The Power of Additive Ideation

It is common to approach suggestions schemes, brainstorms and ideation meetings from a competitive point of view.  So we might say that we want a large number of ideas and then by a darwinian process we will eliminate the weaker suggestions and choose the best.  People might vote on the proposals and the most popular win through.  This approach will work if the challenge is clearly stated in terms of desired outcomes and evaluation criteria, and if the process is well facilitated.   However there is another approach which can sometimes give more focussed and therefore better results.  Start with a small number of broad concepts and ask for ideas which add to the understanding, appeal or feasibility of the concepts.  The initial concepts can be situations, challenges, proposals or ideas.  People work in a supportive and collaborative mode; typically to build out the concepts and improve on them.

So in your suggestions scheme or ideation process you can start with a situation and ask for input, insights and deeper understandings.  You can state some desired outcomes and ask for advice and ideas on how to get there.  People from across the organisation can contribute to the ideas or issues that interest them and constructively comment or add to the discussions that they see.

One way to use this technique in a brainstorm meeting is by using the phrase,  ‘Building on this….’.   You state the challenge and then each person silently develops a radical idea or an ideal solution.  These are shared.  Then we take the first idea and everyone in turn has to add to it by starting their contribution with the words, ‘ Building on this idea…..’.  More and more ideas are added to the initial concept to make it different, more appealing, simpler, more effective or better.  Then we move on to the second idea and repeat the process.  Every initial idea is developed in this way and then we move into convergent mode and select the best proposals based on our evaluation criteria.

For your next brainstorm meeting why not try this method?  You will find that it leads to a more collaborative, constructive and additive atmosphere which often results in successful and creative outcomes.

Paul Sloane

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