July 2011

10 Steps To Take Brainstorming From Good To Wicked Good

2017-08-19T16:17:26+00:00 Categories: SandBlog|Tags: , , , , , , |

Sand for Your Inbox

How many brainstorming sessions, filled with potentially brilliant ideas, have ended up as rolled up flip charts under someone’s desk?

Taking ideas to the next step post-brainstorming can be a challenge. When I get near the end of the brainstorming process, I use a simple filtering process that moves ideas from concept to near-ready to implement.

Here’s how it works…

Step 1: When you’ve finished with the brainstorming stage, put all of your ideas on sticky notes or individual pieces of paper. (Something that allows them to be easily repositioned). Have them all stuck, off to the side, on a wall.

Step 2: Next, determine what qualifiers you (want, need, will use) to filter these ideas and a range. (You may want to have these filters in mind ahead of time, or ask the group to develop them).

Filters and their ranges could include:

  • (filter) Ease of Implementation (range)easy” -to- “hard”
  • Investment – “cheap” -to- “expensive’
  • ROI – “low” -to- “high”
  • The Brand – “builds the brand” -to- “draws from the brand”
  • Time to Market – “implement quickly” -to- “takes a while”

Of course, you’ll have other filters that are important to your company…

Step 3: Create a large grid on a big wall. (Blue painter’s tape works well as it doesn’ mess up paint. Be sure to test it first!)

Step 4: Label the grid using two of your most important filters and the range. (I’ll use ROI and Ease of Implementation for our example).

Step 5: Have the team move and classify the ideas into their proper range within the categories.

Step 6: Now you’ll have a ‘picture’ of which ideas (in this example) will drive the most sales and are the easiest to implement. Items in the upper-right are the best ideas on this chart.

Step 7: More than likely, you need to consider a third or fourth filter. For me, I want to consider ideas that:

  1. “are easy for the customer,” and
  2. “have a positive impact on the brand.”

To accomplish this, we are going to focus on and refine the best ideas in the upper-right section with these additional filters.

Step 8: Grab a few volunteers and have them remove the items that fit the next filter. I’m using “ideas that don’ strengthen the brand.” Have them move them outside of the box.

Step 9: Next (and we’re almost done), have a few different volunteers remove from the box the ideas that don’ fit your next main filter. For me, it’s ideas that “require effort on behalf of the customer.” (If this idea requires the customer to jump through hoops, it’s not a good one).

Step 10: Finally, examine what’s left in that box and you’ve got the ideas that…

  • have a high ROI,
  • are easier to implement,
  • are easy on the customer, and
  • build the brand.

These ideas are ready to be championed and tested.

Instead of ending your brainstorming with simply a bunch of potentially good ideas… you’ve taken action steps and are on the path to execution. You’ve turned a good use of time into a wicked good use of time.

Thanks again for your interest in Idea Sandbox! Let me know if you find this information helpful. And, please let me know what questions you have!

Paul's Name


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May 2011

Champion Ideas: Built-In Beats Bought-In

2017-08-21T16:52:05+00:00 Categories: SandBlog, solve|Tags: , , |

You and your team – after a few meetings and many hours – have the plan all figured out. Excellent! Now, you just need to share it and get buy in from the other departments who will help carry it out.

Fast-forward a few days…

While many are on board, you faced resistance, found out you forgot key details, and need to regroup. Not a total loss, but significant adjustments are required. After changes are made, you need to shop it around again… Sound familiar?

This is a common scenario. We pull together a team (which we purposely keep small to prevent distraction and promote efficiency) and create plans other people will implement. We try to foresee challenges that may be thrown at us from the finance, operations, supply chain, creative, and leadership teams. We spend only 20% of our time planning but end up spending 80% selling and re-selling.

Any efficiency we created building the plan with our small group has been wasted in re-work, with bent coat hangers and duct tape, to meet requirements. While our plans may appear a success, they are a shadow of what they could have been, and the structural integrity is questionable.

The solution?

Flip the model.

Instead of getting them bought in after planning, have them built-in and part of the plan. Instead of the exclusive, small team, in secret… include all stakeholders… anyone who will have skin in the game.

