Enormous amounts of time are wasted during the creative thinking portion of most meetings. Yes, most meetings require a segment of creative thinking. The group is usually working on resolving tough challenges. Ideas get tossed around and tossed out. That idea won't work. It's too expensive. We've tried that before and on, and on, and on. It's a free for all. There is no process. You're very familiar with this scenario. The meeting ends with no solution. Schedule another one. Another waste-of-time meeting. Repeat.
Here's a productive process you can follow that will clean up this mess, save everyone time, and drive you and your group to design workable solutions.
Use the Six Thinking Hats® Creativity Sequence
Blue Hat Focus: Write a clear focus statement without qualifiers. Here is an example of a focus statement stuffed with qualifiers: Let's end up with ideas to increase sales that won't increase labor costs and be time-consuming. This focus statement will shut down idea generation because people will mentally be screening out ideas they think don't fit the qualifiers.
Keep the focus statement clear and simple: Let's end up with ideas to increase sales. Use the qualifiers when you're screening the idea for value and practicality. "How does this idea impact labor costs?" "How does this idea impact time during our sales process?"
White Hat High-Level Information: Prepare in advance the high-level white hat information and data the group needs. This step helps to put each person on the same sheet; it helps to prepare people to participate productively in idea generation. If you overload people with too much information, it can stifle the creative process.
Green Hat Generate Ideas: Everyone in the group generates ideas. There is no other discussion or commentary. Just ideas. Capture as much idea detail as possible in the words and phrases of the person giving the idea. Tip: short phrases aren't clear or specific enough. Ideas need verbs. Ideas are actionable. You can use idea generating tools during this step.
Red Hat Energy: Prepare a gut instinct question and have the group individually select which ideas seem to be worthwhile exploring further. "Gut instinct: Which ideas look like they could make a big impact on increasing our sales?" There is no explaining why. Just gut instinct.
Blue Hat Process Check: Review the ideas which received the most red hat energy. Select one of the high energy ideas and begin a high-level idea evaluation. If your group size is larger than five, you can split into smaller groups and assign each group a different idea to evaluate, a super time saver.
Idea Evaluation Process: Follow the next steps for each idea to be evaluated.
Clearly Describe the Idea to be Evaluated: Be very specific. People need to understand what they are trying to evaluate. How would it work?
Yellow Hat Benefits: Look for the benefits in the idea. Include the reasons why. We look for benefits first to ensure there is enough value in the idea to make it worth our time to look for the problems. There's no point looking for problems in an idea if the idea doesn't have sufficient value.
Red Hat Value Check: Does the idea have strong enough benefits to make it worthwhile exploring further? Yes--move to the next step. No--eliminate the idea. There is no need to waste any time looking for the problems when the value is weak.
Black Hat Difficulties: Look for the difficulties the idea presents. What are the problems, pitfalls, barriers? What could go wrong? Include the reasons why. Get a clear picture of each black hat difficulty.
Green Hat Ideas to Solve the Black Hat Problems: Generate ideas and solutions to solve and minimize each black hat difficulty, design thinking. You are designing solutions. You are moving your thinking forward. You are starting to get an idea of the practicality of the idea.
Green Hat Ideas to Capture the Yellow Hat Benefits: Review the benefits and generate ideas to build the benefits into the idea. Many good ideas fail because people don't understand the "why" benefits. Don't neglect this important step.
Green Hat Strengthen the Idea: How would you strengthen the idea? Review your yellow hat and black hat thinking. Add specific idea detail. A lot of shaping and tailoring takes place to turn a starting idea into the receivable idea.
Red Hat Idea Check: Use your gut instinct. Ask, "How well do you suppose this idea will help us ... ?"
Blue Hat Action Planning for Next Steps: What needs to happen next with this idea? By whom? By when?
It may look like a lot of work. Developing workable ideas is a lot of work. When you're working on important challenges for your business, it's worth it. The surprise, once you get used to the rhythm, you'll pick up the pace of your idea work. Your solutions will be stronger. Thinking will be more thorough. It's clear to the group why an idea is advanced, and why an idea is not advanced. There is huge value in that.
LIFT Your Thinking ... until next time.