Are you one of those people who has a head constantly swimming with the seeds of ideas? Or maybe someone that gets amazing flashes of inspiration from time to time?

It feels like the time of year for new 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 emerging 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 can be very personal and everyone is inspired by different things.

The seeds on my windowsill do remind me of new ideas. At the moment they are small promising shoots of something as yet undefinable.

If I treat them well, they will actually be broad beans (I think!). They are little gems, poking their way out into the world! They grow, hoping to get what they need to become something big and beautiful. If given the right environment and nurtured in the right way, your ideas, just like my seedlings will grow and grow into something amazing.

seedlings

So how do you go about getting seeds of ideas from your team that are actually useful? Goldilock deas that are just right for what you need. Not so many that they are overwhelming or ridiculously outlandish or impractical to implement. But also inspiring and new, forward looking and progressive?

The first step is to make sure that the question you are asking to elicit the ideas is the right question.

This can take time to formulate and can sometimes be an art form in itself. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t cram three questions into one so people can’t decipher the meaning of the question or get confused about what you are asking.
  • Ask an open question that can actually be answered. A yes or no answer is not going to lead to any seeds of ideas.
  • Create a question that actually gets you what you want to know. Asking a question which leads you to a different destination might be exciting or interesting, but is unlikely to be useful.
  • Try answering the question yourself before you ask it (just to double check it is answerable!)

It is also helpful if you know what you are going to do with the ideas you generate. It’s quite demotivating for a team to realise their ideas may end up in a heap on someone’s desk “for future use”. It’s much more inspiring to consider how they might be part of some bigger change in your organisation. Or even just something tangible like working out what make of new coffee machine to buy.

Know who has the final decision on what is taken forward. Fabulous ideas that are not taken forward because the next layer of management doesn’t like them is all a bit pointless. Let your team know whether this is a decision owned by the group and what they say is final. Or whether there is a next layer that these will feed into before some further decisions have to be made.

Think about how many seeds of ideas you want to end up with. That oft used expression “there is no such thing as a bad idea” is true in one sense in that you don’t want to stifle creativity too early on. But you don’t want to be left with so many ideas that they are unmanageable and impossible to process – have a target in mind.

Build in time for clarifying questions and discussion. This is where the first nuggets of wisdom have the chance to grow into something more impressive and substantial. Groupthink (where everyone ends up thinking the same thing) is a perfect squasher of innovative ideas. Diversity of thought is something to nurture and but probably won’t be without disagreement.

Consider how you are going to handle challenge and disagreement so that it is productive and not destructive. Likewise, if you are trying to reach consensus, decide beforehand what this might look like. Will this be a majority wins scenario? Do you just need something that is “good enough” for everyone to get behind? Or will you be fighting tooth and nail until absolutely everyone is fully on board? Is there such a thing as true consensus?

If you need to generate and gather ideas from your team in a meaningful and productive way, then our Ideas Ignition Workshop might be just the thing for you. For more information on this and other Single Purpose workshops head to the Work With Me page of our website, or here for more details.

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