It’s a popular sentiment that there’s no “i” in team. Besides being linguistically true, it certainly helps make co-existance a little bit easier. Only problem is, something it;s absolutely not true.
Last week at ASAE Great Ideas, in addition to the keynote I did, I also led a three-hour workshop of my most popular topic, “The Weekly Innovator.” No, this wasn’t some buzzword-filled lecture-fest about disruption and leveraging synergies. It was a simple 5-step process to keep teams focused and moving forward (5×5, pic below).
If you’ve ever created something new with others, you know that true teamwork needs a balance. You can’t have everyone doing everything together all the time, but you don’t want a cubicle farm of anti-social pod people. So where’s the balance?
Well, stages 1 (Discovery) and 3 (Debate) are very team heavy. But stage 2 (Explore) should not be. Let me ask you this: when some says “brainstorm”, what image comes to you head? I’m going to guess a room full of people chucking ideas at the wall, out loud. You would be correct, that is the common version of brainstorming we’ve all come to know and loathe. Good news: it doesn’t work and you should stop doing it.
Exploration, in the world of new ideas, should always be an individual pursuit. Each of our skills, behaviors, backgrounds, and perspectives shape our creative work and that is best left out of a group process. Your, and everyone else’s creative is at peak performance when you have space to be left alone, to reflect and imagine. In my workshops, I use index cards and ask folks to use each one as a tiny sandbox — one idea per card. This insures that new thoughts and ideas are fully realized by the individual. It also means that ideas are democratized when brought to the group. You find overlap, patterns, and surprises. The true strength of a team is the ability to challenge each individual, then allow the team to debate, strength, and decide. That is how teams become greater than the sum of their parts.
So, the next time someone says “let’s do a brainstorm”, ask for the chance to explore instead. You’ll cover a lot more territory.
Founder, The Idea Enthusiast. Speaker, Trainer, Facilitator, and writer about all things creative consulting. DC-based consultant to individuals who want to be more creative, teams who want to collaborate without fear, and anyone who wants to deliver the best pitches and presentations.