Depending on your workplace culture, creative brainstorming can be a tricky affair. The mix of people you include affects the atmosphere of your office, as well as the results you get from the process. Engagement levels and personality clashes can lead to things getting a little too political for a really creative session.
As an innovation leader, it’s your job to deal with these problems and try to facilitate a productive mood. Key to this is making everybody in the room feel valued by giving effective feedback on their ideas. When everyone feels like their input is valued, you’re going to get a lot more ideas in your sessions.
First, let’s explore why giving great feedback is critical to getting the best from your team.
Why giving quality feedback is important?
If you really want your team to think creatively, it’s essential that we help them break down mental barriers to creativity and access the imaginative parts of their brain. Of these barriers, one of the most stifling is self-consciousness.
When we give negative feedback, or even positive feedback in the wrong way, we can make team members feel as if their input isn’t valued. This can lead to them thinking twice before they offer any more – the exact opposite of what we’re looking for.
However, it’s also your responsibility to steer the group’s ideas in the right direction. Not giving feedback at all is the biggest crime of all, as your team will never know how their innovations are received.
This is a difficult balance, but you can master the skill by adhering to these principles.
1. Give every idea equal weight
We already know that not every contribution is going to change the face of your organisation. However, ideas in a creative session are more than just isolated events – they’re links in a group thought-process that can take you almost anywhere. Even if one idea won’t work, it could inspire one that will. That’s precisely why it’s important to consider every idea carefully.
When your team offers an idea that’s not practical, make a note of it anyway, just as you would with a great idea. If you have reservations about it, make those feelings known to the team whilst also praising the positive aspects of the contribution. This goes for both verbal contributions and written ones.
2. Ask considered questions
Telling people something is always far less effective than leading them to that conclusion on their own terms. That’s why questions rather than statements can be far more powerful in helping to address weaknesses in a specific idea.
Asking leading questions, though, can come across as disingenuous in creative sessions. Try to remind yourself that your feelings about an idea might not be 100% correct. This gives you a platform to be honest about a contribution whilst also exploring the possibility that it might not be workable. Try using language such as:
“I have reservations about how that idea would sit with senior management. How would you convince them it would get the results we’re looking for?”
If you feel like contributions are too far away from being useful solutions, try to refocus the group with a distinct goal. At Idea Drop, we use platform-wide challenges to help focus ideas around the right topic.
3. Be objective, be specific
Office politics are a nightmare for innovation managers. It’s difficult to get quality creative ideas from your team when they’re more worried about their own personal feelings and agendas. That’s why, as a team leader, you need to lead from the front by making sure feedback is always objective and fair. Don’t let your personal feelings influence the way you handle each contribution coming your way.
That being said, don’t overcompensate by being too nice either. Your team needs to know when they’re on the wrong track, so you need to be specific about the problems an idea might face. This is true no matter who is offering the idea, from your COO right down to your newest intern.
4. Always explain why
In previous posts, we’ve touched on the idea that an individual’s role within an organisation will affect their perspective on certain issues or challenges. As a senior team member, it’s probable that you will be privy to more information than your coworkers and may have a larger strategic view of each issue.
This is why it’s crucial to explain your reasoning behind the way you deal with each contribution. For better or worse, your team needs transparency on your evaluations if they’re going to trust you to lead them in the right direction. Plus, there’s nothing more disheartening for a team member than having their idea shut down for no apparent reason.
Giving feedback productively is a fine art, and a skill you will master over time. Keep these four tips in mind, however, and you’ll be well on your way to consistently productive sessions. To get more tips on quality ideation techniques, drop a query into the chat box below. We’re excited to help with all your innovation challenges.