A client of mine was struggling with a slow Microsoft Excel-based application. This application brought in data from multiple database sources, and utilized pivot tables to explore, analyze, and summarize that data. My client had requested hardware upgrades from their IT department, which their IT department turned down. IT was right; the problem was with the design of the software application itself, that is, how they were utilizing the resources they had.
A few months ago, I was the client of another business person. At the close of our business, this person sent me a standard business letter (i.e., date, name/address, subject, salutation, body) with the intent of summing up the transaction. A quick review of this letter made obvious that the business person had opened a previous client’s letter with the intention of using it as a template, but had forgotten to change anything other than my name and address at the top; the information contained in the remainder of the letter was enough to piece together who that other client had been and the exact nature of their business transaction. This oversight/blunder poses a problem in three key areas: the audit trail of the project, client confidentiality, and professionalism. A minor process change could address and alleviate all three.
Brainstorming as a practice can seem completely nebulous, and so can quickly devolve into a practice that is completely unstructured. Like any productive practice, it takes a lot of mindful preparation and a lot of structure in terms of dealing with group dynamics and being capable of changing directions when the session isn’t fruitful. Some common questions your participants might be wondering are: What should I say out loud? Who gets to talk? When is it my turn? What if I don’t have any ideas??
I’ve already covered tips for preparation in earlier blog posts. Now it’s time to address those common questions.
I was recently introduced to someone by a mutual contact who suggested that we meet at the new contact’s office because of the quality of his pour over.
I admit that although I love coffee and drink it daily, the pour over jargon was new to me. Luckily, Google was able to rescue me from my ignorance, and I realized that I not only hadn’t been left behind by coffee aficionados and some awesome coffee brewing technology, but that this is in fact how I make my coffee all of the time.
There are a lot of things we each need to learn to be successful in the workplace. Some things just need to be memorized and recalled, like which storage closet houses the pens or the light bulbs. But most of what we need to learn is a process, from emailing to filling out paperwork to entering work orders to performing complex data analysis. This is where training comes in.
By definition, brainstorming is a “spontaneous” group activity in which participants try to generate as many ideas as possible, however outlandish, without criticism. Brainstorming can take a lot of forms, and the “spontaneous” part is often misinterpreted as “if you invite people into a room and tell them to brainstorm, then magic will happen.” That (almost) never works. I believe that brainstorming requires a lot of structure and planning to be productive.