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Who NOT to invite to your brainstorming sessions

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I caught this posting by Seth Godin

The cost of neutral

If you come to my brainstorming meeting and say nothing, it would have been better if you hadn’t come at all.

If you go to work and do what you’re told, you’re not being negative, certainly, but the lack of initiative you demonstrate (which, alas, you were trained not to demonstrate) costs us all, because you’re using a slot that could have been filled by someone who would have added more value.

It’s tempting to sit quietly, take notes and comply, rationalizing that at least you’re not doing anything negative. But the opportunity cost your newly lean, highly leveraged organization faces is significant.

Not adding value is the same as taking it away.

Pick carefully those people you invite to your brainstorming session.

Sometimes people are picked for brainstorming because they have certain domain knowledge but the selection process forgets some crucial elements.

  1. Those people who want to “go along to get along”.
  2. Those people who are in a domain that is not exactly “social”.
  3. Those people who are not generally familiar with paradigm shifts.

The purpose of brainstorming is to come up with new ideas and be creative.  At its best, a brainstorming session with different perspective can allow a group of people to “see around corners” in a way that is not possible with a team of solitary disconnected individuals – no matter how smart or extensive their domain knowledge.  They key is to build upon other people’s ideas in an open way.

So, people who want to “go along to get along” ( consensus thinkers – read) don’t make good brainstorming group members.  Those who lack social skills may miss important social cues during a session and perturb the social dynamic that is so important to brainstorming.  Finally, as Seth points out, there are many people, who are excellent in delivering their domain knowledge in an operational setting but generally are not the authors of paradigm shifts.  For this last group of folks  delivering consistency and the status quo are as fundamental to them as water is to fish – that is, an unnoticed environment in which they live.  Delivering the status quo is the exact opposite of the purpose of brainstorming.

If your brainstorming session is not producing the results you expect then maybe the problem is not the process – but the people you have selected.

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Written by frrl

January 14, 2013 at 4:16 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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One Response

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  1. Without participants who understand the constrains of a domain, brainstorming sessions waste time and generate preposterous proposals. I fully appreciate the whole point of such a session is to think beyond such constraints, but at least we must agree the laws of physics shall not be violated, let along the cost and schedule imposed in any attempt to do so. If those with such knowledge may not or will not come to the party in the manner described, at least those who do participate would be well advised to be fully aware of their own limitations.

    Elwood Downey, WB0OEW

    January 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm


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