Spend 80% of your time building and crafting. Building correctly the first time allows you to spend the remaining 20% plussing, or working on something else. It may not reduce the entire amount of time you spend on a project, but it will ensure programs are…

  • better thought through,
  • not stalled and halted for retrofits, and
  • better implemented. Which is really the goal of all this, right?

Built-in instead of bought-in means… Concerns and issues can be directly addressed up-front. This eliminates fix-it jobs later and promotes a rock solid plan now.

Yes, you’ll share the glory, but you also share the workload, and the troubleshooting if there is a snag during execution. Everyone is responsible for making it a success. Everyone is an ambassador. Go team!

With your next project, instead of trying to anticipate concerns, ask for them. Instead of trying to get them bought in at the end, have them built-in at the beginning.

April 2011

Solving Problems: First Get Your Brand Bearings

2017-08-21T17:03:52+00:00 Categories: grow, SandBlog, solve|Tags: , |

At times, has your company or team ever felt lost at sea?

I recently built an exercise for a company that was ready to grow… and while they had goals in mind – a destination – they weren’t sure where they were! When we first discussed the challenge, it reminded me of a ship… at sea… unsure of its position.

Without knowing where you are, even with a particular destination established, you won’t know the right way to head.

The first step for their growth was to determine where they were. The free booklet linked below is the step-by-step workshop I built for that team. It’s called Get Your Brand Bearings. The link below will take you to the download page!

Get Your Brand Bearings:
Strategy Session Workshop
While this example is for a brand, you could easily use it to measure the status of a product, service, process, customers, employees; nearly anything!

And, oh – the company put this process to use, and the results are an essential part of their strategic growth plans. I hope you find it helpful too!

March 2011

Brainstorm Brief For Better Meetings

2017-08-21T17:05:13+00:00 Categories: create, Sand for Your Inbox, SandBlog, solve, think|Tags: , , , , , , , |

How would you like your brainstorm and strategy meetings to be more productive and efficient?

I got to thinking… we use a Creative Brief to provide background and clearly outline deliverables surrounding design projects… There should be a Brainstorm Brief to serve the same purpose for strategy and brainstorming meetings! So I created one.

The link below will let you download a Brainstorm Brief template. Use it as a pre-planner for your meetings. It will help you define the objectives, understand who to invite, identify what success looks like and how to measure it.

Brainstorm Brief
Brainstorm Brief Template

Give it a try. Let me know how it works for you. If you have additional elements to add, please let me know!

October 2010

Free Guide To Great Reading: Innovation, Remarkability, Brand Building

2011-07-06T20:43:30+00:00 Categories: create, grow, SandBlog, solve, think|Tags: , , , |

Sand For Your Inbox
October 2010

Guide For Great Reading

I’m excited to share with you a free Guide To Great Reading which includes fifteen books we recommend in the categories of:

  • Creative Thinking & Innovation,
  • Be Remarkable, and
  • Brand Building.

Download Guide Here

I know you’ll love the books listed.

(If you don’t, let me know! – Paul)

April 2010

Don’t Hog Glory, Invest It Instead

2011-04-07T17:39:27+00:00 Categories: Sand for Your Inbox|Tags: , , |

Sand for Your Inbox
April 2010

There are many versions of the advice, “Surround yourself with great people – and you’ll get great things.” However, it isn’t enough just to surround yourself, you must also take care and nurture the people that surround you.

Here is a great example of nurturing, from the pages of the book, The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz. I hope you enjoy this month’s Sand for Your Inbox…

Don’t Hog Glory, Invest It Instead

Just recently I was a guest at an all-day sales convention. After dinner that evening the vice-president in charge of sales for the company passed out awards to the two district managers, a man and a woman, whose sales organizations had attained the best records for the year just ended. The vice president asked those district managers to take 15 minutes to tell the entire group how their organization did so exceptionally well.

The first district manager (who, I learned later, had been appointed a manager only three months before and therefore only partially responsible for his organization’s record) got up and explained how he did it.

He conveyed the impression that his efforts and his efforts alone caused the sales increase. Remarks such as, “When I took over I did such-and-such”; “Things were in a mess but I cleared them up”; “It wasn’t easy but I just grabbed hold of the situation and wouldn’t let go” characterized his talk.

