Julie Grass



How to anticipate obstacles so you can avoid them

By Julie Grass  


Management Consulting + Training





5 Tips for Effective Brainstorming 

  • every idea called out goes up on the board, even if it seems redundant

  • no editing or judging

  • keep the energy high

  • encourage laughter and fun

  • remind people to be as outrageous and over-the-top as possible

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I learned long ago that it is much easier (and substantially more fun) to come up with a creative list of things I shouldn't do than it is to develop an equally thorough list of what I should do.   And, in a group, brainstorming the "don't do's" aka the potential "disasters" introduces humor, agreement, and stretches the imagination to corners one seldom travels.  This reverse approach invites everyone from different perspectives to think up all the possible ways to make any given situation a total disaster and to think about ways to avoid those often, if anticipated, avoidable obstacles. Anticipating potential problems allows you to make a plan for how to move around them or keep them from developing at all.


Let me give you an example.  One of the biggest complaints I hear from clients is how much they dread staff meetings (or board meetings or most any meetings, for that matter). They feel that they are too busy to be yanked into a room for some indeterminate amount of time to listen to a bunch of chatter that often doesn't involve them or to hear others make reports that could have been sent via email.


Enter: DISASTER DIAGRAM. This is one of the easiest, big-bang-for-your-buck tools that I've ever used.  Here's how it works:


Draw a circle on the whiteboard.  In the center of the circle, write:  This meeting will be a total disaster; a complete waste of time. Then draw a series of lines radiating out from the circle like a simple sunshine.


Now comes the interactive part. Invite the group to brainstorm all of the things that one could do to assure this meeting will be a complete bust.  Write each response on the board at the end of a ray. You're likely to hear goodies like these:

  • Don't have an agenda, or if you have one, don't follow it

  • Invite the wrong people

  • Get sidetracked

  • Have people answer their cell phones and text messages

  • Talk about the same items you covered last time

  • Just lecture at everybody

  • Embarrass people publicly

  • Speak in Italian or pig latin

  • Start late and run too long

  • Encourage people to chat with their neighbors

  • Let one person dominate the conversation

  • Leave without any "next steps" or action plans

  • Don't allow anyone to disagree about anything

Magically, otherwise sedate groups and reticent individuals come alive in a frenetic, devilish way - firing out these no-no's with fierce excitement, laughing and egging one another on.  A huge by-product of this exercise is that it gets everyone on the same page and creates a sense of team.


Once the "don'ts" are captured, you have all of the material you need for developing a list of "how to" conduct an effective meeting where people feel like they've spent worthwhile time together.  Making the list together also gets immediate buy in and mutual understanding of expectations.


Try it with your staff and colleagues. I guarantee you'll engender a devilish energy and camaraderie you haven't seen for a while.


3 Disasters you might want to diagram:

  • How can we make sure we totally alienate our new client?

  • How can we make sure we go way over-budget on this project?

  • How can we make certain we don't win this next piece of business?

A little imagination goes a long way.  I'd love to hear the disasters you (hopefully) avoid.  Please share your disaster diagrams so we can all benefit and have a chuckle!


If you have questions or thoughts to share, please drop us a line at Julie@TheMomentumGroup.biz