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Make It Happen

Brainstorming sessions can help you explore new ideas, discover solutions and reach your goals.
June 1, 2007
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/178572

I regularly attend marketing brainstorming sessions with a group of colleagues. Our purpose is to gather as many new ideas as possible. Everyone shares a variety of interesting insights, strategies and thoughts, and we each walk away with great new ways to improve our businesses.

Recently, the owner of a clothing store joined our group session. Instead of taking in the spirit of everyone's suggestions, he found fault with each idea. It was too expensive, would take too long to implement or was something he had already tried. It seemed as if he hadn't come to obtain new ideas--he'd come to debate any strategy presented to him. As a result, he left our session feeling frustrated.

To effectively move your business forward, you need to engage in fluid, fruitful dialogues. The clothing store owner could have discovered unique methods for improving his sales if he would have asked for help in refining the suggestions presented to him instead of just dismissing them.

Creating dialogues that solicit varied viewpoints is essential to your long-term success. Whether you engage in group discussions or have direct conversations, commit to being more open.

1. Seek discovery, not answers. Set up "success dialogues" with other entrepreneurs for the purpose of discovering new options for innovation rather than obtaining specific solutions. The goal of these encounters is a free exchange of ideas, not to convince anyone that one viewpoint is better than another. Don't expend all your energy constantly evaluating people's suggestions--work on finding nuggets of information that you can use to both broaden your thinking and reach new breakthroughs.

2. Have purposeful conversations. At the beginning of each conversation, silently remind yourself of the goal for the meeting. This provides clarity as you begin a conversation and will help you maintain focus thereafter. If the discussion begins to stray from the main topic, redirect it by reminding the group of the focal point for the discussion. The trust and camaraderie established during effective dialogues activates everyone's creativity. Your purpose is to solve a business problem with imaginative thinking.

3. Ask questions to deepen your knowledge. Demonstrate that you have an appreciation for others' knowledge and experience by listening to what they have to share. Then create a two-way dialogue by asking questions that dig deeper into their suggestions. If you're unsure about a response, make your questions more pointed. Explore ideas to the fullest with hard questions. The more specific the discussion becomes, the greater the benefit for all participants.

4. Commit to investigating the whole picture. Consider how ideas affect all aspects of your business by creating honest, respectful dialogues that connect differing opinions. Be innovative and discover how the methods that have worked for others can relate to your business without deterring you from your ultimate goal. Be as inquisitive as possible, and you will continue to evolve and improve your business.

Think of yourself as a composer. For centuries, composers have worked with the same building blocks: a static set of notes. Yet time after time, they astound us with new arrangements by developing fresh combinations and rhythms. Your communication skills are your instrument and are essential for your success. Like a composer, find new ways to use your building blocks and arrange them to propel your business to greater heights.

Speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author of Kick Start Your Success and Kick Start Your Dream Business.