Imagine you have a key challenge to solve in your business, one that affects your company in a big way. You gather your key players in a room to brainstorm ideas and figure out the best path forward

Here are 8 suggestions for you to make the most of that meeting to not only come up with a winning idea, but to truly flesh that idea out so it is sharper and better.

  1. Frame the challenge or opportunity or “issue”. Get clear on what it is you’re really talking about. Concretely lay out the challenge, problem, opportunity, decision before you.
  2. Lay out the elements or criteria an ideal solution or way forward would give you.
  3. Don’t try to go for a decision too soon. Sometimes you need to explore a subject first before you decide, don’t rush into an easy answer just because it seems obvious. Exploring a subject and making a decision are two separate processes and best kept that way.
  4. Explore the subject. What parts or subjects should you explore to fully understand this topic? Come at it from several angles. Look at root causes; key leverage points; vulnerabilities; opportunities; etc. Remember, when you only see one solution or path forward on a critical issue you are likely overlooking something important. Push yourselves to see things from a different perspective.
  1. Come to a draft strategy, decision, or path forward. By labeling your answer at this stage as a “draft” or “trial” answer, you give yourself permission to change, challenge, and improve your answer in one last round.
  1. Identify your assumptions. What would have to prove true in order for your draft answer to work? Are these assumptions reasonable? Can you verify them? What would you need to measure to test them earlier as you implement your solution? Adjust your trial answer based on this step and come up with your improved solution.
  1. Challenge your “improved” solution one last time. Sharpen your thinking by asking the following questions:
  • What specifically do we know that will help us implement our solution?
  • What information do we still need to gather, research, verify, corroborate, collate, collect?
  • What scares us about this solution?
  • What excites us about this solution?
  • How can we improve the solution? Make it even better, more effective, cheaper, more powerful, more comprehensive, easier to swallow, simple to implement, etc.
  • What do we need to look out for, be aware of, and protect ourselves from?
  • What are the real risks here? What could come back to haunt us or hurt us?
  • How can we make our solution better, or upgrade the way we are implementing it to protect ourselves from these known dangers?
  • How can we mitigate or lower the known risks and still keep the positives from our solution?
  • Stepping back for a moment; given all we’ve thought through and discussed so far — imagine for a moment that there was a simpler solution that we could use that would be even better than our current idea. It would take less work, be easier to implement, have fewer downsides, have broader applications, revolutionize this area of our business–what would that totally crazy, out of the box, wild idea even look like?
  • Is one of these new ideas a better way to go than our current solution? Or would we do better to find ways of using the new ideas to upgrade our current solution?

8. Agree on your ultimate solution and plan to implement that plan. Notice I put “ultimate” in quotation marks. This is because you may find that this solution itself needs to be changed or improved as you get into the execution of it.

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