What is negative brainstorming?

When ego takes over, bad behavior typically ensues, writes Cy Wakeman in her book No Ego.  

Ego argues with reality.  Ego wants to be seen as “right” at all costs.  It doubts, suspects, rages, gossips, and keeps score.  

When we act from ego, we become self-righteous.  We judge others.  Ego overrides compassion: “My suffering is worse than your suffering.”

Or, we’re misunderstood, helpless, and a victim of circumstances.

There is a better way, Cy suggests.

Self-reflection.

Self-reflection leads to mental flexibility, taking accountability, forgiveness, letting go, and moving on, Cy writes.

Yesterday, we looked at some of the key questions we can ask ourselves and others to generate meaningful self-reflection.  

Today, we will explore Cy’s additional self-reflection strategies, which also can be used with our teams.

What to do when our teams fall victim to doomsday predictions and/or sweeping generalizations: “This won’t work.” Or, “It’s an impossible problem.”  Or, “I don’t like this.”

As leaders, we often make the situation worse by arguing or directing.

Instead, Cy outlines several brainstorming tools we can utilize.

SBAR is a helpful framework we can use to break down and analyze a situation or challenge:  

Situation: The facts less drama

Background: Relevant information

Assessment: Critical thinking/problem solving where we outline the risks and root causes

Recommendation: Creative solutions with multiple options to improve or solve the issue, including feasibility and alignment with organizational values.

Another valuable tool Cy calls “negative brainstorming,” where we encourage healthy dissent but then transform the challenges into action.  

We begin by capturing each concern on a flip chart, leaving room for responses.  We keep writing until all the responses are on the board.  We label these “risks.”

Next, the team categorizes each risk as low, medium, or high.  Low risks are often based on a fear or story and can be eliminated through discussion.  Medium and High risk items require the team to create a strategy to mitigate the risk.  

“Thinking inside the box” is a third tool we can utilize when our thinking gets stuck on what we don’t have, i.e. “We can’t do this without more resources.”  Or, “We can’t handle any more change.”

The move here is to focus on what is possible.  There will always be constraints.  Rather than trying to “wish them away”, we simply replace the “or” with “and” as we seek to solve the problem.  Cy shares a conflict between doctors who wanted test results immediately, and the lab which wanted to batch orders together to save time and money.  Using the power of “and”, the doctors got a certain number of urgent requests.  Otherwise, they would wait until the lab processed the tests in batches.

“Crowd-sourcing” involves seeking feedback from others.  Input can be gained through a formal “360 degree feedback tool” where members of the individual’s team and others within the organization provide feedback, or more informally by simply asking others for their feedback.  

Potential strategies include: “Who do I know who is generally successful under these kinds of circumstances?  Connect with them and ask for their three best tips on how to be successful.  Then, let’s talk about what you learn.”  Or, “Talk to three people about the situation and ask them for a next step or best tip on how to proceed.”  

One key benefit here is ownership for the making the change in behavior rests with the individual requesting the feedback, not the manager or those providing the input.

______________________

Reflection:  Think back on a time when I sought out counsel on how to improve in a specific area.  Consider a current personal goal.  Who do I know that could provide counsel or feedback?

Action:  Reach out to that person.  Today.

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