In part I of building awesome plans we covered defining objectives, goals and strategy and in this post we’ll cover idea generation.
By now you should have a decent idea of what success looks like (objectives and goals) and the areas where you will focus most of your effort (strategy) – this is important as it will act as a framework and guide for building your plans.
The next step is to pull together the real meat of the plan – the actual initiatives you will execute on.
Below is what I’ve found to be a pretty effective way of generating ideas:
Identify your brainstorming sessions – we ran some brainstorms for a product recently and identified roughly 10 brainstorming sessions. Four were directly related to areas of strategy we defined in the previous stage and the others tended to be either areas of focus directly related to each strategic area or general team wide brainstorms.
Involve the right people – getting the right people in each of the brainstorms is key. For example, if you are running a brainstorm on a particular topic, you’ll want to have the best minds for that particular topic contributing. Involve subject matter experts from your team, and other teams across the business – their fresh perspective can often generate a breakthrough idea and they will help with the general flow of ideas. It’s perfectly fine and usually best to have a real mix of seniority in these meetings. Some of the best brainstorms I have been in have had the CEO and many members of the development teams in them.
Brainstorm group sizes – 8-10 seems to work the best. Much more and it all gets too chaotic and it’s a challenge to stop people talking over others or having side bar conversations. Less than 5 and it’s hard to keep the momentum going.
Involve everyone – eh? Isn’t this completely at odds with the above points? A bit, but not really Whilst you want to run focused 8-10 person brainstorms with the right people, you also want to give everyone an opportunity to throw some ideas out. Your guys on the front line are the closest to both your product and customers and it often puts them in the best position to come up with the best ideas (you just never know where a breakthrough idea is going to come from) or to spot a hidden risk with an idea.
Consider running some general brainstorming sessions with teams or run some of the same sessions you identified above and allow anyone to put themselves forward to participate.
Brainstorm well – now is the time to get people out of their comfort zone, literally anything flies. You can weed out slightly crazy ideas at the next stage, for now you want to be brain dumping anything and everything. Make sure you pick the right person to run brainstorming sessions – there is a real knack to it.
Capture everything – make whoever is running the brainstorm accountable for capturing all of the ideas into a final document. These will be used in the next stage – idea prioritisation.
Go outside – if you have people on the outside that can input, utilise them fully. Whether they are an advisor, mentor or personal friend, sound them out and see what they have to offer in terms of ideas. Often, their outside perspective can be very useful.
A few final words on Idea generation
Your main goal for this stage is to simply come up with as many good ideas as possible. Get your best people around the table and brain dump as many ideas as you can. Run a mixture of small, focused brainstorms with subject matter expert’s aswell as broader brainstorms with the wider team. Involve people outside of the business. Capture everything; no idea is too small or big, smart or stupid.
Between this stage and the previous stage you should now have a clear idea for your objectives, goals, strategic areas of focus and a long list of ideas / initiatives you could implement.
You’ll probably have far too many ideas to implement in a meaningful timeframe, that’s ok – that’s where the next stage comes in (idea prioritisation). We’ll cover that next – watch this space.