Sharing ideas at the office isn’t as easy as it seems. Despite the many modes of communication, without a formal “brainstorming” or “Idea Generation” meeting, most ideas won’t get discussed. This increases the likely hood that ideas will be reactive, decreasing your odds at innovating. I’d like to talk about some ways that you can encourage these types of discussions regularly in your organization, changing the conversation from reactive to proactive. In this article, I will go through an example and some lessons learned as we set out to solve this problem.
TED is the obvious front-runner in idea sharing. Their slogan is even “Ideas Worth Sharing.” They invite influencers from every industry and broadcast the talk for all to see. But what makes TED so successful? Is it their presenter line up? Don’t get me wrong; the presenters are nothing short of amazing. But why would already renowned industry influencers choose to use TED to communicate their message? The answer is that TED is a platform designed to be a megaphone to the world.
So what can we learn from TED at the office? Simply put, build a platform. If sharing ideas is a value to you, then make this a priority. You could start by setting aside 15 minutes at your weekly meeting to allow for an employee to educate the group on something they learned this week.
This is how the company I work for started. Fast forward 3 years and we now have a 1-hour time slot every 4 weeks for 6 presenters. The megaphone we built goes to the entire company including a live stream to two of our offsite locations. My last post Leader-Leader is a presentation I gave at our last platform (we call it Tech Faire).
Start Small – to build something for an entire company can be very expensive. The risk is much less when you can build it up with a smaller team (especially if individuals are passionate). We started with about 15 people and it slowly grew to a company-wide platform.
Create Creative Boundaries – Content for your platform needs to have quality. You don’t want speakers talking about a topic for 30 minutes. People can lose interest. TED has a presenter rule of 18 minutes. We took it a step further and limited speakers to 6 minutes and 40 seconds (20 seconds per slide). We require all our presenters to present in a 20×20 format or PechaKucha. This keeps things flowing and people engaged.
Build up the Presenters – Don’t only choose people who present well. Everyone has an idea that can bring value to the organization. If someone is uncomfortable with presenting, offer options like practice runs or a mentor. The presenters are investing their time in the audience so they should also feel invested in.
Bring in guest speakers – See if someone from outside of your direct team or organization will share something with you. Outsiders bring a fresh perspective and energize the room a little bit more.
Expect Naysayers – Like all change initiatives, there will be opposition. It usually comes in the form of concern with time and how it’s being spent. My advice is to mitigate the risk by “Start Small.” Grow your tribe and invite the naysayers to an event. You will be surprised at the turn around some will have on the idea.
It’s been my experience that everyone has something interesting to share. My company has been doing this for over 3 years and every month is more impressive than the last. This has been one of the most rewarding initiatives I have been a part of and I truly believe there is a potential platform in every organization. If anyone has an experience they would like to share, please feel free to comment below.