Magazine article Industrial Management

Want Team Members to Think for Themselves? Brainstorm It!

Magazine article Industrial Management

Want Team Members to Think for Themselves? Brainstorm It!

Article excerpt

The days of the hands-on manager, we are told by the experts, are going, if not gone. Those we lead must be empowered to make appropriate decisions in order for the "leader within" to blossom.

True enough, but who takes the heat for a poor lower-level decision? A manager can delegate authority, but not respon- sibility. ifwe are not confident in the problem-solving skills of our associates, we are tempted to remain "hands-on" - or spend sleepless nights.

A comprehensive national survey conducted last year by the Association of American Colleges & Universities revealed that 90 percent of employers surveyed believed that college graduates entering tine workforce seemed to lack the critical thinking skills necessary in todays competitive marketplace. (View the survey at These results do not suggest that the hands-on managerwill disappear from the workplace very soon.

But the findings do not have to be the end of the story. If critical thinking skills were not taught on the campus, they can be cultivated in the workplace through regular brainstorming sessions.

The process is simple. Get your people into a room, define the problem on the whiteboard and begin thinking aloud as a group. Slow initially, as the brains in the room "warm up," these thought-provoking sessions will gain momentum, and you will have difficulty keeping pace with the rapid-fire ideas from the audience as you scribble on the whiteboard. And wen though you eventually will end the session, don't be surprised when participants contact you long after the exercise with afterthoughts.

Properly managed, brainstorming can be a fun, creative, liberating experience for all involved. The manager has an opportunity to witness - and sometimes to guide - the thinking processes ofhis or her associates. The sessions produce a bit of peer pressure on the "quiet ones" to join in, enabling them to gain confidence as their ideas are received with enthusiasm.

No approach to the problem should be censored. When team members get into the spirit of "throwing the spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks," even the most daunting problems seem to become less intimidating.There is a sense in the room that a solution will emerge, that no obstacle can stand for long against the collective probing of determined minds. …

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