To Find Innovation be a Conductor

by James on June 25, 2009

ConductorBusiness innovation is a right-brain activity. Scary stuff for all you left brain folks but I’m afraid it’s true. But don’t worry. We all have right-brain capabilities. Daniel Pink writes about this in A Whole New Mind. All you need to do is isolate the left brain to take it out of the mix and let the right brain take over and be its creative self.

So how do you draw innovation from your team when you aren’t a right-brain person?

Be a conductor.

Consider what an orchestra’s conductor does during a performance. They stand in front of the orchestra and direct the musicians in the ensemble; they keep the beat, quiet some, draw others out and provide a solid foundation over which the musicians can perform. The conductor provides the left-brain function so the musicians are free to use their right brain to interpret the music.

The next time you run a brainstorm session be the conductor and treat the group as your orchestra. You provide the beat, the rational direction, the foundation and let the group be free to explore the ideas their right brains come up with.

Hip Shots

  • As the brainstorm leader, as the conductor, your job is to direct and manage. Focus on this and don’t try to add your own ideas.  Have someone else record the ideas so you can concentrate on directing the group.
  • Keep in mind you are directing a score written by a composer, the customer, who isn’t in the room. Be aware of their issues and concerns. Encourage the group to think about the problem from the customer’s point of view.
  • If an idea comes forth that seems off base don’t criticize it, ask the contributor where the idea came from, what they were thinking when they made the suggestion. Use the response to stimulate further exploration. Let the group extemporize on the ideas and more, often better ideas will be generated.
  • Push for lots of ideas. After the initial ideas are generated encourage exploration. Pick an idea and push the group to explore further even if it doesn’t make immediate sense. Then pick another. Ask why, often, as many as five times, to dig deeply into the issue. And then ask why not.

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