The Right Way to Brainstorm

The Right Way to Brainstorm

The concept of brainstorming is simple. But that does not stop people doing it the wrong way. Participants might keep quiet, stick too closely to the status quo or put forward ideas that just are not related to the topic. Here, we will look best practices for leading effective brainstorming sessions with your team. 1. Set clear objectives In order for the session to work, you need to first clarify the objectives so that nobody has any doubts on what is being asked. Before the session, conduct some problem analysis of your own and come up with a solid problem statement or SMART goal for your team to work with. Have this in writing for everyone to see. This will help you to set clear boundaries and give you something to refer back to when if the process gets stuck. For example, when directing the team to come up with new process improvement ideas, rather than simply asking “how can we do this better” you could identify some specific pain points in the current process, summarise the what and why of a needed solution, and then ask for the team to come up with the how. On the other hand, you could take a step back and ask the team to suggest the pain points first. Either way, the team should know the scope of what you are asking for. 2. Allow time to think Participants will need some time to think deeply about the problem and develop their ideas. You may hand out some post-it notes or sheets of paper for people to write suggestions – lots of...
Using the Decision Matrix

Using the Decision Matrix

When your team is having a hard time setting priorities and making decisions in the face of too many options, a simple tool can help you to organise your ideas and focus on those that deliver the biggest impact with the least amount of effort. The decision matrix is designed to evaluate ideas that are most likely to offer the best outcomes. It is a very easy way of bringing more objectivity to the decision-making process. What leaders like about it is that it helps them to judge very different proposals against the same set of criteria. When using this tool, start by clearly defining the categories in the grid to avoid excessive debate later on about where to place different items. There should be four main categories: easy to do and yields a big improvement; easy but only a small overall improvement; difficult and yields a big improvement; and difficult but just limited progress. After debating ideas, criticisms, suggestions and possible solutions, assign them to one of the four boxes. On examining the matrix, it will be clear that items in the first category should be implemented immediately. Those in the second category also deserve a high priority. More planning may be needed for ideas that fall in the third category but there should be no delay in getting started. Anything that falls into the fourth category can be forgotten. The decision grid helps to sort out disparate ideas effectively and provides the basis for an action plan at the same time. It also encourages participation and helps build consensus among the team because everyone gets the chance...

The Design-Centric Company

Jon Kolko contributed a great article in the September 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review. In Design Thinking Comes of Age (subscription required), Kolko makes the case for corporate leaders to develop a more design-centric culture within their companies. There is a general shift under way towards greater design centricity as leaders look for new ways to deal with complexity in business. Below are some principles that Kolko lays out to help define a design-centric culture. If adopted, they could help bring design closer to the centre of any business. Focus on users’ experiences, especially emotional ones. Companies can accomplish a lot by empowering employees to observe and give feedback on processes and user experiences. When doing so, leaders should allow space for emotional language, not just specs. For example, some financial processes, such as invoicing and payments, can be key client touchpoints for a company. In a design-centric company, these financial touch points could be designed in a way that focuses on a user experience that goes beyond operational efficiency. As a result, simple touchpoints can create a good impression and reinforce a trusting relationship. Create models to examine complex problems. Design thinking was originally associated with tangible objects, but more recently has worked for intangible processes, such as a customer experience. Companies can use “design artefacts”, such as charts, diagrams and sketches, to better comprehend and solve problems that can’t be visualised on a spreadsheet. Use prototypes to explore potential solutions. Whilst models help to explore the problem space, prototypes help to examine the solution. Great design-centric companies tinker with ideas openly and iterate quickly with prototypes....

Design Thinking for Change Managers

The September 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review devoted an entire section on design thinking. Among the articles was a great piece by Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, called Design for Action (subscription needed), where he argues for using design to drive change. Tim Brown is a well-known guru of design thinking and his company, IDEO, has not only helped develop some of Apple’s most iconic designs, but has also been contracted to help design new processes and lead change for municipalities, country governments, and non-profits working in the developing world. Two of core ideas that Brown draws on to develop his point are that 1) design is not so much a physical process as it is a way of thinking (Herbert Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial) and 2) design is not only for developing products, but also solving complex problems (Richard Buchanan, Wicked Problems in Design Thinking). Brown discusses “designed objects” and the challenges of introducing a new design to an organisation. A designed object might be a new product or service, but it could also be an internal process or an idea. When the design is tangible, as in the case of a new product for launch, then the adoption of the design is fairly simple and low risk. Stakeholders can see how the new product will drive revenue, how it’s an improvement on the old product, or how it can open up new markets. However, the less tangible and more complex a design is, as with a new work process, the risker the introduction of the design becomes. There are ripple effects as stakeholders perceive...