First, I hope you are all staying healthy and safe. Most of us are now into our fifth month of working remotely and we are slowly but surely becoming pros at working virtually. Whether you are using Zoom or some other such solution, we have all figured out a way to work together remotely and make it feel like we are physically together. The good news is that our ability to work in a team has not missed a beat and in some cases has been enhanced because we have eliminated the issue where some members are “in the room” and others, in other locations, struggle to participate. The “not so good” news is that the challenges we may have had working in teams in the pre-COVID world have not gone away – they have just shifted to a remote environment. So, let’s take a look at one such challenge, brainstorming, and try to fix it.
Whether you at the Strategic Sourcing level of maturity or are already doing Category Management, the expectation is that you are working collaboratively with your Procurement team members and your Stakeholders. As you move toward Category Management, the complexity of the problems you are trying to solve increases and therefore getting all your teammates to participate and generate creative solutions becomes even more critical. One powerful technique to generate those new ideas is brainstorming when done right. How many times have you been invited to a brainstorming session with a room full of people and only a few people contributed? Or everyone waited for the most senior person in the room to speak and then simply nodded their heads? OR had no idea of the problem that you were trying to solve, so the session was a free-for-all? If any of the questions above sound familiar, then your brainstorming process requires a makeover.
Working remotely is the perfect opportunity to revamp your process. A recent article in HBR “How to Brainstorm – Remotely” had some great tips. The objective of brainstorming is to generate new ideas from a diverse set of people to solve a specific problem. Here are some of the tips to consider:
- Define the Problem – Ensure the problem you are trying to solve is clearly defined so participants can “reach into their memory and retrieve related information.”
- Carefully Select your Brainstorming Group – Instead of making a list of people, start with a list of various roles and / or expertise required and then select the people that fit your requirements. “This will help you ensure that the group you bring together is more diverse, bringing a range of different backgrounds and perspectives to the problem-solving task.”
- Start your Session Differently – To avoid the challenges of groupthink or those participants that are too timid to speak up, seek out ideas independently in writing first. This technique gives all participants the opportunity to contribute without the challenges associated with a “live meeting”. The facilitator will gather all the input, distribute it back to the group and allow everyone the chance to build on the ideas generated. Some of the proposals may require other expertise which you can bring in after the fact as well.
- Bring the Group Together to Reach Consensus –“You can bring the entire group together to discuss the most promising ideas and to reach a consensus about a small number of options to be considered further.”
We need to start thinking creatively as we are all working through this new remote world – which may last longer than anyone anticipated. While we are using technology to bring us closer, it is not without its challenges. We may need to rethink many of our processes to increase both efficiency and effectiveness. Brainstorming is just one of those processes and one that we may want to change permanently if / when we are face – to – face again.
Please stay safe, let us know what you think and join in the conversation . . . . .