I don’t cook much. I am learning and I enjoy it, but it’s not easy. My wife, Deb, can look into a refrigerator, make connections and form a masterpiece. Great cooks are always looking for ways to make better connections. Yes, they long for the “secret sauce.”
In our leadership, there is very simple secret sauce. Nothing fancy. Always appreciated. Almost never rejected. It’s called INPUT. People want to have input. They want to have a way to have their views known. It’s important. It causes sticky teams. It makes us feel valued. Known. Appreciated.
How do we accomplish this? IDEATION. It works. Ideation gathers people with a wide scope of experience and perspectives to create a new idea or solve a problem. It is a creative and open process with enough structure to help people connect to the process.
Here’s an example. We host off-site team retreats where leaders from all parts of the organization gather together around an idea or concern. Before the session, we send out some key information, articles and a few guiding principles, how we will work together and the path we will follow. In this way, there is enough structure for some to prepare before the event, but freedom to explore. Balancing left and right brain is key. The more input team members pour into an idea, the better the end result. Interested team members then develop the ideas into new programs and services.
Three hurdles leaders face are mindset, time and follow through.
First, mindset. As leaders, we have been brought up as leaders to believe we have all the answers. We are always ready to answer the questions and be three steps ahead of everyone else. The complexity of the era we live in doesn’t allow one person to have the answers. Ideation requires leaders to set aside their egos and seek and value input from team members.
Next, time. Sometimes leaders think that involving groups and a creative process slows things down. They believe it creates complexity. What they fail to see is that old hierarchies waste significant time in lukewarm team support and lack of alignment.
Finally, follow through. A lot of great ideas die in notebooks. We write them down, thinking this is the next greatest thing and nothing happens. Ideation works, but it takes a bit of time to learn. When we work with other organizations, we have a process to help them to know how and where to begin. Often a few trial steps are needed to get their teams comfortable with the approach. Once a base understanding and trust is built, your organization can move more fully into the ideation model.
What is working for you? Do you have a good way to explore a problem or to generate new ideas? I would love to hear your perspective on this. If you would like to learn more about ideation sessions or schedule a session with your team, drop me a note. Imagine how good it will be to see engaged people working together toward a new future.
Steve Jeffrey is the Co-Founder/Guild Master of ForgeWorks and is passionate about building great foundations in people and non-profit organizations. His work is focused on innovation, strategy, affiliations and cultural alignment.