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♫ Stormy Weather ♫

We’re all for collaborating, sharing ideas, challenging each other to be creative, and entertaining unorthodox perspectives, approaches, and methodologies. But you have to remember that, if anything constructive is to come from brainstorming, the conversation should remain material to the objectives, to say nothing of coherent.

Case in point: We once attended a meeting in which the following exchange took place between Paul, a VP, and Jerry, one of Paul’s underlings. The first names are real. The last names have been withheld to protect the unintelligible. The company in which the exchange took place, not surprisingly, no longer exists:

Jerry: I think we should strategize best-of-breed niches to recontextualize real-time paradigms and architect out-of-the-box action items.

Paul: What?

Jerry: I mean we should go forward with our plans to implement compatible reciprocal contingencies and continue our exploratory research into four-dimensional management resources.

Paul: Come again?

Jerry: We have to commit to efficiently building virtual technology to stay relevant in tomorrow’s world and to interactively simplify high standards in services to allow us to continually utilize enterprise resources.

Paul: What the HELL are you talking about?!

Jerry: Geez, Paul. I don’t know. I was just brainstorming.

We’ve conducted many brainstorming confabulations, which we typically call Discovery Sessions. Some have lasted a day or two. If they’re attended by four or five stakeholders from the same organization, they’re often characterized by four distinct phases:

  1. Discovery — the unearthing of facts, feelings, opinions, and perspectives.
  2. Disagreement — the realization that, as examples, Marketing doesn’t see the world the way Sales does, Finance’s viewpoint is different from IT’s, the CEO’s stance doesn’t agree with anyone else’s, and so on.
  3. Revelation — the dawning notion that, while their perspectives on the organization differed, all those assembled were simply seeing different aspects of the organization, as each may have seen the different facets of a gem.
  4. Celebration — the joyful acknowledgment that all those assembled were there of their own volition to proudly serve the organization for which they share responsibility.

Facilitating that kind of consensus is its own reward. We derive as much joy from successful Discovery Sessions as our clients do. That’s not to say all brainstorming has such positive outcomes. But if you have the right agenda going in, you’ll have the right results coming out.

On the the other hand, if the forecast turns perilous — and if all else fails — cue the band and sing this.

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