Brainstorming is a productive activity for generating new ideas, but it does not always lead to action. Often there are so many ideas at the conclusion of a session that it becomes overwhelming and hard to know where to begin. Adding a second step in the process can facilitate action by loosely prioritizing ideas before participants depart.

Define your topic/problem as a question: “How might we attract more youth to our business?” or “What incentives could we offer next year?”.

Begin by giving each member a small pad of sticky notes and a pen. Have them stand by a wall or piece of flip chart paper and brainstorm ideas for a set period of time – writing one idea per sticky note and saying it aloud as they write it. (This will help trigger other ideas from others in the group.)

When all the ideas have been generated, on a second sheet of flip chart paper draw a grid with Implementation across the horizontal axis and Impact along the vertical axis. Create a quadrant with Hard/Easy Implementation and High/Low Impact. Then have participants place their brainstormed ideas into the appropriate quadrant.

  • Ideas that are Hard to Implement and have Low Impact (Red) can be forgotten without any discussion.
  • Ideas that are Easy to Implement and have Low Impact (Orange) can likely be set aside too. Even if they are easy, they still require some resources, and why bother if there is little to be gained.
  • Ideas that are Hard to Implement and have High Impact (Yellow) can be considered later or incorporated into more strategic planning.
  • Ideas that are Easy to Implement and have High Impact (Green) are where you should begin.

The entire brainstorming and prioritization process can happen in less than an hour but engages all the participants in both aspects of the discussion. Try it and see if it doesn’t move your ideas to action more quickly than brainstorming alone.

Download handout here.

Source: The Abel Group, Diamond Leadership Workshop, June 26, 2007

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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