Match-Make Within your Organization
Pick the next project or problem to solve, and instead of putting it on the desk of an expert, create a tag team. If you’re considered the expert in that project, recognize that you won’t be able to innovate freely, and then find someone who can. Work together to combine their fresh ideas with your insight to develop some alternatives to your normal course of action.
When match-making experts and innovators, consider your entire team, regardless of their role or their seniority within your company. While it might not typically make sense within the company culture to have a junior designer working as an innovator with a senior production manager, when the goal is creativity, it can bring new ideas and energy to a project.
The combination of different staff members can also speed up the implementation of an idea. We’ve all worked on projects or products that are great in theory or that we’ve spent ages planning, but they fall flat – or never get off the ground – because they weren’t properly executed. Assigning an innovator to an expert relieves the pressure on the expert to do everything themselves, or of shouldering all the responsibility when things don’t go to plan.
Assign Roles in Team Brainstorms
When you host a team brainstorm, are there a few big personalities who steer the discussion? Do participants defer to the most senior person in the room? Do some people sit on their hands while others draw on the walls?
People have a certain brainstorm style, and when they consistently revert to the same old style, it can create a group dynamic that limits the diversity of thought. To combat this problem, try assigning roles to participants.
This person is often the flag bearer for the challenge. They can clearly define the problem and take others on a journey to solve it, painting a picture of where we’ve come from and the grand potential of where we might be able to end up. The Motivator inspires others to take action. They bring the most value through their passion, not necessarily for their contribution of ideas.
This person may be the quiet one in the room. Their problem-solving process starts with mulling over the problem, researching it, reflecting on it, and exploring different perspectives. They often use brainstorms to take in new information, but they do their best ideation independently. The Contemplator can easily support their idea with a well-thought-out rationale.
This person can think on their feet. They thrive when the pressure is high and timelines are tight. In the brainstorm room, they’re often the ones vibrating with ideas that they cannot wait to unleash on the world. The Inventor isn’t afraid to push for big ideas or multiple concepts, but they don’t always invest the time to fully understand the finer details surrounding the challenge.
This person is the marathon runner of concept or product development. They have the stamina to shepherd a project through every phase. In the brainstorm room, they get the group to build on promising ideas. When the dust settles, they continue to test out the chosen idea and explore different applications. When it’s time to execute and others have grown bored with the project, the Maker still has the energy to bring the idea to life.
When scheduling a brainstorm, assign different roles to participants – one that is different from their normal brainstorming style. Get big personalities to try the Contemplator role, get the senior leader to become a Motivator – you get the idea.
Hold a Seeding Brainstorm
One way to identify innovative and creative thinkers in your company is to host a Seeding Brainstorm. Depending on how ambitious you feel, present your problem to a department or to the whole company. Upcoming marketing campaigns, customer events, product prototypes, philanthropic initiatives, and company retreats are all good topics for a Seeding Brainstorm. Tell your staff what kind of solutions you are looking for; you can be specific or broad depending on the type of ideas you’re hoping to get back.
Hand out cards to everyone and request that they write, draw, or glue something onto the card. It can be anything that pops into mind when they think of your project. Ask staff to tack their ideas up on a designated “idea wall” in the lunchroom or another common area. If you work with a remote team, share the challenge on your employee intranet or simply ask people to email their ideas to you to post on their behalf.
Make sure team members sign their cards so you know who is seeding each idea. It will give you a good indication of who’s interested in ideation because they will participate fully and seed a lot of ideas to the wall.
The heavy seeders are prime candidates for the innovator role in future match-making exercises, as they bring a lot of enthusiasm to projects.
You’ll also learn who seeds the really different, out-there ideas. While their suggestions might not be viable for this particular project, stay connected with these folks. When you’re stuck on a creative problem, you know the out-there-idea people will help you consider some new angles and shake some new ideas loose.