Tuesday, April 6, 2010

In The Trenches - Brainstorming - Ideas, Input, Advice

The 80’s were a great time to be a woman in the corporate world. One of the things that made it special was that there was a big emphasis to move away from the manager knows it all thinking to involving people at all levels to participate in finding improvements and solutions to the challenges that we faced. One of the popular strategies that was introduced was Brainstorming.

The facilitator would stand at the white board and write while the group would fire off things that popped into their minds pertaining to the topic. No idea was classified as bad or good in this initial list because sometimes a bad idea when presented would get someone else to think of a better idea. It was all part of getting creative and looking at situations with new eyes. By the way, we had NO problems – we had either challenges or opportunities. Because we approached things that way we came up with some ideas that were not just good, they were great!

Here are a couple of terms and definitions in our brainstorming vocabulary:
Step 1. Ideas - any conception existing in the mind as a result of mental understanding, awareness, or activity

Step 2. Input -to contribute (ideas, information, or suggestions) to a project, discussion, etc.

Step 3. Advice - an opinion or recommendation offered as a guide to action, conduct, etc.

I am taking the time to list them because I have found that most people jump directly to step 3 before fully exhausting steps 1 and 2. This severely limits the options and choices available. Spending 90% of our time on steps 1 and 2 will prepare us to have a specific plan that we will then want to present to well chosen, often professional, people for step 3. Ever heard of the term of friendly fire? It’s a tragic occurrence in military events where a serviceman shots one of his own troops. In finances we can easily get unintentional bad advice if we don’t carefully do our diligence of doing our homework.

Brainstorming can work with any question, project, or decision. The only requirement is that you listen well, consider much, and then move forward. Obviously we don’t all have a group we can call in (well, maybe a family would fit this definition) so we might need to spread out our conversations among a few people. This could and should include friends, family, books, and professionals.  Even strangers can have great input if they are familiar with the topic.  Once a decision is reached it must be your own. When it all comes down to it you have to live with yourself and your own decisions so be cautious about taking the first advice you receive and then regretting it later.

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