Firstly, I need to apologize up front that I don’t remember where I got this idea from. It is not my idea, I have used variations of this exercise in my consulting practice, but I wanted to pass it along. One of the problems I have when listening to a host of podcast products is that at times I am not in a good position to stop and take notes. This idea I found on either Phil McKinney’s “Killer Innovation” or on a “Venture Voice” interview, but that is a guess at best.
We all need tools to help us think of new ways to solve old problems. We have a lens that we use to evaluate data as it comes in. Every so often we find a new lens which helps us provide a breakthrough in performance or understanding. In this case I wanted to share with you a new way of looking at things with a hope that it produces exceptional results.
Always / Never Brainstorming
This is an excellent team exercise. I would expect at least two large hanging paper sheets and a pile of sticky notes and some felt tip markers would work nicely. Here are the steps:
- Define the topic or focal point. Try to be specific. I prefer these questions NOT be open-ended if possible to make sure you are focused as possible. Here are some example:
- “What are the first impressions of our company/organization/church?”
- “What’s the last thing people remember about ?????”
- “What do people expect when they ????”
- “What happens when a person doesn’t ????”
- Have the team brainstorm things that ALWAYS happen (Time limit 10 minutes or until the ideas dry up)
- Now, have the team identify things that NEVER happen for this topic (Same time limit, and keep the answers relevant)
- Take a break – you just spent 20 minutes hurting your brains! (5 minutes)
- Nominal Grouping next – spend 5 to 10 minutes moving the stickies together that are talking about the same thing (duplicate stickies if the idea is relevant to two groupings)
- Focus on the Never – now ask the team to come up with ideas that would make the never become a reality and be considered exceptional. (20 minutes)
Innovation Bonus Exercise
Now I did get this great idea from a Phil McKinney podcast as I was driving back from a State Cup soccer tournament. This is the first time I heard this exercise described this way and should provide you some great ideas and insights.
Our brains are programmed to stop thinking once we think we found the right answer and often we leave ideas in our head and never share them because of this reason. You as the leader or facilitator need to force your team past this creative barrier. Here is the bonus exercise:
- Have all your nominally grouped ideas placed on a grid.
- Each idea group should run across the top of the grid
- Each idea group should run down the left side creating a matrix.
- In each matrix box, FORCE the team to come up with a new idea.
- Use this Hybrid list of ideas for innovative ways to move forward.
The ALWAYS List
This list represents the performance bar that all expect from any organization in the specific category examined. This list becomes the managers performance list. The manager will use this list to help identify talents and skills needed by the staff to accomplish these objectives. Mentoring, training, feedback and possibly team reconfiguration (fire/hire) might be needed to help the team reach the Always Base Level, if they are not already there. It is imperative that the manager get his team to this level and make sure they stay there.
The NEVER List
The Never list (and Innovation Hybrid List) is used by leadership to determine what the group will take on next. An assessment needs to be performed first. Do we have the right talents? Do the correct skills exist at the right level to take on the new item? What do we gain by taking on the new item as it relates to our competitors? How long can we have an advantage before the competitors catch up to us? And let’s not forget, how much will this cost us?
Marketing Warfare Correlations
Now before I get emails asking me how this relates to Marketing Warfare let me break this down quickly. This exercise will work for three of the four areas of the strategic squares. I’ll try and break this down by market position:
Market Leader – you are using this exercise to create a Defensive Marketing Plan. The goal is to create a moving target for the competitors in your space. The ultimate object of these repetitive successes would be to discourage your competitors from attempting direct attacks on your position.
Market Non-Leaders – since you are not using this exercise to attack the leaders weakness within their strength, this exercise should be used in creating a flanking attack and would work best if you focused on an area in which the leader is currently not focusing on.
Local or Regional Leaders – this exercise will produce great ideas for guerrilla marketing warfare plans. Many of these ideas will place you in a strong competitive advantage to the national companies that cannot respond to the dominance you hold in your local or regional spaces.
Please let me know what you think of this post. I hope it helps you and your organization. Your feedback is most welcome!
Good Luck and Good Hunting!
#1 by fivewhys on February 6, 2012 - 4:19 pm
A really great post! I like the use of a never board to capture all those automatic road blocks. I’ve also come across a similar idea called ‘assumption busters’ where participants list out all the constraints that ‘go without saying’. Nice to get it out in the open.
I also really like the links in to marketing. Nice application of the technique. thanks
#2 by Tim Rueb on February 6, 2012 - 4:33 pm
Thanks fiveways. This is a fun activity, especially satisfying when you have people that are anti brainstorming as well. Always produces some great results and really gets the teams focused before project plans are created.