Script meeting from hell:
We were called into a script meeting (we also write for television) to fix someone else’s work. It was billed as a brainstorming meeting and it included the senior execs of the production company along with the CEO.
What became clear though was the CEO wasn’t looking so much for solutions as he was looking for an audience. Nervous employees laughed at everything he said and anything that he didn’t suggest was met with stony silence or shot down.
It was a complete waste of everyone’s time.
Doing it because you’re supposed to?
It’s the go-to thing to do, calling a brainstorming meeting when something isn’t working. Trouble is, brainstorming is deeply flawed.
How many times have you been in a session when the loudest voice in the room carried the day? Or the lowest hanging fruit became the thing everyone hangs onto.
It’s human nature. And it’s also true that the loudest voice in the room rarely belongs to the smartest person. Women, introverts, and others who might bring a fresh, much-needed outside perspective all too often go heard, having trained themselves into quietness.
The real problem:
Most people jump into finding solutions without first really understanding the problem. Sales slow? We need more marketing! Or better marketing!
But slow down there cowboy. If you’ve had a lot of PR and buzz around your product, the problem may run deeper. Much deeper. I know you want to jump into doing something because it makes you feel better. Chances are good, though, that it’s not a doing problem. It’s a being problem.
If people have experienced your brand and loved it, they will share. If they have experienced your brand and not loved it, they will share their experiences with others, often in ways you can’t track. Probably more widely. Cuz sometimes human suck.
But think about it from the other side:
You’d feel that way too when someone comes out with both guns blazing telling you how awesome this was going to be…and then they didn’t deliver.
Like that show we worked on. Lots of marketing hype but story holes you could drive a truck through.
It happens with products too:
Glitchy product. Slow, formalized (aka, not very human) customer support, whatever the blocks are, that’s where you have to start.
And yes, it’s completely normal. So don’t panic. Things rarely get out of the gate perfectly.
But the trick is to figure out how the product and its customer experience can deliver the wow the customer was hoping for off the top.
It can’t just be about trying to get new people in the funnel. That will only build up an even greater reservoir of unhappy customers. And no amount of marketing or PR will shout over the real experience people are having with you. The best PR and marketing can do is keep you in the game.
So once you’ve identified the real problem, and if brainstorming isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, then what?
There are a few alternatives:
2. Progressive Thinking
3. Work alone
Brainwriting takes the “out loud” portion out of brainstorming.
It is literally like it sounds.
People write their ideas down without any input or competition from others.
It removes the panic that comes when people think they have to speak out loud or they have an idea that is different from the boss’s.
It also gives those who might otherwise not have a voice a voice.
Productive Thinking unlocks creative and problem-solving possibilities through a repeatable framework.
Like Brainwriting, it is designed to help people work around the blocks that come when people are competing to be heard.
The method was developed by Tim Hurson.
He is the author of a recent book, Never Be Closing, that Oprah named one of the best of 2014.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but there is a lot to be said for thinking alone.
Sometimes it takes one experienced brain working alone on a project to make meaningful progress.
If you’ve ever worked with well-meaning but inexperienced people, you might recognize how easily true progress can be delayed.
Even more challenging are deeply ambitious people whose personal agenda can really muddle the waters.
Thinking alone skirts those kinds of distractions. And truthfully, many of the world’s toughest problems have been solved that way — although rarely while someone was sitting at their desk actively solving the problem.
Ironically, it is often once you’ve stepped away from a problem even for a few moments true inspiration strikes.
Or the next day after a good night’s sleep.
That’s known as the Eureka Moment (or shower principle). And that moment can be greatly delayed or deferred by others.
But of course, that only works after you’ve put a lot of thought in already.
Each approach has its moment and advantages.
Sometimes, we prefer to think alone.
But we also believe in the power of the crowd and what that can bring.
The trick is to try them and figure out what works for you when.
And even more importantly, make sure you’re solving the right problem.