The Game-Changer

Using Whole-Team Collaboration to Take Your Team to the Next Level

Recently I spoke to a room filled with some of the best retailers in the running industry. We did a brainstorming breakout during which small groups of folks bounced from one idea table to the next while jotting down thoughts on a particular topic. I encouraged everyone to refrain from self-editing. Which is to say, I asked them to write down every idea even if it seemed outlandish or weird.

When all was said and done, each idea table was awash in giant Post-It Notes awash with a graffiti of thoughts. On each poster the handwriting varied tremendously and ideas were written from various angles. This suggested there wasn’t one person hogging the scribe responsibility.

The main purpose of this activity was to practice team collaboration. Or, to put it in more modern terms, we were co-creating aspects of their business that, in general, are left to the status quo. History often dictates how teams approach business basics (ie. We’ve always done it that way) or there’s one one person holding the key to it (That’s their job…or jokingly…It’s not in my job description). Both philosophies are super old school. And neither will advance business to the next level.

Anecdotal evidence tells me the toughest part of this particular activity is eliminating the personal filter. Even when participants know they are supposed to write down every idea, they never do. The reason is simple – they are afraid of being judged. Of being laughed at. They worry that somehow their thoughts will reflect badly on them. So innately they try to refine out-of-the-box ideas to make them look good. This is a skill most of us are experts at. In our personal and professional lives.

Sort of a bummer, since the best ideas almost always look like bad ideas at first.

In a practical sense, this is ineffective brainstorming. And odds are the next game-changing, innovative idea will not percolate as quickly as it could (and maybe should). Shoot, it may never be found in a think tank protected by self doubt.

What this tells any business is that they need to practice brainstorming. They need to regularly ask staff for ideas about everything. Who’s got thoughts on the hiring process? Anyone have ideas on the way we onboard new employees? Who can think of new ways to approach marketing events? Or vendor partnerships? Questions like this might be moments away from a paradigm shift that raises your bar.

Though ultimately it’s the leadership team who’s in charge of managing such topics, the rest of the staff might be carrying the secret sauce for future relevance. Only way to get at it is to ask for it. So often that co-creation becomes part of the culture.

The more collaboration is incorporated into the day-to-day, the more likely folks’ ideas will be filterless. They’ll stop worrying about being judged, they’ll stop judging themselves. They’ll trust each other more. They’ll feel like their presence has meaning. Plus, their true, creative selves will shine through, suddenly giving the mundane a new shine.

One of the Post-It Note topics from my session was “Staff Training.” On it someone wrote: “Team bonding games — wrap 5 or 6 staff in Saran Wrap and have them race around the store.”

I know, I know…hear me out.

To be fair, I am not sure exactly what this person means (beyond what it obviously says) or how it might be relevant to team building. But fact is, it cracked me the heck up. Made me think differently about staff training for a second. And this is exactly what we, as business people, need to do with things that we take for granted—we need to find new ways to approach the status quo else lose it in a boring abyss. For us to be relevant in the future, we must find fresh ways to tackle the same ol’ same ol’.

And for these reasons, I freaking love the Saran Wrap idea. But I would need to hear more about it before I made it happen.


Tom Griffen is a highly sought after trainer and presenter whose message untitled-596transcends industries. He’ll help you raise the bar and reinvent your business. Contact him to make that change you’ve been talking about.

Coming soonNo Plan B, Tom’s book on altering the customer service story you’ve been telling for years.

Also check out Tom’s January 2018 Walk Across America! YES…you can still hire him during this adventure! Book today!

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