Igniting Workplace Enthusiasm

Idea Generation Best Practice

How to best tap into the idea potential of our work teams?  We know that the success of the organisation will be determined by the quality of the ideas we generate and the capacity to execute those excellent insights.  Gathering folk around the white board and having a free form pitchfest of ideas is more often destructive than creative.  Dominant personalities always hog the white board content. There is usually only one speed of idea creation being employed – fast, which is the easiest but most lightweight.  
Researchers are questioning whether the group idea creation model actually works best at all, so how should we involve the team when producing ideas?  
Here are the steps: ensure there is a facilitator to run the activity so the process is followed correctly.  Use Green Light/Red Light thinking to maximise the opportunity to build up our idea bench strength.  In the Green Light phase we promote idea free flow without impediment.  This means no critiquing of ideas as they emerge.  
Green Light thinking moves through seven stages. 
Stage One - SILENCE.  We ask that each person sit quietly and think.  As they capture an idea, they write it clearly on a Post It note.  The individuals in the team attach their Post It notes to the whiteboard, again in total silence.  In this way, there is no pressure on anyone.  Each person can think at their own pace, there are no power plays underway and there is no critique of what is being produced.  We are seeking quantity not quality of ideas at this stage
Stage Two - the team go through the Post It notes on the white board together and rearrange them into columns of similar topics.  Again, there is no evaluation or commentary on the content, just some clarification as to what was written down, if it is not clear to other members of the group.  The column is given a topic name and this is written at the top of the column.
Stage Three - each of the teams share what they have come up with and present their columns and ideas.  Clarification questions are allowed but no evaluation, just cross-pollination of ideas between the groups.
Stage Four - the groups go back to their seats and more time is given again for individual silent thoughts of potential ideas, based on the stimulation of other’s ideas and the fact of more time to go deeper.  As ideas emerge these are added to the whiteboard.
Stage Five - the team members share their newest ideas with each other, place them into the existing columns or create new ones and then present them to the other groups, as before.
Stage Six - more time is given to work independently, again stimulated by the ideas generated by the other teams.  The final group of Post Its are attached to the whiteboard, the ideas are explained and then categorized into the existing columns or new columns are created.
Stage Seven - the team members present their newest ideas to the other groups as before.
The power of these seven stages of Green Light thinking is that we are seeking the widest possible selection of ideas and at the same time allowing people the freedom to go deeply with their ideas.  In Stage Four, few will be able to come with any new ideas and that is okay, some think faster than others and some think more deeply than others.  In Stage Six, this is even more pronounced with most people coming up with zero new ideas.  There will be a few though who will have ideas and often these are the most valuable ideas.
Now is time to start Red Light thinking.
Stage One - the ideas that have been arranged in columns are evaluated and reset into priority order.  There will be debate and discussion at this point and choices will be made.  
Stage Two - the top 10 ideas are presented to the other groups.  
Stage Three - the individual groups take another look at their priority list and re-evaluate based on what they have heard from the other groups. 
Stage Four - the top three ideas of each group are picked up for a group wide discussion, about which ideas will be actioned.  
Stage Five - the finalist ideas are put to the decision-maker for funding or adoption.
The keys to success are removing hierarchy and criticism from the idea generation process.  Once generated, then the selection of highest priority items provides the final approver with the richest possible harvest of ideas from the total group.
Action Steps
1.Use a facilitator to run the event
2.Follow the process of separating the idea generation stage from the evaluation phase
3.Alternate individual work with group work
4.Don’t panic if most people tap out early, keep going to reap the rewards of deeper thought processes from the few
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