Most management meetings are dull affairs stacked full of short-term problems that need fixing. Discussions focus on routine operational issues and of course these things have to be addressed. However, from time to time you and your team should lift your heads and think about a bigger, brighter future. You should brainstorm strategic and innovative options.
The kind of question you ask makes a big difference. If you start with mundane incremental questions – such as how can we increase sales by 10% – then you will get mundane incremental answers. These often involve doing a bit more of the same – increase marketing spending, hiring more sales people and so on. If you want radical thinking you need radical questions.
Here are some questions which I use in corporate brainstorm meetings. They will generate creative and sometimes drastic suggestions.
- How can we surprise and delight customers?
- How can we double our average order value?
- How can we get 100% brand awareness in our target market?
- How can we make all our employees really proud to work here?
- What is the most dramatic business innovation you have seen in the last two years? How could we apply that approach here?
- How can we empower people at all levels to make decisions quickly?
- If we want to double our revenues what is the single most important thing we must change and what should we do?
- If we had to cut our cost base by 50% but maintain revenues what could we do?
- If we had absolutely no fear of failure what would we try?
- What are the most important rules that we and our competitors follow? What if we broke them?
- If we were an aggressive new entrant to our market with no installed base what would we do to become the new market leader?
- How can we make all our people feel and act like entrepreneurs who own the business and take calculated risks?
- What are the customer needs and pain points which are not being met today? What will they be in two years’ time?
Get a diverse group of people. Take them offsite. Follow the rules of brainstorming and tackle one or two of these questions. Then implement the best ideas that emerge. Great ideas are no use if you do not try them!
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Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation, and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, published both published by Kogan-Page. Follow him @PaulSloane