In the sticky Louisiana summertime, afternoon thunderstorms are the norm. Most days, after lunch, the puffy white clouds start turning gray, and then black.
Around 3pm, the lightening starts popping, the thunder starts rolling and the raindrops come down … first in giant drops that dry almost instantly on the hot driveway concrete, then in sheets that rush like little rivers down the streets into the storm drains.
In the heaviest storms, the rushing water overpowers the drains, and water can back up in the yards. We have two large oak trees in our front yard and after a strong storm, there is usually some debris strewn about … dead limbs that have fallen out of the tree, small branches of bright green leaves that broke off in the winds and fresh acorns that, if properly tended, could take root and produce tiny new oak tree shoots.
The outcome of your brainstorming sessions may be similar. Perhaps the ideas rushed forward so quickly, they overwhelmed your capacity to absorb and process them. Maybe both good and bad ideas fell out and it’s not quite obvious which are which. And yes, there could even be just the seed of an idea that needs a lot of tending but could grow into something truly spectacular.
More often than not, we don’t take the time to clean up the mess after a brainstorming session. We quickly lose the hope and enthusiasm (and adrenaline) that fueled our session when faced with a white board covered in lists, circles, arrows and stars. Where do we even start?
Here are four things that will keep your brainstorming session from being a washout.
Make assignments with due dates
There are probably some items from your session that are no-brainer things you know you just need to do. Before leaving your session, assign someone to complete each of those things, and give them a reasonable due date. Early successes and improvements from your session build confidence and excitement in your team. They feel part of what’s happening.
Filter the items through your vision and purpose
Not all great ideas are ideas you need to implement. If they don’t support your overall vision, it’s okay to let them go. Find the ones that move your organization forward and focus on those.
BONUS: Take the ones that are great ideas but not for you and pass them on to someone who may be better suited.
Focus on things that are broken
Broken pieces of the organization get in everyone’s way, reduce your productivity and limit your effectiveness. Focus on programs that are not working for you, events that aren’t reaching their goals and processes that are overly complicated or outdated. If they can’t be fixed, consider eliminating them altogether. But starting a bunch of new intiatives on the back of broken pieces is a plan that is doomed from the start.
Put things on the shelf
My friend Lisa Allen at Proverbs 31 Ministries taught us this great concept of putting things “on the shelf.” Things you know you want to do but don’t have the ability, capacity or resources to do right now go on the shelf.
We often feel the urgency of a good idea and fear that we will forget about it, or it will get lost in our normal busyness. We try to keep it front and center because we love it, but we end up constantly stepping around it, moving it from one spot to another.
If we consciously put it on the shelf for a time, it will be there for us when we are ready. We can still see it. We haven’t lost it. We still treasure it and know it’s day will come, without allowing it to clutter up what we need to do today. Keep a list of your “shelf” items and review them with your team periodically to see if it is time for any of them to come off the shelf.
You went to a lot of trouble planning your brainstorming session, and your team members devoted valuable time and energy to making the session productive. Don’t let the fruit of all that hard work get erased from your white board and your mind. Take these positive steps to use what you learned and your team will be ready to storm with you on another day.