Issue No. 261 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting features not a book, but a deck of 56 cards with nine “NATO-approved” ways to trigger new ideas. Plus, this reminder: check out my Management Buckets website with dozens of resources and downloadable worksheets for your staff meetings.
On most teams, you can divide the room into two groups: those “Idea-a-Second” somewhat-crazy, but fun people—and then the “I’m-Not-Very-Creative” gang of introverts. Where are you?
Today when many organizations, departments and teams are struggling to do more with less, the need for fresh ideas is even greater. But here’s good news: Thinkpak (a brainstorming card deck) can help!
Michael Michalko, author of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques, is described as “one of the most highly acclaimed creativity experts in the world. As an officer in the U.S. Army, Michael organized a team of NATO intelligence specialists and international academics in Frankfurt, Germany, to research, collect, and categorize all known inventive-thinking methods.”
The problem says Michalko, “If you always think the way you’ve always thought, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
The solution: “Everything new is really an addition to or modification of something that already existed. To create a new idea, product, service, process, breakthrough, or whatever else you need, just take a subject and change it into something.”
So this creativity guru recommends you “S.C.A.M.P.E.R” and leverage the nine principal ways of changing a subject:
Combine it with something else.
Adapt something to it.
Modify or Magnify it.
Put it to some other use.
Reverse or Rearrange it.
The Thinkpak brainstorming card deck has 56 cards including two instructional cards, four or five cards for each of the nine key processes, plus seven cards with creative ways to evaluate ideas. It’s a brilliant instant brainstorming system. But caution! It could be dangerous to your boring, status quo!
The Thinkpak cards contain “idea-triggering questions based on these nine principles. The questions are designed to focus your attention on your subject in different ways and give you different means of interpreting what you are focusing on. These different ways of focusing will break your habitual thought patterns and let you look at your subject in fresh ways.”
Did our biblical heroes have access to these Thinkpak cards? Maybe! Think Noah’s Ark, water-into-wine, and the Red Sea crossing. So I started thinking about the entrepreneurial hole-in-the-roof healing (Luke 5:19-25), and it gave me an idea for a new and innovative ministry, “Hole in the Roof.” (Rats! Other entrepreneurs already snagged the .com and .org websites!)
In the fast-reading 52-page instructional mini-booklet, the author continues, “You’ll generate a quantity of ideas quickly, including ideas that you wouldn’t have otherwise considered. Once you apply the Thinkpak questions to your subject or situation, ideas begin to appear almost involuntarily.”
I used the cards at a strategic planning retreat this month. Fun broke out! Especially when the leaders of one entity played the “Reverse It” card—and suggested they trade real estate with the other entity!
Each of the nine principles is illustrated with a memorable story, like the Walkman radio. Sony engineers attempted to design a small portable stereo tape recorder. Nothing worked. Then Masaru Ibuka, honorary chairman of Sony, leveraged several creativity principles to find success—recalling a separate project to design lightweight portable headphones.
The Sony chief brainstormer asked, “What if you combine the headphones with the tape player and eliminate the recorder function altogether?” At the time, by combining, eliminating and reversing, the Walkman became Sony’s top selling electronic product of all time. Steve Jobs should have been grateful!
Fire Your Board! Speaking of eliminating, Thinkpak shares the story of the chairperson of a nonprofit board that “wanted to energize her board members out of their lethargy.” So she asked the members to imagine that they were all fired. “Then she asked them to reapply for the board. This shocked the board members and forced them to rethink their knowledge and competencies,” and most important, what they needed to bring to the table to truly be effective board members.
Should you modify or magnify something? One entrepreneur hands out business cards with one rounded corner, with a tagline, “25 percent safer than most other business cards.” Clients keep his card and show others.
Ray Kroc, after buying the first McDonald’s stand, stored his spuds in the basement but couldn’t get the french fries to taste right. The original McDonald family had exposed their potatoes to desert winds that cured the potatoes. SCAMPER Solution: “Modify the storage area. Kroc cured the potatoes by installing large electric fans in the basement.”
Kroc also employed the Rearrange It approach to differentiate his hamburger stand from all the other box-shaped burger joints. Presto: Golden Arches!
So to breathe fresh air into your team’s ventilating system (now…there’s an idea!), SCAMPER over to Amazon and delegate this creativity tool to a team member. Click on the graphic below for Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck, by Michael Michalko.
Your Weekly Staff Meeting Questions:
1) Where do you dream up your best ideas? One company, referenced in Thinkpak, created a special room with educational toys, games, videos and bean bag chairs—and included baby photos of every team member; a reminder that we are all born with creativity.
2) Exercise: You’re the team leader to solve the problem of lagging staff morale. So combine Thinkpak with StrengthsFinder. Some, with Harmony strengths, will executive a task much differently than those with Activator strengths. How do you leverage each person’s strengths to create new ideas?
One of the big ideas in Chapter 19 (The Printing Bucket) in my book, Mastering the Management Buckets, is to use the printed piece (or website, video or podcast) to elevate execution. Just use the power of the printing deadline (last day for input!) to get the entire team focused.
Companies, nonprofits and churches all have the same disease. The senior team focuses on vision and the junior team executes. While this sounds good, it often relegates the incredibly important functions of the Printing Bucket to team members who are burdened with major responsibility, yet no authority.
The solution, of course, is to elevate execution. In Execution, the book he co-authored with Ram Charan, Chairman Larry Bossidy writes, “My job at Honeywell International these days is to restore the discipline to a company that had lost it. Many people regard execution as detail work that’s beneath the dignity of a business leader. That’s wrong. To the contrary, it’s a leader’s most important job.”
So at your next senior management team meeting, think differently about the Printing Bucket. Elevate printing by describing how the printing deadlines will help you improve execution.
Read Chapter 19 for more details and check out the resources on the Printing Bucket webpage, including two internal forms to speed your proofing, printing and mailing processes.