This morning I stumbled on an interesting article titled Need a good idea? Brainstorming won’t help. It caught my attention for two reasons. First, because it brings a powerful perspective to the topic of stimulating workforce creativity–a key element of going lean. Second, it is counterintuitive; it argues strongly against the what has become the primary approach that so many lean consultants bring to corporations–pulling together workers for brainstorming events to identify areas to attack waste. This generally results in a whiteboard of ideas that are fairly easy to address, but many may have little impact on the bottom line (particularly within a large, complex business operating in a dynamic environment–precisely where it is most often applied).
What, then, is the right approach? This article points out that much greater benefit comes from bringing people together to identify a single point for them to focus on, and then sending them to work on their own to develop ideas for a solution:
Such focused questions result in unique answers because you’re forced to respond to a particular issue.
This is precisely what Toyota and other benchmarks of lean do. As I describe in The Going Lean Fieldbook: A Practical Guide to Lean Transformation and Sustainable Success, these organizations did not pursue waste reduction led by a meandering set of brainstorming events. Instead, they targeted clear transformational focal points that would advance their overall maturity in attaining specific, desired outcomes.
How can a company get started? Read more in my post, The Need for Conducting a Dynamic Value Assessment.