The brainstorm and structure cycle describes several types of management document: issue lists, to-do lists, process and concept maps which may interact.
How do you manage the vast flows of information in your company and capitalise on the creative juices of people?
Are there sufficient mechanisms for harvesting ideas and turning them into actions to track and evaluate over time?
The objective is to manage ideas starting with raw ideas to a structured action list.
Brainstorming in projects or everyday work.
You may subject ideas to thinking constraints to find a solution to an observation. Alternatively, think freely to analyse how things fit together and determine strategy.
Innovation is to bring the brainstorming and free thought into the mainstream planning cycle.
Techniques may rely on software or not. Each level may be more or less structured and more or less related to other items: link documents and items with common identifiers, tags in Evernote, issue ids.
Process maps establish graphical strategy-level plans to show sequences of events. They are similar to fishbone diagrams showing time sequence from left to right.
The strategy document is a readable document which brings together a wide range of items into a coherent strategy. It requires fleshing out into operational plans.
The central principle is to note observations, with an observed or actual cause, a solution and a conclusion. It is possible to phrase problems initially without an apparent answer. Sometimes actions are solutions without a clearly stated problem.
A to-do list should remain operational, relatively short term. Other documents may set down what needs to be done without necessarily fixing the timescale. Project plans may replace a to-do list.
Evernote is for free-form thinking. Tags link notes and enable navigation of a group of notes. Creativity needs the constraints of the issue list to become an action: observation, cause, solution, conclusion and it’s hard to create this in open text.
Freeform and creatively stimulating mindmaps need structure to translate into real-world action.
Controlling the process
Controlling the process can be eclectic and varied. To keep track, include issue numbers in strategy documents and Evernote to show that the process has gone full loop. Eliminate and merge duplicates.
Don’t forget the “Do” part of the cycle: the creative process requires action which creates change in the real world.