Creative thinking is one of the best ways to improve how you do business while also improving your company's morale.
Get the most out of the process
Hard times call for some creative thinking. Creative thinking in business can help you solve problems, plan for the future, innovate new products, and so much more. Right now, in particular, brainstorming together with stakeholders, employees, or other business owners can help you get ready for tomorrow - whatever that may look like.
Setting goals for your creative-thinking session should be your first priority. What do you expect to achieve? What problem are you trying to solve? Knowing your specific goals will dictate how much time you will set aside for the session, who should be on the creative-thinking team and other decisions. You may find that you will need to divide the goals into two different sessions with different team members. The more specific the goals, the better. Maybe you're looking to shorten the inventory process in your warehouse or find the answer to change a procedure that customers frequently complain about. In any case, set the goals and stick to them.
Before you get started and bring the team together to brainstorm, take time for self-reflection. Make sure you have a positive outlook on the process and its potential outcome. Your sense of optimism, “we can do this” view will permeate throughout your creative thinking session, encouraging others to share their ideas. If you have someone else facilitate the session, they too must be positive. Having the group’s ideas come to the surface requires an environment that encourages everyone’s participation. This means staying away from comments that could dismiss someone’s idea or rolling your eyes when you think you’ve heard it all. Staying positive will help build employee morale making them more likely to be loyal to your cause and the company.
The most difficult obstacle a business owner may face during a brainstorming session can be a closed mind. You can be your own worst enemy if you consistently shoot down viable concepts that may have merit. This is especially true when you have a group together looking for ways to improve the business. You have to remember that you may not have all the answers—as hard as that might seem. It’s possible that the group may present information that could ultimately benefit and retool your business. Things like reducing overhead costs and streamlining work processes for efficiency can pay off big dividends in the long run.
Set the rules before the ideas start flowing. It’s a good idea to send an email letting participants know what to expect and what will be discussed in the session. To get a head start, you could even share the problems you want to solve on a collaborative document and add ideas ahead of the meeting.
Let all team members know that no idea is too crazy. It’s a good practice to allow everyone to chime in. Challenge them to think of ideas to solve a presented problem or change a specific procedure. Have them add ideas on the chat feature or raise their hand virtually on the video conferencing platform. One idea will build on the other, eventually making a great deal of sense. But be sure to stay on track based on the goals you’ve set for the group. Remember to allow enough time for the session. Stay focused on what you expect to come out with when it’s all over.
Your creative thinking team
Picking the right participants to brainstorm is important. You’ll want to gather a few bright individuals who have shown their talent for solving problems and being creative. But you also need the group to be diverse, coming from different backgrounds, with different work experiences. If this is a company-wide issue, it may be a good idea to pick an individual from each department or those who have different roles. This will help you to see all sides of an issue and hear the different perspectives.
Ready, set, go!
If you’re running a virtual creative thinking session, be sure to have a shared document that all participants will be able to view. Then, assign someone in the group to keep track of all the contributions. There is some great online brainstorming software available, including Stormz and Powernoodle. But a simple shared Google doc or Dropbox paper will work as well.
Start by asking the group questions that relate directly to one of the goals you’re hoping to achieve in the session. For example, ask a question that relates to the goal of needing to improve customer service. Maybe you’ll ask, “how can we reduce the time spent on the phone with a customer?” Or, “with our reduced staff, how can we cut the time to process orders?” Set the timer and have each person use the chat feature of your meeting software to send an idea to share. Ask several questions about the customer service process in the same way. Each time you’ll set the timer allowing for the ideas to flow on the chat board. When all questions have been asked, group together similar responses. Have the team vote on the ideas they feel strongest about with time to discuss the pros and cons.
The winning result
In the end, you’ll have a list of ideas, some with merit and others without any real value. If you have two or three viable ideas, you may want to test the top ideas in a pilot program before making a final decision.
Generating new and fresh ideas for your business is definitely a win-win for you and the team members involved. If you let employees help with creative thinking, it can boost overall morale and enthusiasm to support any business changes.
When you’re ready to incorporate new ideas into your advertising and marketing plans, Cobiro can help. Contact us for ways to improve how you promote your business.