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Generating ideas

Support ideas

It is easy to dismiss ideas out of hand as being impractical for many reasons.
The aim is to accept ideas for what they are and then explore their possibilities.
As a team leader don’t pass judgement yourself without seeking input from the team.

The original idea may be weak but the subsequent discussion may reveal some very good areas to follow up.
Try to replace “Yes, but…” with “What if…”.

Sometimes people find it hard to generate ideas.
Try looking for stimuli that may help, for example:

  • Are there any external events or venues that may encourage creative thinking? Actively look for how others get people thinking.
  • Provide some creative challenges to get people thinking. These could be physical or mental exercises.
  • Create a problem solving club etc.

Of course you could always fall back on the brain storm (see The Complete Project Management package) technique which is very popular for generating more ideas.
The trouble is people can start to rely on the brain storm to solve every idea generating need.
Using a variety of techniques maintains interest.

Within the club environment you could encourage thinking skills with a variety of games and story building.
These could range from, mathematical problem solving, playing chess and other board games, memory techniques, solving crosswords, lateral thinking exercises etc. All of these are designed to help people embrace ideas, develop them and to think out side of the box.

Why not put a slot in the agenda for investigating novel approaches?

Some people have a natural bent for generating ideas in particular areas. If this is the case try to use those individuals to organise certain events. This is often the situation with regard to social occasions.

By encouraging curiosity, ideas are not immediately ignored but investigated first.

It’s not easy to predict when novelty will appear. Invention and inspiration will only arise if you allow time to think.
If people have a good idea and it might be successful why not let them try it? What have you got to lose?
Experience will tell you when to let the reins go and when to pull on them a little harder.

It’s hard to see creativity and the generation of new ideas in an organisation where people don’t seem to care.

When people first start a venture there is natural enthusiasm and ideas may flow.
It’s trying to maintain that momentum six months down the road that is really difficult.
Ideas for keeping people on their toes are very useful.

This should be taken very seriously and time (see The Complete Time Management package) should be taken to generate ideas in the same way as any other project.
Supporting creativity is a sure way to add motivation.

  • Lunch time social meetings
  • Set up clubs of varying types that have creativity at their core
  • Maintain an excellent communication programme of progress and future ideas
  • Use specialist courses that use and encourage creativity, for example, drama based

Don’t give up

Getting ideas from people is not easy at first.
You must keep showing that you appreciate the effort that people go to in providing ideas.
You will need to follow up on these.

Never jump to a conclusion about an idea. Take the time to think and consider before giving judgement at a later date.
However, don’t leave it too long. Perhaps agree a time and keep to it.

What ever you produce as a team it will involve the classic project management triangle of Time, Cost and Quality (see The Complete Project Management package).
In theory, we want to optimise all three, low cost, quick and high quality.

Why not ask your team if they have any ideas in these three areas.
Narrowing the field for generating ideas will often kick start the process for many people.
You could link idea generation with a reward system (see Reward System – part 1).

Make it easy

The easier you make it to generate ideas the more you will get.

Obviously don’t criticise ideas.

Provide suggestion boxes, add a slot into the agenda, provide an email address for submitting them, have a page to post ideas on an intra net. Make sure that you really publicise the need for ideas. Some bosses don’t like these sort of systems, they feel it undermines their control, so inform them before you begin canvassing for ideas in this way.

Rejecting ideas

It’s not straight forward to tell people their ideas will not be used.
You can see a big drop in motivation.
You risk upsetting them and reducing ideas in the future.

Be sensitive with rejection and cover the following areas.

  • Do not embarrass the person by the manner of rejection, particularly in public.
  • Always thank the person for the idea and refer to exactly what it was.
  • Give reasons why you can not use the idea right now.
  • Invite additional comments if any issues or constraints might be circumvented.
  • If it may be possible to implement in the future explain all of the relevant details.

Healthy thinking

Thinking becomes confused and slower when we are tired or feeling poorly.
By encouraging and promoting personal health other aspects of team work will improve.
Exercise and good eating will benefit individuals.

Allow relaxed time for thinking and creativity this will improve the generation of ideas.
Make sure sufficient breaks are taken.

Develop good breathing exercises to enhance oxygen levels.