Recently I was working with the PO2 team to begin the process of redesigning an element of our site. I realized that at Power of Two we have developed an incredibly effective brainstorming strategy based on the skills we teach in our marriage program for win-win shared decision-making.
When people come together to brainstorm they often make the critical mistake of thinking that they’re only doing one thing – coming up with great ideas to solve a problem.
In reality, at the beginning of a brainstorm, the problem is often understood differently by all of the stakeholders, because each person is bringing their own experience to the table – designers, techies, biz dev, etc.
So really, an effective brainstorm has 2 parts.
- Brainstorm “underlying concerns” (to understand the problem better)
- Brainstorm “potential solution sets” (to satisfy all of the underlying concerns)
Underlying concerns are all of the factors in the problem that you’re trying to solve. So for example, if your doing a marketing campaign the underlying concerns could include stuff like the need to stick within a limited budget, or the need to meet a short deadline, as well as stuff like the desire to make something memorable, the need to avoid offending customers, the need to have the product price easily visible, or the need for a clear call to action.
My point is that there are an infinite number of ways to solve all of these problems. When the team moves to the 2nd part of the brainstorming process though, you want to make sure everyone’s working on solving the same multi-faceted problem. And by separating out the two steps, we find the process is far more efficient and effective.
One more comment. Usually after the first pass at steps 1 and 2, it’s often helpful to take a step back and ask if anyone has any more underlying concerns to add to the table. An easy way to do this is just to ask, “How does everyone feel about the solution we’ve come up with?” If there’s a missing underlying concern, people often feel it in their belly before they recognize it in their head.