Brainstorming the business of how to make your horse thirsty….. and more.

Do you remember me talking about the power of a group in my last blog? If you didn’t get a chance to read it it’s here.

By way of a little follow up of the event I did for International Women’s Day, I thought I’d update you on how it all went and how we used the Brainstorm Booth to move forward with a few problems.

Brainstorm

The mini workshops were designed to enable participants (women at The Enterprise Network‘s conference for International Women’s Day) to bring along a problem to solve. Each session was an hour, which in itself presented a small conundrum to me – that old problem of time. How do you brainstorm 9 different problems in an hour?

The answer is you don’t. And you don’t get a fully fledged start to finish problem solving session. For that you need a far longer time frame – one where you can unpick problems slowly, piece by piece and bring them together in a way that gives you step by step actions to follow. When I facilitate in house with a group, perhaps to brainstorm ideas to move forwards with a project, or to think of ways to add value to a piece of work, we have at least half a day (a whole day if I’m lucky). But this was a taster, a mini workshop and chance to see just what was possible in an hour.

So, in the first place, not everyone had a particular problem to solve. Some people had come just to be a part of the discussion. For those that did, we started by presenting the problems, and then taking a look at whether there were any that shared some similarities. By pulling them all together, we realised that there were indeed issues that gelled together and that would benefit from being tackled in a broad sense by the same small group.

So that’s what we did, we set out the issues then pulled them together, gave them a heading and cracked on with the discussions in small groups.

Our two groups in the first session had the problems:

How to make your horse thirsty

AND

How to grow our businesses.

The second session discussed:

Appealing to different customers/potential employees

AND

What was important to start up a business and create a strategy

I probably need to explain the thirsty horse…..one of the participants told us a story based on the expression “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”. Just like running a business, you can give people all sorts of information and tell them that your product or service is amazing. But you need them to want what you’re offering to become your customer. You need to make the horse thirsty. So team horse, were discussing ways to attract new customers and have quality engagement with them.

I facilitated the workshop so the participants could work through a process that I had designed for them, enabling each group came up with some brilliant ideas which they distilled into a handful of top tips. The sharing of thoughts, experiences and knowledge and the collaborative working to generate ideas really made the discussion valuable. Everyone seemed invested in the process and there was a wonderful energy in the room. These elements are some of the key ingredients for a good workshop, whatever its size.

There were some wonderful top tips that came out of the session, including:

Building up face to face relationships, being persistent and keeping on touch with potential leads to make the horse thirsty. Knowing your market and starting with a vision in mind for starting up a business and creating a strategy.

But it was much more that the things that were written down. It’s the process of the discussion itself that was powerful. Those little nuggets of information that come up, those shared stories, that confirmation that you are not alone in your dilemmas, that acknowledgement that running a business is not easy, but that we can share our insights and inspiration to move forwards.

A good brainstorm though, should not end there. It’s not about throwing the balls in the air, talking about them and leaving. It’s about what you do next. I gave each of the participants a shiny lightbulb to write down their best idea from the workshop, something to take away on act on, to remind them of the discussion and to create some continuity of the hard work everyone put it.

Shiny idea

Thank you to all the participants in both my workshops. You invested your time and energy into the sessions and made them a wonderful experience to be a part of.

What are your tops tips to make your horse thirsty?

 

 

Ideation – capturing your ideas the hi-tech no-tech way

Whether you believe you are an “ideas person” or not, everyone has ideas. The trick is effectively capturing them in the first place, so they don’t escape or get lost. Then once they have been captured they need to be cajoled and coaxed, nurtured and guided from that germ of a thought into something that you can actually do something with.

If you have ever tried hard to intentionally come up with an idea, you will know it’s not quite as simple as just having a good think. Even if you are the kind of person that comes up with them readily they don’t always flow productively and have a tendency to go “off piste”. To be truly effective and to harness really useful ideas, you need a good process. And there is nothing like the power of a good group of people to get involved in that process. The collective energy of a lot of people all working at once to come up with some ideas is one of things I love about facilitation.

