DOWN TO BUSINESS
A look at small business questions from the Southwestern Oregon Community College Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
By Arlene M. Soto CMA, CGBP, Southwestern SBDC Director
What is the value of brainstorming sessions in a small business?
Brainstorming is often the first step in a business strategic planning process but it can also be used to overcome business challenges. Brainstorming is defined as the creative, spontaneous, free thinking, group process where ideas are generated without stopping to analyze them. No idea is bad at the brainstorming step. Some of the best ideas might sound off-the-wall at the beginning of the process.
To get started, a facilitator should be assigned to keep track of all the ideas generated. Find a way to keep each idea separate, whether that’s through using a computer or index cards or post it notes. Each idea should be written large enough for the whole group to read it. Each idea should be put in a place the entire group can see it, maybe posted on a wall or on a computerized bulletin board. Make it a fun, relaxed environment. This will be a fast paced exercise to see how many ideas can be generated. Small groups are easier to manage so if the company has many personnel it might be necessary to break into smaller focus groups with each brainstorming a different question.
Now, pose a question to the group that will generate new ideas. Questions should be open ended, have something to do with the desired outcome and understandable to the group. For instance, let’s pretend we want to start a new business that sells red ties. Possible brainstorming questions might be “Where do people use red ties? Or “Who uses red ties? Or “What is a red tie?” A group of less than 10 people can probably think of 50-100 creative answers for each of these questions.
Next, group the ideas into categories so those thoughts that are related are together and analysis can begin. The facilitator can label each group of ideas so it’s easier to determine which ideas provide reasonable solutions, ones that can be implemented by the business.
Finally, once the analysis has been done, the group can list possible solutions and vote on the ones that seem the most feasible then incorporate those solutions into the strategic plan with a timeline, responsible party, resources needed and the expected outcome.
Brainstorming is a great way to open the creativity in the company and find new ways to be successful in business.
The SBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network, the Oregon Business Development Department and Southwestern Oregon Community College. Arlene M. Soto has been the Director of the Southwestern Small Business Development Center since July 2007. To ask a question call 541-756-6445, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or write 2455 Maple Leaf, North Bend, OR 97459. Additional help is available at the OSBDCN Web page www.bizcenter.org.