Assemble a mixed team from different departments and then ask everyone to write down their answers to three questions. At this stage people need to work silently and on their own. We do not want discussion or consensus – we want individual ideas.
1. What three words would customers use to describe us?
2. What three words would competitors use to describe us?
3. What three words would our employees use to describe us?
The words can be positive or negative. They are usually adjectives but verbs or nouns are allowed too. It helps if the words are written on post-it notes.
Now collect the words and group them into positive and negative sets. Form small teams of say four or five people and ask them to choose and prioritize what they consider to be the most important words from each set. The resulting lists typically show both real and perceived strengths and weaknesses and they naturally lead to further discussions with questions like:
- How can we build on this strength?
- How can we communicate this advantage?
- How can we combat this problem area?
- Who could we collaborate with to compensate for this weakness?
If you want to try a shorter (and more entertaining) version of this exercise, then ask these two questions of the group:
- If this organization were an animal, what animal would it be?
- If this organization were a vehicle, what vehicle would it be?
The answers are often amusing and revealing. People who might hesitate to admit that their company was slow to react, complacent and risk averse are happy to describe it as being like an elephant, a hedgehog, a double-decker bus or a tractor. But don’t assume that you understand what each metaphor means – ask the person to briefly explain why they said the company was like a parrot or a submarine. I have also heard businesses described as being like a jellyfish, a platypus, a stealth bomber and a fold-up bicycle. Each of those of was a personal insight that could potentially lead to a fruitful discussion.
image credit: keys showing image from bigstock
Wait! Before you go…
Choose how you want the latest innovation content delivered to you:
- Daily — RSS Feed — Email — Twitter — Facebook — Linkedin Today
- Weekly — Email Newsletter — Free Magazine — Linkedin Group
Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, both published by Kogan-Page.