One of my favorite and most beneficial things to do with my staff is brainstorm. I think it’s great for building confidence, creativity and problem solving. In minor league sports where we are involved in a LOT of different aspects of the business and the team, it’s important to get as many perspectives on an issue or campaign as possible, especially since there are so many hands in the pot. Really I like to brainstorm about everything – marketing, promotions, ticket leads, potential sponsorship campaigns, t-shirt slogans, even where to eat lunch. In addition to the run of the mill reasons, brainstorming also provides a unique strategy to get the staff to buy into his/her work. If there is ownership in the ideas whether it’s a campaign or a t-shirt logo, your staff will be more apt to buy in and get excited about it. For me the benefits of brainstorming in minor league sports are well documented as I could name dozens and dozens of marketing plans, promotions, and season holder campaigns that came out of the process. But how do we take it to the next level – keep it effective and creative?
Charetting (not sure that’s a word) is a way of organizing a larger group of people – maybe 10 or more, and breaking them into several small groups where each group branstorms an idea or problem. The Charette Procedure requires that you take those ideas and send them to the next group to further refine and debate. This way you get each person to participate because there’s no place to hide in a small group; you get the same effectiveness of brainstorming; and it eliminates the same few people talking all of the time.
Taken from the French word meaning “wagon” or “cart” some claim a charette was used in the 1800s by architecture students in Paris who would cart their designs and presentations from place to place for approvals. Others think that the students used to work up until their last possible second while riding in the charette to their class. Either way, I know Charettes are widely used effectively in various disciplines like urban planning and where there are multiple stakeholders – residents, developers, government officials, private sector business, etc.. The Charette Procedure is the perfect way to share visions, ideas, solutions, and concerns. Social media webinars make this kind of charretting extremely easy and invaluable. It’s a no brainer.
So here’s my 3 steps to Charettes for Minor League Sports:
1) Make sure groups are made up across department lines – Put the finance person with the ticket rep. Put the old-timer sponsorship lady with the new, young, social media savvy ticket seller. Mix it up. See who you can collaborate with outside of your cubicle mate. If you work the phones most days but you secretly enjoy graphics, here’s your opportunity to contribute in that way. Remember the best of the ideas will move on to the next group and be honed and embellished so this is the time to throw it out there.
2) Stay on topic – each round of brainstorming discussion should be very specific and targeted. When the staff has a hand in many different things, it’s easy to get off topic. For instance, if you’re brainstorming a new ticket campaign, don’t move into branding it, or discussing how you will track new and partial seasons, or even which sponsors might be interested in promoting it. Stay on topic! There will be time for that later.
3) Have a plan for the plan – I realize this one requires an explanation. Once you’re done, you have a decision, a strategy, a plan – campaign slogan, ticketing package, marketing campaign. Whatever it is you have, make sure there is a plan for the next steps. Do you need to flush out the details? Attach a timeline? Create a budget to go along with it? Follow it through. Too many times I see teams and companies complete the process, feel completely reenergized and then go back to work never giving it another thought. Implement, implement, implement. That’s where the lag is. And while you’re at it, collect all the good stuff left on the table that’s not used and file it for another time. It’s all useful stuff.
Finally, despite academic evidence to the contrary (see Jonah Lehrer’s January, 2012 article, GroupThink in the New Yorker) brainstorming is still as popular as ever. If nothing else, it gives us all a chance to come out of our comfort zones and think outside the box…..something that is very near and dear to us in the minor leagues.