Considering you cannot realize what you cannot imagine, and you cannot will yourself a new idea, a productive collaborating team is on a vigorous idea hunt for alternatives to turn into decisions. An important step is to wonder where to find the ideas, and most often, the people who can contribute to a robust idea pool.
Put simply, you can look outside and inside your organization. Besides the many web based tools that help you find both ideas and the people, one tool I have found useful in identifying the people/idea sources inside and outside an organization is called a Value Chain.
Teams can use a value chain to brainstorm, confirm, and document how value transfers between company and company-partner groups, and importantly who moves what to whom as the process in question progresses. These are the people we want to consider including in a collaborative session.
The macro components of a company’s system (Suppliers, Inputs, etc) are represented in the much simplified example below:
Assemble the people who know the most about what their group receives (inputs) and provides (outputs). Include your suppliers if possible/useful. Note column-step sequence; start with A, then to B, etc).
1. Start with your own macro process (step A). Can also be done on a single process/flowchart.
2. Then ask what outputs (step B) do the processes produce (products and services).
3. Then discuss and capture the inputs to the processes (step C), and the suppliers to those outputs (step D).
4. And finally post the customers of the outputs: internal customers (step E) and external customers (step F)
As with other brainstorming formats, you want lots of dialogue and challenge to the many assumptions about how things actually get done in the system you are discussing. This is best done on a large white board with markers or flip-charts with Post-Its to allow for additions and corrections.
And remember that in this case you are using the Value Chain to help you identify who you might want to include in a collaborative initiative to include their ideas, and importantly, also help build their buy-in (peoples support what they help create). You may not ultimately include all the contacts but this tool will help you identify the best potential invitees.
Notice that the Value Chain, like other collaborative tools, is a series of helpful questions. When a team answers these questions together, they build a common understanding of a particular situation. When there is disagreement, it’s best to go find out which perception is most accurate. This tool is not helpful when it only presents opinions.
And finally, thinking of the Value Chain as a bit of a radar screen for people/idea sources, while I want a large radar view, I can also challenge my list by wondering who’s off the radar screen than may help contribute; researchers, competitors, universities, etc.
1. Google Images – search for Value Chain to find many examples and alternate formats
2. Good Thinking Series – Part 2: Collaborate – includes about 50 collaboration tools
3. Good Thinking Series - Associated Videos
4. Introductory video Interview John Canfield compares strategic planning and scenario planning
5. Website: www.johncanfield.com and www.goodthinkingseries.com
6. Call or write 616-392-2634, firstname.lastname@example.org