One of the most important leadership roles is the act of leading a creative meeting. A better future depends on new ideas – otherwise we’re destined to just keep repeating the past.
Having begun my career as a designer and creative strategist, I’d assumed idea generation was something every leader was trained to do. However I’ve since learnt this isn’t the case...
All too often what happens is the leader calls their team together for a brainstorm, stands at a whiteboard and then asks “Who’s got a good idea?”
Three simple steps, unfortunately each of them wrong. Each with great intentions but leading the team in the wrong direction, for reasons such as:
- Brainstorming is just one type of creative meeting – at times it can be a great technique but sometimes it actually restricts creativity through team dynamics such as groupthink
- When just one person writes up the team’s suggestions it restricts the idea flow – from slowing the speed to subconsciously (or consciously!) changing what’s been suggested
- By asking a group for “good ideas” you’re actually leading them to give you predictable ideas – triggering their minds to self-censor game-changing ideas that seem too risky
So what can you do instead? The good news is that a great creative meeting sometimes requires less leading than you might naturally think...
Instead of standing at a whiteboard writing up the ideas yourself, begin the meeting by handing each person a Post-it pad. Then once you’ve clarified the challenge, get each person to quietly write at least one note each before the conversation begins – being careful not to lead out with your own ideas.
Not only does this accelerate the number of ideas generated, it also ensures all voices get heard equally – instead of the typical meeting where the loudest voices dominate.
Many leaders talk about wanting to think outside of the box. However they then hold their creative meetings by containing the same minds in the same box – meeting with the usual people in the usual room.
Instead truly think outside of the box by meeting in a different space. And no, a café doesn’t count – because if your competitors do the same thing, it’s well and truly inside the box.
Whether you meet in a hallway, another department or just outside the building, a fresh perspective is only a walking meeting away.
When you have a deeper understanding of the dynamics of creative thinking, you can then get creative about being creative. Experimenting with new ways to increase both the quality and quantity of ideas.
For example mix in new ways of thinking by changing the mix of people in the room. This can be as simple as inviting colleagues from another part of the organisation, through to more advanced remixes for even greater outcomes.
From taking an executive team to a primary school for their strategy offsite. through to inviting international business students to an export workshop, I know from experience that diversified minds lead not only to more diverse ideas but far deeper understanding of what lies ahead.
So next time you need to think outside the box, begin by stepping outside of the box.