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From ideation to action in two hours!

For all you collaboration experts out there, this is easy peasy; for all others, it might be helpful - Tommes Snels

I started writing a small blogpost this morning about “the 5 tips to get more out of your teams” and before I knew it, it went from small to big - too big. Not because of the 5 tips themselves, but because of the foundational thinking that sits underneath. I’ll come back to that at the end of this post. Instead, in a very inspiring chat I had this morning with Pascal, I decided to put something really practical out there, and keen to hear what you think of it.

It’s based on a concrete ‘little’ challenge that popped up very recently in another chat (you know who you are...). The challenge was around “how do I engage my team in an ideation exercise - as part of a bigger two day get-together - around Digital?”. It wasn’t actually a question posed to me, but I couldn’t help myself so I designed a 2 hour process to help out. And as always, when you iterate, it only gets better (as long as you mind the 80-20 rule and stop each iteration in time!) - so that’s what I did, based on Pascal’s enthusiastic iteration!

To start of with, let me emphasise that “Context is King (or better yet, Queen)” (which is, by the way, also the first of the 5 tips I mentioned before): an exercise like this needs context, expressed and explored: how did we get here and what can we learn from that, what does ‘here’ look like and what are the challenges we currently see and what could the future look like (just imagine…)? For the sake of simplicity, let’s just assume that that has all been expressed and explored, played with and discussed. The other thing is about divvying up the big team into 3 smaller teams. You could design for random teams to emerge in the process, or predefine the teams up-front based on experience and expertise. Do this by design: think about the pros and cons of both random and expert-driven teams!

After having taken care of the context and thinking about the team - and setting your timer to the below mentioned times - be rigorous about it! - you can step into this little process:

1. Individual Brainstorm [10 minutes]

This could simply be framed around ‘opportunities and threats’ or something like ‘outside and inside’. You can keep it broad (“For our organisation in its ecosystem”) or zoom in a bit (“Client facing, Voice To Market, Internal Comms”); whatever you decide, decide by design! We chose for zoomed-in. Think about practicalities; do you use Post-Its? Or whiteboards? Or personal journals? Up to you - but again, by design.

2. Share and cluster [15 minutes]

Let all individuals share - in 3 smaller teams, with 2 minutes per person - and instruct the others to simply listen and ask only for clarification - they’ll have time to discuss later. Help them remember: listening is not waiting to speak… And put the additional challenge on them to ‘domino’: whatever has already been said by one of your predecessors in the sharing exercise: do not repeat, simply align (like domino…).

These first two steps have - as simple as they are - tremendous benefits: you’ll acknowledge everyone in the room, allow for each voice to be heard and start unearthing gems that are present in the minds of each individual. 

3. Get specific [30 minutes]

Now think about what you want the teams to work on next. It could be more conceptual, or highly practical - again: by design! Think about the main questions you want them to find answers to. And allow them to pick the 'best' ideas from their previous brainstorm rounds, and iterate on them. 'Best' because you put full trust in the teams, they will come up with what they feel is best. In this case, I suggested three topics:

Team Client Facing: What are the needs we will need to cater for in the context of Digital -in the broader context of our client’s digital transformation efforts (because all organisations are going through the same motion, aren’t they?) What are their expectations, what do they expect from us?

Team Voice To Market: What are the needs in our market, and the wider ecosystem? What do we feel we want to - nay need to be known for? And how to best get that out to the market?

Team Internal Comms: What needs of our people will we need to fulfil in the context of Digital, knowing the digital worlds they already are part of (the assumption here is that individuals have already made giant leaps into the digital realm compared to organisations…) What do they expect from the organisation?

30 minutes is hardly enough to get to the lowest level of detail, but that’s not the aim. You might need to help them understand the 80-20 rule before stepping into this 3rd step, in particular the ability to get to an 80% outcome in just 20% of the total time needed to get to 100%...

4. Inspire… and Get Inspired [2 x 10 minutes]

Inject two rounds of 20 minutes, in which one person of each team stays behind at the team’s working location to present the work to the ‘visitors’. The others spread across the other teams, listen and provide feedback - aimed at making it better, not breaking it!

5. Get Back & Make Tangible [30 minutes]

Let everyone go back to their original team, discuss the feedback briefly and then focus on making it tangible: what do we need to do now, what does it require? You could prime connection to overall strategy, ambitions, skills and capabilities, whatever suits - but by design - to help them get to an action plan. And make them think along the lines of prototyping, minimum viable product, low hanging fruit or whatever is the language you use currently to indicate fast paced trial and learning.

6. 15 minutes left…

There is a whole range of ways to closing this out and making it stick. One way is to simply let the teams report out the action plan to each other. It becomes highly action-oriented this way. Or you give them 10 minutes to prepare a pitch-like report back, and let them use the final 5 minutes to record it as a video - to post it later on on an internal social media or similar channel. Or you give them 5 minutes to prepare a 3 minute story that should “inspire and enthuse all” - and let them tell the story in the last 10 minutes. Or you ask them to design a visual blogpost to be used in the organisations internal blog sphere. Or … any other exciting way you can think of to let them own their work and inspire others!