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“So, what’s our next big idea?”
I can picture the fallout. An uncomfortable silence, followed by timid eye contact amongst team members around the table, capped off with a few unintelligible murmurs. Then, the decision to hold a brainstorming meeting and follow up in a few weeks with the most viable concepts is reached. Sound familiar?
If there’s one thing you do in 2016, I beg you, cancel your brainstorming sessions. Seriously. Go on a walk, play a game of Parchessi, call your mother – anything but ideating with your team members. If you’re looking to innovate, develop a new program, or design a new campaign, the last place you should be turning is within, to your team members.
As the Harvard Business Review said in 2013, your innovation problem “is not an idea problem. It’s a recognition problem.” The best ideas for new fundraising programs and campaigns have already been surfaced and tested – by your constituents and their networks. And in this increasingly interconnected and co-creative world, viable concepts are defined by how accepted and shared they are by your constituencies, not by what your organization declares to be the next big thing. New and wacky ideas that originate from within your organization are one too many degrees of separation from your constituents’ preferences and expectations.
So, in lieu of ideating in a conference room with a white board, sticky notes, and messy dry-erase markers, spend some time looking through your organization’s most successful (read: fundraising and participation) DIY or community events. If you don’t have a DIY program, then explore the messages and images that are resonating with and spreading among your supporters. Then, get in touch with the curators of the most viral content. Bring those constituents to the table, hush up, and listen to what they have to say.
Brainstorming is no longer en vogue. You can’t anticipate the rapidly evolving wants and needs of your audience. The balance of power has shifted – brands no longer have the power to declare their intention and value to the world, because the world’s perception declares it instead.
So, let go of the reins. Create opportunities for co-creation. Embrace the multiplying force of your constituents’ voice. And skip the brainstorming sessions. It’ll be the best move you make all year.
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