by Kevin Eikenberry

If you are completely happy with where you and your business currently are then you can stop here. If growth and change aren't something you have any interest in, there is no need for you to read any further.

I'm serious. You can move on.

But if you do think there are new opportunities to explore, if you do think that there are ways to improve your results, then read on. I'm going to show you how scheduling a new meeting periodically can help make that happen.

That's right, a meeting.

The Idea Meeting

An idea meeting is a meeting that exists to create, stimulate, encourage and honor ideas. Its entire purpose is to identify and consider new ideas. It is based on the concept that ideas are the seeds of all growth and that without growth, organizations will fail to reach their potential.

You've likely been in versions of an idea meeting. You've called them problem solving meetings. A problem has been identified and a group gets together to brainstorm possible solutions to the problem. Ideas are generated, possible solutions considered, and hopefully this effort leads to a solved problem.

Problem solving meetings are important and valuable, and while they share some lineage with an idea meeting, they aren't the same. You see, problem solving meetings are reactive, but idea meetings are proactive.

Where Do They Work?

Idea meetings can work in any sort of organization from the multi-national Fortune 500 mega-firm to a two person company. They will work in marketing, manufacturing, product teams, projects teams, finance and HR. They will work in civic organizations and church groups. Anyplace where people understand and care about the goals of the organization, idea meetings can be extremely valuable.

The Format

The format of an idea meeting can change based on the number of people in attendance and the specific focus. Sometimes you might want to generate ideas related to one specific objective or strategy. Other times you might want the meeting to be completely open. In either case, let people know about the idea meeting at least a couple of days ahead of time. Suggest that they be thinking about their ideas and writing them down to share in the meeting.

Keys to Success

There are several ingredients to successful idea meetings. They include:

Common understanding. Idea meetings work best when people understand where the organization is going. Since the goal is to create new ideas to help the organization improve and grow, people need to know the basic strategies and objectives that are in place. While some idea meetings might lead to questions about these strategies, for the most part the idea meeting is meant to create ways to reach the objectives sooner.

Open minds. Idea meetings are totally creative affairs. Because of that it is important that all ideas be honored, captured and discussed later. As with any creative process, negativity and cynicism need to be checked at the door.

Search for singles. Often times people don't want to share their idea unless it is either a blockbuster home run idea or is completely formed and ready for implementation. Both are mistakes. An idea meeting may lead to a home run, but what you want to search for are lots of small incremental improvements or new things to try. Encourage people to bring ideas from things they are reading, have heard about or can adapt from some other organization. The idea meeting will score more runs for you if you keep searching for singles and let the home runs come when they come.

Keep a list. All ideas should be written down and saved. Sometimes an idea can't be implemented now but might be able to be later. By keeping a catalog of the ideas they won't be lost. The bonus is that often by reading over this idea list in the future, brand new connections and ideas will be sparked.

Leave with a plan. Idea meetings create ideas, but without action you will create more frustration than improvement. Pick one or two ideas that can be implemented, set up a plan and take action. Never leave an idea meeting without clear next steps and accountability. Summary

Idea meetings can be an important part of your organizations ongoing improvement process. Take the concepts shared in this article and adapt them for your situation. When you do that the next thing you will see is greater success.

Go ahead, call a meeting.