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Brainstorming approach - Uncover great ideas from diverse individuals, inclusive and respectfully

"Please help us. I feel that our group is disintegrating into two camps due to differences in ideas and direction," said Joyce, a participant in the Impact Startup Challenge. "We are divided between two great ideas; some had begun working on their preferred direction without consensus."

"This is a short programme; everyone needs to work together," I explained. "Let's run a brainstorming exercise". Very soon, we kicked off the storming session.

(The names in this story have been changed, and ideas synthesised for good reasons.)

The storming phase went off to a good start. The forerunning ideas went up on the wall swiftly. But some need more creative flow of ideas.

"Can we explore the customer experience journey, paying particular attention to how the customer may feel or need?". We also examined the industry value chain identifying various stakeholders and investigating who has a more pressing need and experiences friction at their tasks.

Ideas then flowed quickly onto the wall. "We could repurpose ugly food to make delicious snacks", "We could make fruit juice of ugly fruits", and "We could provide a discount for leftover food after 9.30 pm every day".

The team are now more engaged by pitching their ideas. "What if we combine this idea and that". The group quickly build upon the initial ideas. "We might have to sell the juices quickly. But what if we can freeze-dry cut fruits instead?"

Clarifying questions were encouraged, judgement was deferred, and more ideas were inspired. The pros and cons of each idea were debated, and a resolution was made and further built upon the original 'seed' idea.

By now, the supporters of both camps had converged. Participants became more understanding of differing viewpoints. "I had not realised that ugly food isn't that big a problem here," Joyce said. "I had not realised that fruit juice could be sold for a much higher value than the fresh fruits themselves". "Freeze-dried cut fruits could be kept for much longer, and we can make delicious pantry snacks with them," Hoa suggested. The team then converged on that with a renewed focus and commitment to work together.

The brainstorming session encouraged the team to openly share their viewpoints, invite better ideas, and be more collaborative. Leveraging the Group Memory facilitation technique, the team worked on a physical wall instead of virtual tools. This has helped the team to focus on the problem, encouraged communication between participants, and made eye contact as ideas were pitched, promoting conversation, understanding and collaboration. Posting ideas visibly on the wall allows everyone to remember and easily refer back to earlier ideas and construct upon them.

Quiet participants require additional care. Every participant should take ownership of the group outcome, so no one should be left out of the conversation.

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