Growing companies need to invent themselves to stay ahead of the competition and exceed client’s expectations. Management also needs an open ear to employees’ ideas to make a difference in client's satisfaction. A great way to kick off the year is “idea swapping” internally and with clients and prospects. Idea Swapping offers a voice to those who may not be a part of decision making. This article shares how you gather ideas easily and capitalize on improvements you never thought of in the past.
Rules for Idea Swaps:
- Quantity of ideas is more important than quality (at first)
- Defer judgement on any ideas until all ideas are raised.
- Word your ideas in a positive and enthusiastic way.
Sometimes the idea solution is found. Otherwise combine ideas into stronger ones. Lastly, record and save all ideas. Ideas that you do not need today may be useful tomorrow.
Idea Swapping can be done in a couple of ways:
The Written Approach
To start, someone has to accept the role of facilitator to run the exercise. They serve as the timekeeper for others to move the process along. Keep the thinking fast and focused. This approach is designed to have all participants write out their ideas. In this way, everyone gets ideas from the group without worrying about recording the conversations. To start, have everyone write down one question or challenge that they face involving the topic. Write it in terms of “I am looking for ideas on how to…”
Here’s the steps
- Everyone introduces themselves and exchanges business cards
- Make sure everyone has a pen and paper
- Open the session by stating the overall theme. Give a brief background on the topic including some ideas you have already tried.
- Start the first round by putting your question to the group and ask for suggestions on that problem.
- Everyone takes 2 minutes to write down as many ideas, suggestions or contacts as possible. Have people sign their page before they hand it in, so you can follow up with them after the session for more specifics.
- Collect all the pages but do not discuss or debate. Just collect the ideas and thank the participants.
The next person starts the second round by stating their question and asking for suggestions. Proceed until the entire group gets written ideas that respond to their question.
The Verbal Approach
Follow the same basic steps but have the participants give their ideas verbally.
Here’s the steps
- Have one participate state their question.
- Each member of the group responds with one idea or more. Keep this short and to the point. The facilitator must ensure that each round lasts only 2 or 3 minutes.
- Make a note of the ideas that are raised for your question.
- When the round is finished, the person who raised the question summarizes what they heard.
- Continue with each person until everyone has a turn.
Make sure everyone can read their notes and close the session. You can open the discussion for those who are interested in staying longer. Lastly, suggest they record their ideas on paper for future reference.
Kim’s Bonus Tips
When doing idea swapping, not everyone is verbal. I’ve had success by handing out a post it note pad to each person and ask them to write down the ideas. Then from there I’ve posted them on the wall in categories.
It’s evident if there are similar ideas. When many have the same idea – it’s probably a good one. From there you discuss thoughts of key answers and write them down.
Notify the company that you are hosting Idea Swapping coffee hours at 3:00 for a week. Maybe state areas of topics and see who comes to share ideas. This is great for team works and a means to get new ideas.
I also believe you should share all your notes with those who participated and your contact information. They may think of other ideas later and you want those as well. In the end – share what you are going to act on (always give credit to those who suggested) and why. Keep everyone in the loop if you can.