When you bring a topic to the table to discuss among your team mates, I suggest you “serve up a sandwich.” Whether it is a problem to be solved, an idea that needs to be fleshed out, or recognizing an opportunity, serve up a sandwich with two pieces of brea (the rational parts) squeezed between the messy creative part!
The first slice of bread: Take a moment to clarify the process you are going to use (creative first, evaluation second) and define the key terms being used. A few years ago, I was facilitating a team that was talking past each other – simply because they hadn’t bothered to clarify the words they were using: strategic planning, operational planning, and business planning. Once they defined and operationalized these key terms, they were off to the races!
The gooey middle: This is where creativity comes into play. Brainstorming has gotten a lot of bad press lately because people combine creative brainstorming AND the evaluation process at the same time. It’s like Whack a Mole. Someone brings up an idea and a teammate smacks it down saying “we tried that three years ago.” Another idea surfaces and it gets evaluated on the spot. Creativity gets smacked before it even has a chance to see the light of day!
So let the ideas flow. Some are going to be horrible….but that’s part of the process. No need to comment on it right now because we’ll evaluate it later. We’re looking for creativity, synergy, and possibilities around the topic. All ideas are valid – and sometimes the best ideas are in the “third third” – the brainstorming that is beyond the first third (the easy ideas that are top of mind), the second third (where you have to dig a bit) and the third third is where inspiration happens.
After all the ideas are out on the table, THEN you can finish off your sandwich with another rational piece of bread. This is where the evaluation of all the ideas begins: Some teams will prioritize the ideas, group like ideas together, sequence them in a timeline or a combination! Oftentimes, it is the synergy of the discussion that creates something beyond what just one person could envision.
And isn’t that what teamwork is all about?
Image Credit: Microsoft ClipArt