Lets face it, as businessmen there are countless tools at our disposal. The leap in software tools over the last 20-30 years has been astounding. Most of us working in medium or large organizations will have an ERP type systems managing a huge range of functions. Smaller business are now starting to use similar tools and have the option of out of the box solutions for a tiny investment with functionality that twenty years ago would’ve defied belief. Add onto that the range of devices from desktops, to laptops to tablet and mobile devices then you are talking serious kit that can do serious work.

In the realm of business improvement these tools can be great – software like Visio, for example which you can use to map your processes through to carrying out complex analysis on spreadsheets and don’t forget we can be in touch with colleagues and clients 24/7.

These tools can really help that’s for sure but are they the most important at your disposal?

I’d argue that as business improvement professionals we’re in the ideas industry.

Ideas get things changed, ideas improve things, ideas fix things, ideas – generally are a team game.

When working with clients, one of my favorite tasks is brainstorming improvement ideas around a particular problem. We’ll have done the walk of the shop floor watched the activity taking place – now comes the fun part of getting round the table and developing the improvement. Typically this will be in the form of a cross functional set of employees within the client organization, employees of all levels from management down to operators – in an office – with some analysis around us of what the problem is and its impact. What happens then is we get people to talk.

We tool them up…..

We give them weapons….

We give them post it notes.

Everyone gets a stack of post-its and we set a time limit to think about ideas to solve the issue – then one by one we invite each participant to come up to the white board – place their post it notes and talk about them –

• No recrimination
• Every idea is valued (no matter how outlandish)
• Everyone is on the same level.

With most brainstorming sessions we’ll aim to cover the whiteboard or flip chart with post its. We’ll then construct an affinity diagram – grouping the ideas to enable us to take the ideas to the next stage of the process.

What makes the post it note invaluable is that it’s a leveler – everyone is equal – everyone can write down their idea and put it forward and they force people to think. Those humble post it notes facilitate idea generation. They’re not fancy software, or a complex tool – its simply – “think of an idea – write it down”.

The notion of the post it is that its simple – people understand it and it provides a standard framework for the brainstorming task which underpins that everyone in the process is equal.

The other benefit is that gets everyone to talk and to open up – well often place the post its into a matrix of ease of implementation vs impact – this enables everyone to critique all the ideas – this is often liberating for those staff who are lower down the corporate food chain as it gives them equal footing with their senior management if present.

Whether you use post-it’s for brainstorming sessions or not – it’s a good idea in this modern age of super-software-tools to remember not everything has to be rocket propelled – sometimes simple ideas and methods can be just as effective.

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