's harder.

Mechta
2nd Sep 2010, 00:35
Make sure all the ideas get recorded.
Don't permit destructive criticism at the brainstorming meeting.
Adopt a policy of giving new ideas a trial period, even if they seem a bit outlandish - Better to try and then fail than never to try.
Let the originator of the idea take it forward.
Review the idea at the next meeting, and if it isn't working, discuss what can be done to make it work - Try, Fail, Adjust.
Give credit to people who come up with ideas
Sideline persistent doommongers - They are usually the ones with nothing creative to add and just drag the fresh blood down.
Just because something didn't work before don't reject revisiting it - times change and the devil is in the detail.

If the reason the ideas don't get past the boardroom table is opposition from the 'troops', then get the troops to suggest their own ideas for improvement. They are far more likely to put effort into something they believe to be their own. As the saying goes, 'A management consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time.'

Are the people in your boardroom coming up with the ideas, then expecting others to do the donkey work? Maybe some closer involvement is required to carry the ideas forward?

RJM
2nd Sep 2010, 00:46
There's a good book called 'Working In Groups'. Sorry I don't have the reference at hand. There are undoubtedly other books on the subject.

The general advice is, as Keef says above, limit the free for all then structure the effort by allocating various tasks to different people or groups, then pull the work of the groups together at the end.

The book warns that unless this is done, everyone will argue, especially the more powerful personalities, pushing their own solution, until the clock says 5 minutes to go, when the most developed idea, regardless of merit, will be seized upon so the everyone can get out of the frustrating meeting.

The problem is to get people to stop the free for all and submit to some structure in time to complete the task.

I have tried photocopying an extract, then asking everyone to read it before starting the promotion of their own particular solution. Even achieving that is a struggle. I have had the best success by holding two meetings - the first to discuss strategies for working in groups and the next to have the (structured) 'brainstorm session'.

It works well if you can pull it off.

Whirlygig
2nd Sep 2010, 00:53
If there is one word that sums up why things don't get done, that word is "meetings".

You should never have an even number of directors and three is too many

Cheers

Whirls

BlueWolf
2nd Sep 2010, 01:46
1. Have one person in charge. Make everyone else answerable to them. Dress the process up with a committee system if you must, but if you actually want things done, you must actually bully people into actually doing them. Organisations can only work effectively if things actually get done, and that only happens if there is a Supreme Bully, and only One Supreme Bully at that.

2. Assign tasks to people and require them to carry out those tasks. Making a suggestion is tantamount to volunteering, and should be treated as such.

3. Have a single simple mantra, and stick to it. Measure all your thoughts, actions, plans and suggestions against it. When Team New Zealand was winning the Americas' Cup, their motto was "Will it make the boat go faster?". Anything which would make the boat go faster was allowable and should be done. Anything which wouldn't was a waste of time, effort, and resources, and shouldn't be.
:)

mixture
2nd Sep 2010, 07:03
Meetings..... where minutes are taken and hours are lost !

amongst some incredibly bright participants with an ecclectic background (retired airline captain, lawyer, entrepreneur, retired government manager, successful retailer, to name a few)

Sounds like there might be too many egos floating about based on people's previous/current roles in society.

How big is this non-profit ? Do you really need so many people involved in "brainstorming" sessions over strategy etc. ? Some culling may need to be done.... or if you don't want to cull... maybe time to form some sub-commitees ....

Also, might be worth having an agenda to stick by rather than just random idea throwing.

Ancient Mariner
2nd Sep 2010, 07:24
V2-OMG!
Who would make the best dictator?
I, in my former life as a Chief Engineer in the Merchant Navy.
In my present life, I will always initiate a BS session by airing ideas and suggestions so counter-productive, inflammatory and challenging that everyone feels that they can come up with something better, and does.
BS is about getting everyone involved and enthusiastic and not holding back. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is for later.
Per

larssnowpharter
2nd Sep 2010, 14:37
I often am called to train facilitators for BS sessions. There are skills involved and it helps to have some idea of the technique.

A few tips:

1. Get a varied group. If you were to have, for example, 10 ex public school army officers aged 35, you would would not get a great diversity of ideas. BS is about creating ideas.

2. I prefer structured brainstorming. This way you go around the room getting each individual to contribute. They can say 'pass'. Advantage is that the 'quieter' people don't get left out. If you do free BS use this technique at the end.

