Dave’s note: Here comes my favorite “tell-it-like-it-is” CEO, Kim Shepherd, with another of her “crazy” (meaning excellent) ideas to pry innovative ideas from associates. Does the headline grab your attention? Read on…
By Kim Shepherd
What can your department or company buy if it had an extra million dollars? The quick answer is: a whole slew of great ideas. And, surprisingly, those ideas might not cost much at all – in real dollars. Here’s how I came to this insight.
As you now have read, our company is a 100% virtual firm, so our annual all–staff meeting is hugely important. At a recent one we organized into tiger teams, small cross–functional groups of people who brainstorm intensively around a specific topic. Each group had the same topic: if you had $1 million to spend on improving the company, how would you spend it?
We certainly don’t have a million bucks lying around, but the tiger teams went into high gear and filled a dozen flip–chart pages with some great ideas. Once the leadership team consolidated all those ideas, we realized that 80% of them could be implemented without spending a penny. The ideas included process changes, time management tips, performance motivators, and more. And no team spent the entire $1 million.
[Email readers, continue here…] Removing the limitations and confinements of the brainstorm opened the idea floodgates. Think about it: imagine you went into a tiger team meeting and said, “We have $3000 to invest in improving the company. How should we spend it?” Before the creative juices even start flowing, you’ve put a box around everyone’s mind. They’re focusing on cost rather than ideas. Even if you encourage them to think outside the box, you’ve already got a box.
Granted, with $1 million, you still have a box. But for most of us, a million–dollar box is so big that just about anything is possible. If you are an $80 billion global corporation, you might need to use $1 billion for this exercise, and lucky you. One way or the other, the goal is to eliminate any boundaries or restrictions.
A couple of extra value–adds: this approach makes the exercise fun, as no idea is too crazy – and we heard some crazy ones. In addition, brainstorming is a team–builder. Not only do people feed off of one another’s energy and become more and more engaged, but they also gain a glimpse of each other’s thinking and values.
So you could say that spending $1 million could be free. The ideas you get, however, might be priceless.