So, last week with the help of some fabulous participants in the shape of the chicklets on the Bristol Entrepreneurial Spark programme I designed and delivered an ideation workshop. This was for Rosie at Relax Bristol and the aim was to help gather ideas to change her business name. While I created and facilitated the session, this time I had a new tool at my disposal – that of the amazing iDeeter platform accompanied by it’s Director and Co-Founder Niall Jones.

This was a new thing for me – the combination of my more “analogue” approach to workshops – a range of different tools and techniques nicely wrapped up in a whole lot of coloured paper, card, marker pens and assorted lo-tech/ no-tech materials, and iDeeter. iDeeter is a digital platform (a website that you can access on your phone or computer) where you log in and share your ideas with the group of people all working on the same task. It works by asking participants for their ideas which they type them into a smartphone, in response to a specific question. Rather than say their ideas out loud or write them on a piece of paper, or have them scribed on a flipchart they type them into their phones, and then rate them. As you read this, you may get a sense if whether you prefer the digital or analogue approach to all this. The point it, that both are valuable, and the combination means that the session can appeal to all.

It was indeed quite a special session, a melding of different tools that complimented each other brilliantly. The process started with an individual, then paired brainstorm using my lovely Stickywall. This brainstorm was about words, words that were conjured up when people thought about Rosie’s business. Then the participants ranked these ideas using some sticky dots (dot voting).

 

Brainstorming workshop

 

Group participation

Then we started with iDeeter.

The participants we asked to reflect on the ideas that they had just some up with (still posted on the Stickywall) and work again individually, then in pairs to come up with new business names. They then had to use stars or a thumbs up (likes) to rate them. They were able to come up with over 50 ideas and after rating them, a top 4 emerged. We then repeated the process with slogan names.

I can’t reveal the final choices, they are Rosie’s. She is currently digesting and considering those ideas. For her, the next steps are deciding which of the incredible ideas work best for her needs. Or indeed whether none fit just yet, but have perhaps sparked off some further thoughts. But she has some wonderful material to work with. She has a plethora of ideas generated by a whole group of different people, working with both paper based and digital tools to get the best out of their creative minds. A process that, even though I say it myself, was a resounding success.

Ideation session complete.

If you would like to know more about the iDeeter platform then Niall Jones would love to hear from you http://www.ideeter.com/. We hope to be doing some more sessions in the future, so watch this space!

And if you would like to book me for an ideation or brainstorming session, or simply find out more about what I can do, please contact me. Don’t be stuck with no ideas, or perhaps worse – so many that you can’t see where you are going. I can design and deliver a productive workshop that will actually yield some useful ideas – ones that won’t run away or distract you.

 

Are you getting enough from your brainstorm?

Do you love a good brainstorm?

I do.

It’s a great way to collect a plethora of ideas together in one place, whether thoughts from a super creative and overflowing mind or the result of collective input from a group. It’s a common enough technique, and simple to do.

Idea

 

But there are most definitely things that you can do to make sure you get the most out of your brainstorm, and to make it more effective, at least in the group sense. Let’s leave aside for a moment the lone brainstorm. I am partial to “brainstorming myself”, and use it to:

  • Offload a myriad of thoughts floating around my head that need to be captured and contained somewhere, usually on a piece of flipchart paper.
  • Organise that information in a way that I might be able to make use of it effectively. Once it’s recorded then I can start to reflect and decide how to act upon the content.
  • Perhaps generate some more ideas to clarify, modify or add to the ones that I have just “stormed”.

That’s more or less what a brainstorm is – eliciting information from inside the complex systems that are our minds. Doing it alone can be tricky. Doing it in a group is far more effective, but not without its pitfalls.

So how can we make a group brainstorm work well?

Brain

The first thing to pay attention to is WHY you are doing the brainstorm in the first place.