As he talked, I could see the increasing resentment gathering in the faces of his salespeople. They were being ignored for the sake of the district manager’s personal glory. Their hard work, which was responsible for the sales increase, was completely unrecognized.

Then, the second district manager got up to make her short talk. But this lady used an entirely different approach. First, she explained that the reason for her organization’s success was the whole-hearted effort of her sales force. Then she asked each one to stand and paid a sincere personal compliment to each for his or her efforts.

Note this difference; the first manager squandered the vice-president’s praise entirely on himself. In doing so, he offended his own people. His sales force was demoralized. The second passed the praise on to her sales force where it could do more good. This manager knows that praise, like money, can be invested to pay dividends. She knew that the passing the credit on to her sales people would make them work even harder next year.

Remember, praise is power. Invest praise you receive from your superior. Pass praise to your team where it will encourage still greater performance. When you share praise, your team will know you sincerely appreciate their value.

One stipulation to this story – investing praise must be genuine. If the second district manager said those things without meaning it, she’s as bad as the first. I’d rather have a boss that hogs praise than insincere who pretends to share it.

When investing praise, be generous and genuine.

Take care,

Paul Williams
professional problem solver
Idea Sandbox
Twitter: @IdeaSandbox

The story “Don’t Hog Glory, Invest It Instead” is from pages 209-211 of the book, The Magic Of Thinking Big: Set Your Goals High Then Exceed Them by David J. Schwartz. © 2006 Pocket Books.

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January 2010

Get More Done With An Un-ToDo List

2011-04-07T17:39:49+00:00 Categories: Sand for Your Inbox|Tags: , , |

Sand for Your Inbox
January 2010

How is your resolution season going? Mine is okay so far.

As I started to put together my “ToDo” list for 2010 – carrying over things from 2009 – I realized I’m trying to “pack for a five-day trip into a four-day suitcase.” Trying to cram in too much. Does that happen to you?

stuffed suitcaseThe frustration (and illusion) is… we think if we re-fold and rearrange our clothes just right, all of our items… just… might… FIT!?

Perhaps, with enough stretching – and someone to sit on the suitcase while you zip – you may make it work.

(But, you know when arriving the destination you’ll find undergarments strewn on the baggage carousel along side a popped suitcase).

Unfortunately, this same behavior is what many of us tend to follow when managing projects and tasks we need to accomplish at work and home. We try to pack as much as possible into our time.

The Problem

Each of the things we think and worry about use up a little bit of our brain processing power. From the small “buy milk on the way home” or “fill out TPS report” to the big “don’t forget wedding anniversary” and “marketing plan due next Wednesday.”

Even if we write things down (which is a good idea) we still drain a bit of our brain’s power. And, when you’ve got too many things rolling around up there – it can cause stress, problems concentrating, difficulty sleeping, and disorganization.

We’re over packing our brains.

The Solution – The Un-ToDo List

Instead of trying to cram your ToDo list beyond capacity, try an Un-ToDo list? Remove things that are creating clutter, distraction, and the feeling of “Yikes! I’ll never get it all done.

I guarantee there are items listed in your task management system that you may never do… or are so far in the future aren’t relevant now.

Here are the key steps…

  1. Gather all of your tasks in some sort of list.
  2. Right off, eliminate those that:
    • aren’t necessary,
    • have been lingering and you’ll probably never do, or
    • are time fillers. Activity not necessarily productivity.

    (Feels better already, huh?)

  3. Move the things you’ll get to in the future to a “someday maybe” list. Your “someday maybe” list is a list you keep filed safely away, and review once in a while. It is a good way to store ideas out of your mind, but in a safe place.

TIP: You can use the Idea Sandbox Prioritizer (http://prioritizer.idea-sandbox.com) to help with your Un-ToDo list. This free web-based tool helps you arrange your first things first. The items that fall at the very bottom of your Prioritizer list probably could be deleted or moved to a “someday maybe” list.

I hope this idea really helps you. I think you’ll find clearing out some of your task clutter will lighten your load and help you feel that you’re accomplishing more.

I’d love to get your feedback in the comments below!

