It’s become trendy in organizations for managers to gather team members for ideation sessions. Participants listen to a brief description of the issue. Then they pitch ideas on how to solve the problem or develop the product. All too often, nothing comes of these sessions, and staff members have wasted their time.
Most employees know that PowerPoint presentations play a role in ideation sessions. These presentations offer little value. The bullet point style makes it easy for the presenter to cover big topics, but the audience often doesn’t grasp the details. In that situation, team members struggle to come up with a meaningful response to what they see.
At Slab.com, Ben Bashaw analyzes the difficulties managers face in communicating business challenges to the team members who must solve them. As part of a series on “How CEOs Write,” Slab editors are reviewing which leaders are getting the best results from team members based on their communication style.
The Strength of Well-Written Narratives
Not surprisingly, Jeff Bezos at Amazon likely leads the pack in terms of ideation sessions results. When it’s time to develop new business ideas to Bezos, Amazon staff members must write “well-structured narrative text.” Bezos has stated, “the narrative structure of a good memo forces better thought and better understanding of what's more important than what, and how things are related.” This form of communication resembles the famous case style of learning many MBA programs to train future business leaders.
Bashaw cites results from a University of California–Berkeley study to support the argument for asking team members to delve into details. When team members in the study debated one another’s ideas in depth, they outperformed other teams that didn’t have that opportunity.
If your ideation sessions are coming up short on results, it’s time to make a change. Ask your team members to conduct and write the results of in-depth analysis and research to support their ideas. Then, gather your people and work through the strengths and weaknesses of each suggestion until the way forward becomes more apparent. We all know that the best innovations come from employees. If you give them the right framework for developing the ideas, your company will stand apart from the competition.