Numerous trips for coffee…
You’re participating in the third brainstorming session on developing a new idea- the scope has been significantly narrowed down to what could be an actual, tangible product. Everybody’s present- the boss, co-designers, and even a client rep.
The previous meeting went VERY well, especially since you landed that last big idea of the afternoon which disrupted the stasis and rocketed the team in a productive direction. Yep, you did a good job in that session. People noticed, too. Hopefully today will be another chance to do the same…
A new designer raises her hand- She points out a discrepancy in your concept.
Next, the client rep agrees. Now, the boss is in favor of changing the product scope once more- not radically, but to modify your idea- the idea which you bolstered the confidence to pitch; the idea which you proposed at just the right moment; the idea for which you’ve been receiving complements over the days since the last meeting…
You feel a part of yourself die inside as the red marker comes out and squiggles new content over your contributions. The conversation around you sounds further and further away as you lament over how quickly your idea fell from favor. Distraction sets in as your own personal pity party steals your attention and you lose track of the discussion…
This happens- in fact, it happens all the time, and 9 times out of 10, it’s not personal, so we should not perceive it to be that way if we are to remain productive members of the group.
To continuously grow professionally, it comes down to knowing when to Love & Leave your idea.
“If you want to grow as a professional, it comes down to knowing when to Love & Leave your idea.”
When to Love Your Idea:
An idea needs a spokesperson- an individual to think it through- the owner who needs to process and vet the concept so that it’s not wasting the group’s time. If proposed prematurely, your credibility could take a hit- think it through…
The idea needs to be applicable and appealing- a sticky note is just a sticky note unless you can elaborate on the word or illustration upon it. Connect the dots for others and help the concept to germinate and mature.
Finally, love your idea and own it so that when the boss asks a question, be the first responder. Stick up for the concept if there is unexplored potential that the group can still benefit from.
State your case and then sit down. Don’t be pushy. Trust the group to come up with the best constructive feedback and collaboration and allow the brainstorming to work. Sometimes the project direction will continue in the current path. At other moments, it will fork and divert, possibly bringing the spotlight away from your latest contribution.
There’s tremendous good that can come from this.
When to Leave Your Idea:
If the group finds an improved means of achieving productivity above your contributed concept, the most efficient/objective thing to say is to get over it.
There is extreme difficulty in being the most innovative designer if there’s a mental block on accepting new ideas (which yours once was as well). Welcome them.
There is extreme difficulty on being the best engineer if your calculations prove to be incorrect or arrive at improper conclusions. This can even prove unsafe depending on the project at hand. Accepting others’ criticisms is the best way to expand in experience with low stakes. Take advantage of this!
There is extreme difficulty on being the most fluid team player, especially in a brainstorming session, if clinging to your last contribution with white knuckles. Embrace the storm- optimism and evaluation can be polar opposites, but if provided in a functional balance, it’s amazing what can be produced from a few people in a room.
The group needs you and your brain, and priorities should lie with your company’s reputation, the well being of the project and client relationship, and then your own personal reputation within the company, in that order.
“The group needs you and your brain…”
A brainstorming session can be one of the absolute coolest parts about working in design. The trick is not to get too caught up in the details early on, or stake your personal value on any one of your contributions- rather, perhaps base your self-perceived value on being part of the session to begin with, and the perspective and talent you bring.
Ideas need to be Loved to be brought into fruition and contain value. However, they also need to be Left so that new concepts can step in and make the best product possible for a satisfied customer experience. The end product is the common goal. Reach for it.
This is your job. It’s also mine. As a an engineer in a design firm, humility and willingness to welcome new ideas can go a long way to ensure a strong product development process.
“This is your job. It’s also mine.”
Best of luck, and happy brainstorming!