3. Record every idea and remember:

'THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SILLY IDEA'

The so called 'silly idea' may spark a great one somewhere else.

4. Max time of about 20 mins.

5. Keep it moving; throw in your own controversial input as facilitator but do not take over.

OK that's the BS. Now you need to select and order the ideas. There are various voting and choosing systems that you can use to split them into:

1. Great
2. Not bad
3. Silly
4. Not feasible (lack of resources or whatever)

There are different techniques for this depending on how much buy in you need to create. Many sessions fail because of a lack of follow through in ordering the thoughts.

PM me and I can mail you some material and references.

Cheers

Lars

V2-OMG!
2nd Sep 2010, 16:06
These are great suggestions - thank-you so much.

Sounds like there might be too many egos floating about based on people's previous/current roles in society.

Some ego, yes, but that can be advantageous: competition strives for achievement; indifference accomplishes nothing.

We have appox. 400 members, so do not think we are out numbered by too many brainstormers. However, it's my obervation that some of the doers in the general membership - those who aren't afraid to dig in and get their hands dirty - they are our greatest asset!

SMT Member
2nd Sep 2010, 16:20
Just get the right mixture of drugs and Robert's your mother's brother ;)

lomapaseo
2nd Sep 2010, 16:31
Who would make the best dictator?

- the airline captain
- the lawyer
- the retired government manager
- the entrepreneur
- or the retailer?

The dumbest one, that way they wouldn't know whether they are afoot or horseback but simply blindly "do something"

if we could have a pareto chart in this thread it would be obvious :E

mixture
2nd Sep 2010, 16:40
Some ego, yes, but that can be advantageous: competition strives for achievement; indifference accomplishes nothing.


Indeed..... but then there's the old saying "Too many cooks spoil the broth".

I think a previous poster suggested appointing a chair-person..... that's probably an easy first step.... see how it goes from there in terms of needing to implement aggressive changes.

Slasher
2nd Sep 2010, 17:46
How do you activate your brainstorming into a tangible/successful result?

"Ahem...whoever contributes the best idea and is subsequently adopted into policy will get to take home and shag this year's prom queen."

That worked quite well in high school Matric when I was a senior member on the student councel.

The prom queen punched my lights out shortly thereafter. :ouch:

con-pilot
2nd Sep 2010, 18:35
Do you know what something that has eight or more legs and no head is called?

A committee. :p

Neptunus Rex
2nd Sep 2010, 20:01
1. Appoint a leader.
2. Let him/her get on with it.

Now, that wasn't too difficult, eh?

gingernut
2nd Sep 2010, 20:15
I'd agree with most of the above. Record, acknowledge, respect etc etc, before getting down to the nitty gritty.

I suspect that the style adopted would be dictated by several variables, culture of the organisation, values, belief's etc. I'm with the idea of strong leadership, but bringing out the best from those lower down the pecking order is important too. It does require skilled facilitation. (I'm for hire:ooh:) Wanna know how our local acute trust cut down the times for patients arriving to hospital with suspected heart attacks getting their life saving clot busters? They implimented the ideas of the A+E porter and the bloke who run the ECG machine. (And fitted a dedicated phone line between A+E and the ECG dept.) Result? - 50 % improvement. (I think the consultant was playing golf that day)

Prioritising is possibly the next stage. Drawing parallels with my own world, it's important not to lose sight of the end objective, whether that's "loot in pocket" or, in my world, improving health. If this principle (belief/value whatever) is agreed initially, then it makes the process easier. I suspect the NHS sometimes loses sight of this. It's not a terribly complicated prospect- if it doesn't directly improve the health of patients, chuck it out. (Are you listening Mr Cameron?)

There are all sorts of implimentation tools available-favourite in the health service a few years ago was PDSA-Plan, Do, Study,Act, or, as it soon became known, Please Do Something, Anything.

Myself? I prefer the process of JFDI.

Sir George Cayley
2nd Sep 2010, 20:46
I used to work for an anally politically correct organisation where an edict was handed down from HR banning the term Brain Storm as it might offend anyone suffering from epilepsy.

I kid you not.

Sir George Cayley

gingernut
2nd Sep 2010, 21:31
Yep, t'is true, think they were then known as "thought showers." Which could be offensive to anyone with thoughts or people who couldn't afford baths.

G-CPTN
2nd Sep 2010, 22:56
Golden showers?