The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ideation as, “The capacity for or the act of forming or entertaining ideas.”
When we are on an idea search, we are on a scavenger hunt for alternatives. As the iceberg diagram below attempts to show, not all the ideas we’d like to consider are above water, on the table, available to be discussed
In a team environment, the ideas we know and share (above the water line) are often politically correct.
Below the water line, “under the table,” are many ideas that we share in confidence. These ideas are deemed not so politically correct, even politically dangerous, and often introduced with words that hint at a deeper meaning: “Well, to tell the truth…”
The ideas we forget can be retrieved if we’re lucky to have notes and documents.
The brand-new ideas can occur accidently while walking the dog, or generated deliberately with the tools from this Good Thinking Series, books 3 and 4, and many other resources.
This is just as true for individuals as it is among groups. The ideas we like and think of often are above the line. The ideas that we may know, but not share (even with ourselves), hide in our denial. It’s easy to forget ideas. And of course the same idea-generating tools can help individuals come up with ideas on demand when they
know how to—and want to.
Let’s review an experience we’ve all likely had. I’ll assume you have a junk drawer at home. In my many seminar presentations around the world, I have yet to find a modern culture that does not include junk drawers. The junk drawer is a drawer like no others anywhere in the house. It is full of all sorts of odds and ends. And, around the world, we all use it the same way: something is broken, you’re hunting for a solution, and you head to the junk drawer. Most of the time, you don’t know what you’re looking for—other than a solution—but you go to the junk drawer because it’s worked before. You open it, scan the objects inside, and presto!—some sort of arrangement of the drawer’s items jumps out at you as an alternative solution for your problem. You retrieve it and go give it a try.
My point is that this happens for all of us, and we’ve come to rely on it as a method. Given an assortment of seemingly random resources, your brain can make new combinations and end up with a useful alternative that you did not have before.
Part of our work is to get as many good ideas as possible to be part of our conversation by lowering the water line in the diagram above. I’d like a great junk drawer full of optional ideas each time I’m trying to select one to fulfill a need. People can also be like junk drawers. Some are full of lots of options—ideas galore to share. Others have only a few ideas, or the drawer is jammed shut—not open for business.
In a productive meeting, the “junk drawer” is up on the wall – with all sorts of flipcharts with all sorts of Post Its (ideas) ready to be narrowed, selected, and assigned for implementation.
And to remember, we can come up with these ideas either randomly, and/or deliberately with tools (great questions that stimulate new ideas). The Good Thinking Series helps you learn the deliberate approach to complement your productive random approach, not replace it. Nice to know if you get stuck while coming up with ideas, you can do something about it.
Many of these topics are included in two of my Good Thinking Series books, Collaborate and Imagine, available on Amazon
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Independent trainer and meeting facilitator John Canfield helps clients build high performance business teams. Find out more about he can help your company or organization at www.johncanfield.com and www.goodthinkingseries.com. Call or write 616-283-5588 | firstname.lastname@example.org