Obviously you are asking people for ideas, thoughts and suggestions, but sometimes a brainstorm is used primarily as a discussion starter. In this sense you might be less worried about the answers people give, and more interested in the discussion itself. A brainstorm used in this way may be most effective at the start of a workshop where you are teaching people something new; a training session. Before giving your participants the “right answers” you are opening up, stimulating ideas and helping people engage with the topic.

You may however really need to find out and gather particular knowledge from the people in the room. For example if you are looking for ideas to save costs on a project, or answers to a specific problem, you are looking to the participants for some answers. While the brainstorm has the same function of stimulating discussion and engaging people, its main aim is to elicit the ideas from the people in the room. The ideas, knowledge and experience held by the participants are what you are really after. They can provide information on a certain topic which may then be built upon and investigated in more depth later on in the session. This is more common in a meeting or facilitated workshop where the main purpose is not to teach people new things, but to help them to share what they know.

Whatever the main thrust of your brainstorm, it is important to make sure you know exactly what you are asking of people and make your questions clear.

If you manage your brainstorm well, then you will get all sorts of ideas flowing. A good brainstorm will not only help people to share their insights and knowledge, but help ignite the sparks of new ideas and produce fantastic gems of information. This is when a brainstorm can become truly valuable. It moves beyond simply asking people to offer up an answer, or even stimulating a discussion. It is about really enriching that discussion, broadening it out and creating a result that is so much bigger that the individual ideas on their own.

WHAT you do with the information elicited very much depends on the aim of your brainstorm in the first place. But, the more in depth and targeted the process, the greater the flow of ideas and the more extensive the possibilities will be for your next steps.

A brainstorm is far more that a brain dump. It is far more than collecting and recording information. It is far more than finding out what people think. It can be the start of something quite exciting, a voyage of discovery. But as with many of the simplest things; the devil is in the detail, so make sure you think about what you need!

If you want to get more from your brainstorms:

Get my top tips, by signing up below!

OR

To get your workshops in much better shape, include a great brainstorm and really get some ideas and discussions flowing then click here to find out more about my “how to” workshops!

 

 

What should you do with the ambitious seedlings of ideas?

Are you one of those people who has a head constantly swimming with ideas? Or maybe someone that gets amazing flashes of inspiration from time to time. It feels like the time of year for ideas. If there is such a thing. The time of year when everything is warming up and coming out. There’s that feeling of newness. The feeling of promise. It’s when people start moving along from being wrapped up into slowly exposing their toes and shoulders to the world again.

Of course ideas aren’t seasonal. They don’t come out with the sun, although there is something to be said for that warm relaxed mood that perhaps leads to inner reflection. Ideas are just as likely to come out when you are swimming, or running or cleaning your teeth. The generation of ideas is very personal and everyone is inspired by different things.

The seeds on my windowsill do kind of remind me of ideas. At the moment they are small promising shoots of something as yet undefinable. If I treat them well, they will actually be peppers (I think!). They are little gems, poking their way out into the world, hoping to get what they need to become something big and beautiful. If given the right environment, if nurtured in the right way, your ideas, just like my seedlings will grow and grow into something amazing.

Ideas

Continue reading

So why is communication so important anyway?

We sort of take it for granted that communicating well is something good and we intrinsically know that we need to communicate to the best of our abilities. Extraordinary communication skills are a spectacularly brilliant thing to have and there’s often that part of the job advert that asks for “good communication skills”. But why is it so important? After all, surely if you an ideas person, a thinker, a self starter who just gets on with things, a doer and not a talker you don’t want to be made to discuss things all the time you just want to be left alone to get on with it.

Well on the one hand yes, and of course no one wants to be talking about things so much that there is no action. But the truth is that no one lives in a vacuum and on some level we all need to communicate. It’s true. Whether we like it or not and whatever form it takes, we need to do it.

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And here are some reasons why everyone keeps going on about it. Good communication means:Continue reading