Ideas are worthless unless implemented. To make the most of those creative brains on your small team, you can’t have a brainstorming session and leave it at that. You need to have a system in place to manage ideas from the initial burst of insight to complete execution.
There are three essential stages in idea management:
Stage 1: Capture/Input
Stage 2: Feedback/Analysis
Stage 3: Decision/Action
All three stages are necessary. With a smaller team, you can move more quickly from one to another, but you still need to work in the right order to manage ideas effectively.
Stage 1: Effective Collection
The best ideas are often the ones that sound a little crazy. Sadly, those are the ideas we are most likely to reject because they sound, well, a little crazy. It’s important to create a truly open space where all of the ideas can come out and introduce themselves
. Welcome all ideas equally in order to keep getting a lot of ideas. Quantity produces quality; let your team members know that all of their ideas are welcome. The more the better. It’s a lot like panning for gold: you have to sift through a good bit of silt to find that nugget.
Make Stage 1 a friendly, open, any-idea-welcome environment. This shouldn’t be the place or time where you analyze weaknesses or discuss budgets. It should be a place where you capture all the ideas, sort them out according to the problem or project they address, and get them lined up for feedback in Stage 2.
Stage 2: Effective Discussion
It’s important to look at ideas with an eye for reality. An objective discussion, with insight from various team members, is how you determine if an idea goes forward or goes away. Most people will respond with initial negativity to ideas that are new or foreign to them. This is the curse of unfamiliarity, and every innovator has faced it. Establish a few rules for the feedback cycle to keep a balance. You don’t want unnecessary negativity, but you do want smart analysis and objective thinking.
Rules might include
Stage 2 is a forum which allows the necessary people to camp out around a few ideas and talk them over. Putting guidelines in place keeps it productive, rather than personal, and moves the ideas forward faster into the realm of action.
Stage 3: Effective Execution
For each idea, set a time lim it on discussion. While some ideas might require a little more research, do the minimum necessary to make an informed decision. Every moment spent in discussion is a moment taken away from the stage wh ere results happen: execution. Keep discussions from lingering on an idea that just isn’t ready for reality yet. Lower the hammer, quickly and finally. For the ideas that pass, remember these two truths:
- Everybody likes getting credit.
- Execution matters more than ideation.
A mediocre idea carried out excellently will accomplish more for your business than an excellent idea carried out halfway. Give credit for the idea by tagging the idea generator as the idea executor.
Make a clear decision about each idea, designate an idea leader, give access to the resources, budget, time, and team members needed, and then get out of the way.
The Final Stage: Assessment and Reward
After a reasonable amount of time, bring the team together to analyze both successful and failed ideas. Was it completed? Executed well? Did it work? If so, give rewards and recognition and look into implementing the idea further, if appropriate.
If not, figure out why. Was the idea flawed? Were there problems in leadership, execution, lack of resources? Was there some unknown circumstance that popped up and threw the whole thing off course? The more you understand your idea management system, the more efficient and effective you can be as you continue gathering, analyzing, and executing ideas.