By Frank Reinelt, head of the UK, Northern Europe and Emerging Markets, Mindjet
Business owners often get so caught up in the day to day running of their businesses that it’s easy to forget about the importance of planning – many business owners just want to get out there and ‘do it’. It’s easy for anyone to fall into this trap, with many small business owners being time poor and lacking the extra resources to take time out to plan effectively and review and refresh new business ideas. While it’s important to execute on ideas, we often forget that ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.’
What many business owners don’t realise is that there is a very simple tool available to plan properly and it’s been around for decades – good, old fashioned brainstorming. It can be a great energiser for your business, adding new energy and unearthing new ideas for growth and direction. But these powerful and transforming ideas, if not captured and acted upon, may soon get lost in amongst those day to day business tasks. So how can you breathe new life into tried and true brainstorming?
Brainstorming and capturing great ideas
Rethinking the way you and your team brainstorm together can really drive productivity and creativity. Whether you’re planning the client Christmas party, conducting a business meeting, planning your sales strategy for a new must-win account or the design of a new website, it’s important to understand that having the right tools at the beginning of the planning cycle, to capture your ideas, guide your strategy, and execute the next steps can save time and deliver results. And of course, engaging staff in the process, and using more than just a white board and marker is crucial to galvanising energy and turning ideas into action.
The first step towards this is to realise that brainstorming effectively draws inspiration from anywhere and at any time. Instead of sitting around the boardroom table, take the team outside, change the location, sights and sounds. Get your creative side revving, but be sure you can take the ideas with you and share them. Most people relate better to visual ideas and cues than ideas written down in an email. I suggest downloading a mind mapping app onto your smartphone or tablet and appoint a scribe to record the ideas and disseminate information after the session. This way, ideas are captured as you collaborate -- and when you return to the office you don’t have to waste time on taking meeting minutes, allocating responsibility or deadlines for tasks and distributing the information to the right people -- it’s already on the page and can be easily disseminated to your team. Doing this properly during the meeting will mean that your staff walk out feeling that they’re already closely linked with the process, involved in the ideas and naturally engaged and inspired to move forward to reach these new goals.
Taking ideas into action
In the weeks following a brainstorming session, it’s easy to let the action plan gather dust -- we get caught up in new tasks and meeting deadlines. Using new tools and technology to capture the ideas, means you can attach electronic reminders to certain tasks, adding links with additional information and further collaboration, and the ability to add new ideas to your existing planning document later on will all contribute to keep the ideas alive. By using technology and apps to drive your ideas into action, weeks later you’ll be on top of the next steps you originally set out to achieve. Plus the whole team will be able to see updates in real-time and have the ability to be more agile, adapting to changes as they appear.
It’s also imperative that you get to know the functionality of the tools available – are you using a cloud or desktop solution, an Android or iOS app? Playing around with the functionality of these tools is a crucial part in streamlining the brainstorming and ideas process – knowing that you can assign tasks and monitor their progress at the click of a button, conduct a Google search for venues within the app, or even prioritise options will mean that you will continually plan with greater ease and in more detail.
For a small business, using new technology tools and simple strategies will ensure your business goals and plans are manageable, actionable and achievable. The benefits to your business will include detailed project and business roadmaps; stronger employee engagement, higher productivity and improved levels of creativity – allowing you to balance the day to day running of the business, alongside continued planning for success.