Individual credibility or position can have a real influence on the tenor of an idea generation session. When I’m facilitating, I am acutely aware of managing the energy in the group — particularly when it comes to managing group members reactions to ideas. I employ a few process rules that help:
- No back story — no stories on how an idea evolved, just the idea
- Every idea has merit — treat every idea with respect
- Look for what’s good in every idea and build on that to come up with a new idea
These process rules help in separating an idea from the person delivering the idea. However, it’s not unusual for certain people in the group to carry more credibility than others. Their ideas often get more consideration than the ideas of participants who lack credibility due to seniority, negative attitude, or past performance. These participants are often shut down by the group or have their ideas dismissed without consideration.
Here are 3 useful tips to avoid having our ideas discarded because of how they are delivered. As facilitators, we can share these tips with our groups as another way to create a positive setting for idea generation, discussion and debate. (I’m going to ignore #2 in order to acknowledge my source! These ideas come from Mike Brown of Brainzooming):
- Don’t Telegraph Your Comments – People often begin a challenge by clearly signaling through their body language (confrontational), tone (frustrated or agitated), or words (but, don’t, can’t, instead, etc.) they’re about to challenge something. Here’s an alternative – stop doing those things! Think hopefully about the conversation, looking for points of agreement; this will help modify your body language and tone. Then simply start building on the other person’s idea, even modifying it, without allowing your words and attitude to suggest you disagree.
- Conceal Your Sources – People are also often very sincere in saying where an idea comes from, even when it really doesn’t matter. This happens frequently with new hires who trot out ideas prefaced by, “Here’s what we did at my old company.” The typical reaction? “If your old company is so great, why aren’t you still there?” In contrast, introduce a potentially challenging idea without any attribution, foregoing even claiming your own ideas. By allowing an idea to be introduced on its own, you can start getting consideration for it without any negative baggage its original source may create.
- Give Your Ideas Away – What might be viewed as a challenging point of view from you may be seen as completely innocuous when coming from someone else in the group. The key here is to be comfortable with sharing an idea with a receptive party, letting them build and modify the idea, and then confidently allowing them to introduce the idea if it means a higher likelihood of successful adoption.
Try these three, and you’ll be a lot less likely to get shut down, have your ideas shut out or be labeled as “negative.”
Cindy Diamond, President and Chief Strategist
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