Ideation encourages collaborative stretch, puts walls to new concepts and injects out-of-industry or out-of-category thinking to take existing walls down. Ideation is seriously ambitious but dynamic and energetic enough that you don’t typically feel how hard you’re working. The ideation process—through a fun, innovative, unexpected agenda, pulls every participant to a central point of expression.

Ideation or brainstorming is the process of creating new ideas. It’s a useful exercise for everything from naming to development of new programs to problem solving. It can also be used productively to diffuse tension and get leadership on the same page.

Ideation typically starts with short interviews with critical leadership to understand the core of the issue/problem and related vision and goals. We look carefully with leadership at the list of participants and attempt to understand their individual gifts, voice, background and predisposition going into ideation. We consider whether to bring people from outside the organization to the ideation stage to stimulate or challenge thinking. We discuss desired outcomes. We attempt to understand where communication might break down and become conflict, and what might spark collaboration for a bigger vision.

A typical ideation session involves about 10-12 hours of time:

    • Preparatory interviews
    • Agenda development
    • Sourcing of outside participants, if appropriate
    • Session time (typically three hours)
    • Post-session evaluation and report

Ideation is most desirable as a strategic response to big issues because it breaks the elephant down into manageable pieces. Where necessary, you can employ stairstep sessions to arrive at desired outcome. Morning sessions are best. Venue is critical; it needs to be fun and disarming. Group size is critical; it becomes difficult to manage the time and dynamic with more than 10 participants.

This is a great tool for understanding how critical decisionmakers think, vetting ideas and producing ownership. Best of all, it’s collegial.

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