Happy Un-Doing.


Paul's Name

Paul Williams
professional problem solver
Idea Sandbox
Twitter: @IdeaSandbox

Amsterdam • Seattle

November 2009

Making Better Decisions

2011-04-07T17:42:19+00:00 Categories: Sand for Your Inbox|Tags: , |

Sand for Your Inbox
November 2009

It is great to have so many choices in life… from what to be when you grow up to what cereal to buy for breakfast… lots of choices.

The drawback is that so many options can make decision making confusing, sometimes leading to ‘bad decisions.’

It isn’t a big deal with low-risk decisions… For example, which toothpaste to buy or what movie should be next in your Netflix queue. However, the big decisions – where to go for vacation, which car or house to buy, or which new product to launch – need more rigor than simply ‘going with your gut.’

Making Better Decisions

To help with this process, I’ve created an spreadsheet-based Decision Making Tool. It is a matrix that allows you to:

  • Declare the decision you’re evaluating,
  • Identify and prioritize the qualities of the decision,
  • Enter a selection of potential Options or choices
    (what you’ll ultimately choose), and
  • Rank those options on how well they satisfy your needs.

The spreadsheet uses this information to provide a weighted score for each. The Option with the highest score is your most desired choice.

You will find this Decision Making Tool helps at home and office with any decisions you need to make. Using it, you will have more confidence and feel better about your decisions. Not bad for free, huh?!

Click to download the tool and get started:
Idea Sandbox Decision Making Tool (Excel Spreadsheet, 28 kb)

A Bit More Detail…

What makes this approach helpful is that it requires you to identify decision criteria – the values and qualities – you use to compare one option to another.

If you’re thinking about buying a car, what are the qualities or the values you are using that will help make up your mind? Perhaps you’re considering: safety, fuel efficiency, comfort, space for 3 people and +1 dog, payments at a certain level, etc.

At work, your team may be debating which new product to launch in the Spring. Qualities you may consider for this decision may include: being market ready, ease of implementation, seasonally appropriate, minimal training required, etc.

This tool is technically called a “Weighted Criteria Decision Matrix” and is used by professionals to make decisions using both quantitative (measurable) and qualitative (subjective) information.

I wish you only the best decisions.


Paul's Handwritten Signature


Paul Williams
professional problem solver
Idea Sandbox
Twitter: @IdeaSandbox

Idea Sandbox • Seattle | Amsterdam

October 2009

How To Use Big Thinking In Critical Situations

2011-04-14T01:51:37+00:00 Categories: Sand for Your Inbox|Tags: , |

Sand for Your Inbox
October 2009

The Magic Of Thinking Big by Dr. David Schwartz, inspired me so much… I have to share parts of it with you.

The slides below include lessons found throughout the book. In short, the book teaches:

The size of your success is driven by the size of your thinking.

That’s a pretty powerful lesson. Dr. Schwartz offers (among other things) realistic advice to build confidence, think creatively, “think right” toward people, and how to take action.

As I mention in the presentation itself, this is easily one of my all-time favorite books

How To Use The Magic Of Thinking Big
In Life’s Most Critical Situations

You can view the presentation full-screen with by clicking “full” and use the “email” to send to friends, family, or co-workers.

Finally, I invite you to can check out the book at Amazon, Amazon UK, or your local bookstore.

Take care,

Paul's Handwritten Signature


Paul Williams
BIG thinker
Idea Sandbox

Idea Sandbox • Seattle | Amsterdam

July 2009

Idea Sandbox Membership Cards And Creative License

2010-09-22T23:19:01+00:00 Categories: create, Sand for Your Inbox|Tags: , |

Did you know when you sign up for the free monthly Idea Sandbox Sand for Your Inbox eNewsletter your membership includes a one-of-a-kind personalized membership card? It is true!

Membership Card

As it states on the membership card….

The person indicated on this card has been duly selected a MEMBER of this group upon the pledge to do everything possible to increase his or her own ability to think CREATIVELY and PROBLEM SOLVE in REMARKABLE ways, and to adhere to all the principles of good citizenship.

You can consider this your creative license… Authorization to be as creative as you would like with no limitations.

This link will allow you to sign-up for membership!