Idea Facilitation


Idea Facilitation Tips

This list of ten tips for facilitators comes from the book Facilitation: A Door to Creative Leadership by Blair Miller, Jonathan Vehar and Roger Firestien. In Roger's newletter "Innovation Expresso," he reprints these tips and states: "There are a number of factors that contribute to groups being uncreative. However, the most damaging creativity killer in a group is a poor facilitator." (See Jonathan Vehar's site for his latest newsletter.)

  1. Treat each other with respect.
  2. Be supportive of each other's ideas.
  3. Focus on the possibilities, not the obstacles.
  4. Be curious, be suprised, have your thinking provoked.
  5. Take responsibility for your own safety.
  6. Encourage others with support, not pressure.
  7. Acknowledge the contributions of others and appreciate their greatness.
  8. Try to suspend your own judgments, certainties, and assumptions.
  9. Be receptive to feedback and willing to change your thoughts, opinions, and behaviors.
  10. Have fun! Don't take yourself too seriously.

Here's an 11th tip for ideation sessions: Read the Rules.

Several years ago, Andy VanGundy did some research that showed that the simple process of reading brainstorming guidelines to the ideation group resulted in 50% more and better ideas. Alex Osborn, the father of brainstorming, defined four basic brainstorming rules which have been added to and modified for the past half century. Here is a list of the ones we currently use:

Judge Later: During the idea generation process, there should be no judgment ... not even groans, frowns or "great idea!" remarks. Just keep pumping out the ideas and go for quantity not quality. The judging process will come later.

Avoid Discussion: Avoid stories, discussions, and elaborations on how the idea could be done or how great it might be. Just keep generating ideas.

Capture Ideas: Every idea must be captured fully either by a person doing the recording or by each person writing their ideas on sticky notes (one per sheet) or any other capture process.

Be Specific: Every idea should be specific and actionable -- no generalities such as "improve communication." Each idea should include a noun and a verb, such as "distribute a weekly newsletter."

Build: Build on other people’s ideas -- make them bigger, smaller, a different color, turn them inside out. Say, "Yes, and ..." For instance: "Yes, and we could distribute it by email or in payroll envelopes."

Participate: Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. The best idea may be in the mind of someone who has never, ever had an idea before so it’s important for everyone to contribute all ideas.

Set Time Limit: Set a time limit for generating ideas ... ideally, not more than 30 - 45 minutes. At the end of this time, take a short break and assess where you are.

Number Your Ideas: IDEO, the award-winning design firm believes that numbering ideas stimulates the flow of ideas and thinks that 100 ideas per hour indicates a good, fluid brainstorming session.