123: How To Generate Great Ideas

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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. 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. 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.

Stage Eight - Now is time to start Red Light thinking and decide which ideas have the most high priority to take forward and so we need to make some judgements at this point.

The keys to success are removing hierarchy and criticism from the idea generation process. Once generated, the selection of highest priority items provides the final approver with the richest possible harvest of ideas from the total group.

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