While there are innumerable reasons for hosting a brainstorming session, the purpose for meeting can be summarized with four situations. They are the need to meet to:
- Fix Something Broken / Problem Solving
- Grow Something
- Get Ideas / Fill Idea Pipeline
- Innovate / Make Something New
(1) Fix Something Broken / Problem Solving
This is what is traditionally thought of as Creative Problem Solving (CPS). You’ve identified that you have some sort of problem (or ‘opportunity’ as some prefer to call it), and need to brainstorm some solutions. Perhaps you need to drive sales by x% in Q1? Determine ways to raise money to put a new roof on the church? Find ways to stand apart from your competition? You’d identified something that needs to be addressed (the problem) and need solutions.
Think About: Are you sure you’re solving the right problem, and not simply addressing the symptoms? What are the assumptions? Constraints?
(2) Grow Something
Your franchise has reached a certain size and you want to grow bigger. Your new company has a steady flow of clients – now you want a “brand” – a logo, website, long-term goals, etc. You’ve got something already established and want to make it bigger.
Think About: Where are you now? Where do you want to go? Is this an ultimate goal, or a next step? Are you ready to manage the responsibility associated with the growth? What do you feel you “must keep”, or can growing mean starting over from scratch?
(3) Get Ideas / Fill Idea Pipeline
You’re tapped for ideas. You need to come up with a series of new product flavors for the next year. You want to determine your FY’10-11 promotional calendar. Your idea bank is near zero and you need to replenish the account.
Think About: How refined do you need the new ideas to be: sketch ideas or near-final proven concepts?
(4) Innovate / Make Something New
Combine ideas in a way that hasn’t been done before. You want to do something innovative in your business category. Something above and beyond (a) your competition and/or (b) what you have done in the past.
Think About: Do these ideas need to be truly “new” or just new to your category? (You may find a practice in another industry can become your best practice.
As I’ve looked across the clients I have served, and meetings I’ve attended with employers; the reasons for brainstorming always boil down to these basic four situations. Even if – at times – the reason may be a combination of one or more of these… these are still the root situations.
Understanding these four situations will help you define clear objectives and the desired outcome of the meeting.
Paul Williams is a professional problem solver at Idea Sandbox. He can help you create remarkable ideas to grow your business. You may read more at his website and find him Twittering as @IdeaSandbox.