How to Get the Best Ideas From Your People

11 ways to encourage people to have great ideas

Organizations rise and fall based upon the quality of their ideas. This is why I put so much merit in generating the best ideas. But getting awesome ideas from people around you doesn’t come naturally or easy. So, below are 11 ways to get the best ideas from your team. Hopefully these tips help bring out the best from your people and help your organization succeed.

1. Invite the Right People. Don’t sabotage your meeting before it starts by inviting the wrong people. The right people have three characteristics. They are hard workers, with flexible minds and positive attitudes. Hard workers come with ideas. The flexibly minded build upon new ideas and continue the construction. They have a “yes and” mindset. The affirm the good and add to it. Positive attitudes push through when you hit the inevitable mental brick wall.

2. Invite People Outside Your Department. Every meeting should have a Tito. Tito works in the Production Department at my church but he consistently has incredible ideas for other departments. He naturally thinks outside of his lane and brings values to others. So I like to have him, or at least his ideas, at all my meetings. Every organization has a Tito. Someone who is an incredible ideator. Find your Tito and invite him or her to all your meetings.

3. Check Identities at the Door. Nothing kills creativity like hierarchy. So mentally drop titles and roles when you enter the room. View everyone as a peer and level the playing field. This helps the best idea win instead of the idea from the most senior member of the group. I like to do this by complementing everyone when asking for their ideas. Joe, you had incredible ideas last time, what do you have this time? But make sure these compliments are genuine or this will backfire and people will shut down.

4. Start With a Bad Idea. Often meetings take a while to really get rolling. And that is because no one wants to be the first to give a ‘bad’ idea for fear of being laughed at. But the really good ideas, the ones that at first glance seem nuts, don’t come out until there is a sense of vulnerability. So create that safe space by being the first to throw out a bad idea. It gets you to the good ideas much faster.

5. Location Matters. Try to get offsite. This does a couple of things. It breaks you from the routine and automatically helps you think outside the box. It creates a sense of energy. Getting in a vehicle to go somewhere, anywhere, raises the excitement level of the team. It also can help you envision the audience. If my event is for the general public, I like to plan it where they are like a coffee shop. One of my favorite locations is a Starbucks with an internal windowed room. This allows you to see people but not hear them.

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6. Ambiance Matters. I’ve planned a Christmas event with the same group of folks in a conference room and in a replica of Santa’s workshop. Even though the workshop was a little cramped, it garnished greater results. Why? Cause ambiance matters. You probably can’t find a themed ambiance for all your events, but at least find an inviting ambiance with indirect lighting, mellow music and comfortable chairs. Holding the meeting in the same boring room will bring you the same boring results. So invest and rent a location that pairs well with your event. It will pay for itself with great ideas.

7. Materials Matter. Wherever you meet, you are gonna want to have these basic materials on hand to lead a successful brainstorming meeting. Chairs, table, food, water, strong WIFI, large TV you can tap into, dry erase board with different colored markers, oversized post it notes and an easily accessible bathroom. Do not forget the bathroom. The meeting is over once the bladder is full.

8. Great Idea but Wrong Meeting. Sometimes the meeting generates incredible ideas that don’t apply to the project or event you’re planning. This is a good thing. So make sure to complement these ideas and send them along to the right person. Do not be so fixated on your own agenda that you shut down the possibility of unearthing a gem for someone else’s agenda.

9. Give Yourself a Break. Have you ever been a part of a four hour long brainstorming meeting. I have. And about halfway through it stopped being productive. The worst thing was I led the meeting. There is a benefit of spending a couple hours planning something large. It gets all the ideas onto the table in one day. But make sure you have a five minute break every hour or your productivity will greatly reduce.

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10. Prioritize Ideas at the End. Before you let everyone bounce at the end you need to prioritize the ideas. You need to list the ideas from best to worse. For a couple reasons. This avoids you as the leader being the only one to make the subjective decision on which was best. This also avoids the fog of tomorrow. Sometimes you jot down an incredible idea on Monday which makes no sense on Tuesday. Prioritizing right away brings the needed order to a confusing list of ideas.

11. Brainstorming Is an Act of Faith. The majority of my meetings have been in a religious context because I’ve spent the majority of my career working for churches. So I’m a little biased on this point. But I believe creativity is a gift from God. And I believe that you only receive the best ideas when you have a humble and receptive spirit. For me this attitude of dependency is directed towards my Creator. But for you, it may be directed towards the team assembled around you. Regardless, put yourself in a posture of humility and you will receive the best ideas.

Every great outcome starts with a great idea. So hopefully these eleven suggestions get the best ideas from your team. If you enjoyed this article then check out this one about leading brainstorm meetings that pour down ideas. Also let me know what suggestions I missed. I would love to hear from you and learn from you. Have yourself an awesome day.

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This article originally appeared on BenStapley.com and is reposted here by permission.