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Cure your team of the idea hangover

How to reawaken creativity to solve problems


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How do we face problems and challenges in our business? Too often we approach tough issues in the same tired manner that we approach issues that are easily solved. Developing new solutions at work is a real hurdle that can confound even the best teams. When faced with problem-solving in the workplace, do your teams tend to turn to the same old answers? Are you noticing your team drinking in the sweet yet toxic “because we’ve always done it that way" cocktail far too often? When the same old hum-drum ideas continually resurface, I call this the "idea hangover." If your team is losing creative steam, try the proven cure of supercharging innovation in the workplace. Tough questions require fresh, original ideas. Take steps to wake the sleeping giant in your team.

One great way to supercharge innovation is bringing the team together for a good old-fashioned brainstorming session. This may be the best tonic for idea hangovers ever created, but don’t think it can be done on the fly. An effective, truly imaginative session is far from throwing a few flip charts up around the room and asking for ideas. Planned correctly, it can bring out authentically creative ideas and help you break the mold in problem-solving with the added benefits of building team camaraderie, inspiring a shared vision as the team works together and increasing overall employee satisfaction and productivity.

How can you lead your team in discovering a better way to solve your problems and challenges? Include these six ingredients in your next brainstorm and whip up some new answers to old problems.

 In it to win it

Don't approach your brainstorming halfheartedly. Your attitude will be apparent to the team you assemble. Take an enthusiastic, open-minded approach and others will follow suit. You need to truly believe new ideas will be the result of the session and be open to hearing those ideas.

Diversity leads to creativity

Don't keep your invitee list to your usual suspects. Great ideas can come from anyone. While taking care to not let the group get too big, do extend an invitation to a variety of coworkers from across the organization. The fresh perspective from finance or HR might just be the breakthrough idea you’ve been waiting for!

Engage all five senses

Incorporating thought-provoking activities in brainstorms can really get the ball rolling. Next time you all sit down together, try invoking all the senses. Play some inspiring music at well-timed intervals. Let some aromatherapy open the mind — try some specifically for energy or focus. Provide your team with whimsical treats that evoke memories of childhood, when creativity ran rampant. Hand out kinetic sand and pipe cleaners so the team can keep their hands busy while their minds dream big. Make the whole process as visually appealing as possible, including capturing ideas using bright, fun colored paper and markers.

The golden rule

No idea is a bad idea when brainstorming. That is the golden rule the entire group needs to follow. Every idea should be captured and given credibility. All too often I’ve seen a terrible idea get picked up by someone else, turned upside down and result in a brilliant solution. Brainstorming should allow for interweaving the best of all thoughts, but we won’t know what those are if we allow ideas to be stifled.

Capture everything

Along with the golden rule above, it’s important to record all ideas. That outlandish, impossible idea from Dina in customer service might become the seed to an entirely new product line. But if you don't write it down, you can't riff off it later. Good notes will be invaluable to all brainstorming session participants to reference later. The challenge you tried to answer one day may be followed by a similar one the next day. Good notes will allow you and your team to see if the answer to the next problem has already been discovered.

Follow through is key

The brainstorming session may have taken valuable time, but it was productive, creative and fun. What’s the next step? Make sure the brainstorm has a point — follow up with everyone who contributed. Send out notes highlighting key takeaways, identify potential solutions and be clear about next steps and who will be accountable. After you’ve implemented the creative ideas and solutions that came from the session, let everyone know and share the success. Creativity is key to problem solving, and problem solving is key to business success. 

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