06-23-15Shad, Pipe Foreman for a Washington industrial general contractor, told session 9B of the Leadership Development Lab,

“We received a contract for a large job with a hard-to-reach deadline and many issues with the plant scheduling outages on multiple systems. Access restrictions made it impossible to use a large crew to accomplish all the work on time.

“Looking for ideas to make the deadline, we called the entire crew together and brainstormed for ideas on a whiteboard. Then we used the best ideas to create a three-week look-ahead schedule. The schedule is working. It is working for two reasons. First, the team came up with ideas I had not thought of, that just didn’t occur to me. ‘Two heads are better than one!’ Second, since the ideas are their own, they’ve been determined to make them work.

“The lesson I learned is that great ideas can come from anywhere, one craft can have great ideas for the other crafts. Great ideas can come from the newest apprentice.

“The action I call you to take is do more than listen to your crew’s ideas, proactively ask for your team’s ideas.

“The benefits you will gain are more engaged employees, improved productivity, and more success fulfilling your commitments.”

The saying goes “there are no bad ideas.” According to Albert Einstein, “if at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” To get these absurd ideas you must provide the encouragement and a safe environment to share those good, bad and ugly ideas. If your peers and employees feel that you are their critic or that you don’t welcome their ideas—they will never provide creative solutions to difficult challenges. So where do you begin? With lessons learned from 15 Leadership Principles you:

  • Begin with Yes, Yes. Provide an environment where no idea is considered bad or absurd. Make it known up front that brainstorming is all about getting the creative juices flowing and any idea can spark a new trend, solution or product.
  • Become Genuinely Interested in the possible solutions. Be an Active Listener. Do not check your watch, phone or the ceiling, while brainstorming. Listen, without judgment. No eyes to the sky or sighing.
  • Don’t Criticize, Condemn or Complain. Remember: all ideas are welcome in the brainstorming process—often a “bad” idea leads to fabulous fixes!
  • Validate Their Ideas. Make statements such as “wow, that’s interesting. This one has potential.”
  • Dramatize Your Ideas. Once you find a valid option, talk through the entire process of the idea from start to finish. Who will do what, with whom, when, where, and what are the hoped for end results?
  • Enact the plan. Don’t shelve it, put it into play!
  • Review. What were the results? Where can you improve? What would you do differently?
    Regardless of the final result you will have accomplished something very important with your team. You created a culture where ideas are welcomed, ideas are encouraged. You will create ownership and productivity when you Brainstorm to the Finish Line!