Thursday, April 07, 2011

What do you do after the “storm”? Another difference of N-of-8

We get calls quite frequently from clients that want us to help facilitate a brainstorming session. Since we’re experienced facilitators, they know we have methodologies to ensure a successfully defined and well-conducted event. The one question, however, that really starts to lead to N-of-8 instead of brainstorming is this:  What will you do with the ideas after the session?

You see, an N-of-8 is seen as a beginning, not an end. Too many people see the brainstorming meeting as the desired result, rather than just a beginning step in a process to build new products, new tactical initiatives, and new customer services. Generating good ideas is not necessarily easy, but with the right preparation and facilitation you can generate hundreds of ideas, and rank or prioritize those ideas to identify the top 10, or top 20.

What becomes more interesting, and adds more value, is the next step of an N-of-8.

Once ideas are generated, N-of-8 provides a mechanism to consider, evaluate, and determine which ideas to pilot or prototype. It considers the mechanisms for commercialization. Without these subsequent steps, your ideation is just creating ideas that for the most part will never be considered after the event.

So, the most important questions you can ask to contrast the need for brainstorming versus N-of-8 are:
  • Can you describe how these ideas will be acted upon once the session is completed? 
  • In three months, what will be the anticipated results of these ideas?
If you can't get a good answer to questions like these, then the session is either not well planned or the outcomes are uncertain.  In both instances, you're headed for frustration.

On the other hand, if you ask those questions and get confident, specific answers, then you’ll be sure your N-of-8 session can be the catalyst for something even better. The important issue isn't the idea generation of brainstorming, but the work you do after the N-of-8 session, how that work is managed,and who is responsible for doing that work.

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