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Four productivity tips for your next innovation session.

Spoiler alert: you can’t get too close to the sun.Strategic planning session

You have set the stage for understanding the strategic boundaries of a problem, and you need to start drilling into work towards solutions. Your team may have research to leverage in addition to organized background information. Now you are setting up a creative brainstorm, idea generation, or innovation session to kick off solving that problem. With the relevant stakeholders in the room, you’re just about ready to put pen to paper and jump into the fun!

The easy part is aligning everyone to the constraints and getting the experts there, but the biggest factor for a successful session is the attitude of the participants.

I’ve seen brainstorms fall flat not just from a lack of active participation, but more from quickly getting “stuck.”

Laying the following ground rules can maximize the outputs of the day (they sound cliché, but there is more to it than it seems):

1.     Go for volume.

In other words, keep moving! With limited time and energy, the goal is to generate a high volume of seeds for solutions. The best seeds will eventually grow, cross-pollinate and flourish into full, effective products and services. At this point, however, capture the essence of a concept with words, sketches, and mockups and keep moving.

2.     Keep an open mind.

“Blue Sky” refers to ideas free from the constraints of feasibility. Capture those Blue Sky ideas because they can always be scaled back to reality.  

3.     Build on ideas, rather than shutting things down.

Imagine the story of Icarus without the melting heat of the sun, where Daedalus would only be rewarded for his ingenuity. Foster a creative culture by removing the metaphorical sun in the room so people can fly freely. An excellent way to do this is to build on someone else’s idea. Avoid shutting any idea down: any seed may later inspire the final solution.

4.     Have fun!Having fun on the computer

Put the crazy ideas out there, noodle around, and tap into your personal experiences. There is no right answer at this point, so there can be no wrong answers either. By keeping it light, loose, and energetic, these sessions can be fun!

People that usually use rational, linear thinking towards a single best solution may find difficulty with this phase of a project. With these 4 tips in mind, we can break down the intimidation sometimes associated with the fuzzy front end of a project. They lower pressure to come up with the winning idea on the spot but instead kick off the development process with a strong set of possibilities.

Organizing, making sense, and tracking the resulting ideas is a whole task of its own but ideally at this point, the team has a mass of potential solutions to work with.

Good Luck!

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