Yesterday a huge story hit the news stands here in the UK. Within the Foreign Office a brainstorming session was held to  do some ‘blue sky thinking’ around things that should form part of the Pope’s forthcoming visit to the UK. As with all good idea generation sessions everything was recorded and the results marked not to be distributed externally. Of course, some of the ideas upset one or two people who took it upon themselves to make the document public. The BBC article can be read in its entirety by clicking here.

This whole sorry episode highlights some DOs and DONTs for generating ideas:

  • DO make sure that your objectives are clear at the start, that way you will not be left defending your motives afterwards.
  • DONT use any form of censorship, not even telling people to keep quiet. They won’t. Get people to buy  in to secrecy if this is needed in a commercial environment. If they spill the beans they are breaking the confidence of their peers and colleagues.
  • DO invite appropriate people.
  • DO make sure that brainstorming is not the whole process, some filtering has to take place to weed out the wacky ideas.
  • DO publish the results yourself, others may well try to take things out of context.
  • DONT be naive. In any political (in the true sense, not just government) environment there will be points scoring. Some people will go to extreme efforts to sabotage yours!

… and finally please do persevere. I’m sure that the Junior Official within the Foreign Office who has now ‘been moved to other duties’ did a good job and once the wacky ideas had been thrown away the Pope may very well have had some great events organised to complement the obligatory masses and baby blessings. A great opportunity missed perhaps? In the future people will be afraid to try new things so it could be a case of ‘If you do what you have always done, the you will get what you have always got’.

So please try and be a little different, but be careful!

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