When you invite colleagues to be part of a creativity session, be sure to create a diverse team. Diversity helps people see more possibilities. It creates a stronger sense of group accountability. Diverse groups cause people to bring their best thinking, to behave properly, and to maintain their status in the group as a positive contributor.
You want diversity in three ways: functional, gender, and cultural.
Functional diversity means that team members come from different parts of the company. Now it depends a lot on the topic you’re generating ideas for. Generally speaking, I try to include co-workers from marketing, from my technical team, and from my sales or customer support team. But at times, it makes sense to include colleagues with financial skills or regulatory knowledge.
Taken together, you want the right people in the room who can help you not only generate ideas, but also help you decide which ideas are the best and most feasible. That takes a team of people with different skills and knowledge.
You also need a team with good gender diversity. Research suggests men tend to create more aggressive ideas while women are more pragmatic. Working together averages out these tendencies to produce novel and practical solutions. Without gender diversity, your team may end up producing a larger share of uninteresting or unsupportable concepts.
Finally is cultural diversity. The best teams have members with different ethnic backgrounds. They broaden the team's perspective on how best to commercialize new inventions on a global scale. Without this, teams produce a larger share of niche ideas that may satisfy only one regional market.
Now here are some tips.
- Be sure to keep the group size at twelve or less. Any larger than that becomes hard to facilitate.
- Be sure participants are fully committed to participation in the workshop. Avoid letting people drop in and out as it suits their schedule. Otherwise, it interrupts the flow of the workshop. And be sure participants have right level of knowledge about the topic. They’ll have trouble contributing if they know nothing about the subject matter.
- Finally, make sure you reward the participants for being a part of your session. You do that by practicing the Golden Rule of Creativity - give back your time and expertise to those who gave it to you. The most creative people practice the principle of reciprocity by helping others and asking their help when needed.