Are you tracking your company’s processes using Kanban? Does your marketing team need a place for an interactive brainstorming session? Or, does HR need to meet with remote employees on a regular basis?
No matter what meeting you are trying to hold, product you are trying to create, or problem you are trying to solve, this 10-step process is the best way to turn your ideas into action.
Whether you treat these steps as individual meetings, multiple meetings, or steps that you take yourself before ever collaborating with your team, they are the tried-and-tested way to get you to the best solution efficiently and effectively.
1. Set The Context
Before trying to solve a problem, create a product, or hold a meeting, you need to identify and define the problem (or problems) that you are trying to solve, the context that these problems exist in, and what your goals are — what you are hoping to achieve. This involves identifying challenges, issues, and opportunities, and analyzing why previous solutions didn’t work or are now outdated.
This step is all about setting the stage for brainstorming ways to deal with the biggest issues. The more preparation you can do so that your team understands the context, the better chance you have of coming up with the most useful and relevant solutions.
All of this preparation can be performed in Stormboard, before your meeting, to make sure it is run as efficiently and effectively as possible. You will want to add all relevant materials to your Storm (what we call our online whiteboards/meeting space) — links, documents, research, initial thoughts or questions to get your team thinking — as well as import any existing material that you have saved from previous problem-solving attempts.
Once you feel confident that you have defined the context, it is time to bring your entire team together to gather existing ideas and brainstorm new, out-of-the-box ideas.
The point of this step is to encourage an unbridled, free-flow of ideas that will give participants a space to contribute anything and everything that pops into their mind — no matter how far-fetched their thoughts may seem. As you are generating ideas, you may find that you can break your problem into sub-problems to tackle from different angles, break your Storm into different sections, or even create entirely new Storms that will each hold different aspects of your brainstorm.
The ideas that you generate in this brainstorming step can be turned into an “idea bucket” that you can return to for solutions later in the process, and that participants can continue to contribute to whenever inspiration strikes.
3. Get Organized
Now that you have created a huge collection of new ideas, it is time to reign in the chaos from your free-flow brainstorm and allow the best ideas to rise to the top — it’s time to get organized. If your initial brainstorm was not conducted in Stormboard, then you can import your ideas from a Microsoft Excel document into a new Storm.
You will then want to group similar ideas under different headings, remove any duplicates and look for patterns that emerge. You may also want to create a process flow or affinity map during this step to help you organize how each idea would be relevant in the steps that are taken in your company’s unique process.
Once you have grouped, categorized, and mapped your ideas, you will begin to see which ones have risen to the top and are ready to be turned into actions in the next steps.
Once your ideas have been organized and categorized, it’s time to dig a little deeper. This is when you review ideas, refine concepts, and have real discussions with your team about what is actually plausible.
You may want to break your team into focus groups to analyze one, or a group, of ideas, or come together as a whole allowing the individuals who came up with the ideas to present a pitch on why they think theirs is the ideal solution to your problem.
The goal is to evaluate all the ideas against the original problem through clarification, feedback, and explanation. Though this is not a brainstorming step, you may find your team coming up with new or alternative ideas based on your discussions. Add them to your brainstorm “idea bucket” if they are something you want to address later or adjust your current Storm to include them in the next step.
Now that you have generated, organized, and collaborated on your team’s best ideas, it’s time to figure out which ones are actually going to be used to solve your problem. If you are dealing with more than one problem, this is where you decide what you are going to focus all your attention on.
There may be some discussion that occurs to compare and contrast the ideas in order to see which will best solve your problem, but the ultimate goal of this step is to begin to prioritize and focus your attention on one or two core concepts.
You can use Stormboard’s “dotmocracy voting” system to allow all participants to quickly and seamlessly vote on what they think are the best ideas, and then continue to whittle down the list until you are left with the top one or two that address the problem and move you into the next step.
6. Generate Reports
Once your team has selected and prioritized the ideas that came out of your brainstorm, the next step is presenting the ideas to your investors, stakeholders, management, or executive team to get approval to move forward with the chosen solutions.
You can present your plan within a Storm, or by using one of Stormboard’s customizable reports. All of your ideas can be exported from your template into a professional report that can be collaboratively edited to reflect your company voice and structure, which could help you get buy-in from the executive team or key stakeholders quicker than from a standardized report.
Reports are available in PNG, PDF, Microsoft Excel (pictured above), Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Wordle, and more, and are the most efficient way to ensure that your best ideas make it into the hands of the decision makers.
7. Make a Decision
This is the step where you officially decide on the final idea that is going to be used as the solution for your product, process, or meeting.
The selection may occur while the executive team is in the room, or be based on their feedback from the previous step.
Once the solution has been decided upon, it is important that you don’t trash the other solutions that didn’t make the cut. Create an active solution board to store your unused ideas on that you can come back to if your chosen solution is taking too much time, or doesn’t seem to be working the way that you expected it to.
8. Define & Assign Tasks
Now that you have decided on the best solution, it is time to initiate the project by assigning ideas and tasks to members of your team.
You will need to define and detail each task during this step to make sure that any questions are answered and your team understands what needs to be accomplished in order to move onto the next step.
This is also the step where you set concrete goals and milestones to ensure that everyone knows when the deadlines are for each task.
9. Monitor the Project
Once your team has been assigned tasks, it is important to manage and track the progress of your project.
This step may involve multiple meetings daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on the length of your project, or regular status updates from team members based on when they reach their individual milestones.
You can track project tasks in Stormboard from your Dashboard, within a Storm by clicking on the Tasks tab on the upper right-hand side of the page, or by exporting all of the tasks from a Storm into a Microsoft Excel document.
10. Review the Project
Once all milestones have been met, and the project has come to its conclusion, it’s time to perform a retrospective on the process, idea, or solution that you used.
Did your chosen solution solve your problem? Is it time to try a new solution? Should you return to your brainstorm, or your organized set of solutions to pick an alternative? Can this solution work for a different problem that you face or be slightly altered to be reused on another project? Is there something in your process that can be changed to make your team more efficient?
While most of the review of what worked and what didn’t will be conducted internally with your team, this is also a great time to conduct customer interviews in order to get an outsider’s perspective as well.
You did it! You have successfully solved your problem, created a more efficient product, conducted an effective meeting, and/or mastered a new process.
The project may be complete, but the work isn’t over!
Luckily you’ve got an “idea bucket” Storm full of ideas from your brainstorm step and a solution board full of the best ideas that rose to the top after you prioritized and decided on your solution. These Storms are the perfect place to start getting inspiration before tackling your next problem, meeting, or process using Stormboard’s 10 steps!
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