IGNITE BRILLIANCE in your leadership

As you’ve heard me say many times, Smart Leaders Know Things. Brilliant Leaders Question What They Know.


And question you did. We received many questions in response to my Fridays with Vistage webinar on leadership.  Below are my responses to the first three inquiries, and I hope others will contribute their perspectives and insights as well.


Can you suggest a format for a structured brainstorming session?  We often brainstorm, informally; structure would help.

Response from AmyK:

Our most creative endeavors yield greater results when we apply discipline to the process. Even Einstein said he worked better with a deadline. Structure can be provided in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to: timed sessions and/or rounds; specific questions to spark idea creation within guardrails of topics or content areas, picture cards or props to prompt responses; and the rotation of participating team members so they can interact with a variety of teammates.

Sending out a prompt prior to the brainstorming session also yields better results because participants begin to formulate their ideas without being truncated, stifled, overruled or distracted by someone else’s idea.

Want to ignite brainstorming brilliance? Begin every session with a creative, high-level, open-ended question that forces a shift in perspective. For example, instead of asking a straightforward question such as, “How might we improve our marketing this Spring?” pose, “Based on three other industry trends, what will our ideal customer’s day look like, sound like and feel like in May?”  After Round 1, go granular. Take each section (look, sound, feel) or your group-themed ideas and break these ideas down even further by asking another question.

Brainstorming is a great way to bring together a diverse group of thinkers from cross-functional areas to generate new ideas…but preparation ahead of time and how you structure and spark these brilliant minds has a huge impact on their results.


What tools will get the entire organization to think innovation all the time?

Response from AmyK:

Would you settle for more of the time?! Creativity is about ideas; innovation is about results. Innovation is the process of executing on an idea so that it creates a social or economic effect. Innovation requires a level of discipline and discernment – an ability and drive to apply the big idea in some useful purpose. 20% of the time you want your employees thinking about how to take their great ideas to market, and 80% of the time you want them profitably executing on their new innovation plan.

To align around innovation throughout your entire organization, a company must be crystal clear on their answers to the following questions:

  1.  How might we create a culture that generates more than our fair share of smart ideas?
  2.  How might we create systems that encourage collaboration for more innovative behaviors?
  3.  How will we decide which ideas are the right ideas in which to invest and bring to market?
  4. How will we move ideas through our organization that are not only creative but fast to market?


How do we keep performance high through periods of transition?

Response from AmyK:

Transition implies both change and movement. What exciting new “place” will you be after the transition? Encourage people to paint the picture of this next destination and positively describe what it looks, sounds and feels like to them, and why it will be beneficial for them to be there. Then ask them what it will require to successfully get there. Map these requirements into specific steps.

It’s imperative for leaders to facilitate the creation of individual Action Plans that move the team/department/company forward.  A well-crafted Action Plan first discerns what resources are necessary, what information and skill-sets are required, what barriers will be faced, and which team members will be critical for making sure all appropriate perspectives and expertise are included in the scope of the objective. This information is then funneled into concrete, specific, measureable steps with associated deadlines.

Six Questions to Spark Team Action Planning Through Transition:

1. What skills, information and knowledge do we now need to achieve this goal?

2. What resources, help, assistance, and/or collaboration do we need to achieve this goal?

3. What assumptions and obstacles can block our progress of achieving this goal?

4. How and where do we start? What are the first 5 things we think we need to do?

5.  What are the first 5 yeses that we need to get? (where and/or with whom?)

6. If we actually achieved this goal, what would it get us? What’s the payoff for our team/other departments?

Once the team has asked and answered the six questions above, they can then generate the specific action steps each person needs to take with corresponding deadlines, including those action steps that support other team members in meeting their deadlines. What exactly must be prioritized, by whom and by when? This synergistic process of turning an idea into an Action plan inspires greater commitment because the transition process is clarified, manageable and shared.


With presentations to 30,000+ executives in eight countries, AmyK Hutchens serves as an Intelligence Activist and business strategist to leaders around the globe. She is a former senior EVP of Operations for a leading sales and marketing firm, Director of Education for Europe and Australia for a billion dollar consumer products company, and chosen member of National Geographic’s Educator Advisory Committee. To learn more about her firm’s proprietary Leadership Links program please visit www.amyk.com. Follow AmyK on Twitter @AmyKinc or visit at www.amyk.com. https://www.amyk.com

Category : Leadership

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About the Author: AmyK Hutchens

Speaker. Author. Trainer. Business Strategist.

A former executive of a billion dollar global consumer products company and awarded the Vistage UK, International Speaker of the

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  1. PM Hut

    April 18, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Hi Amy,

    I have noticed that the only way to foster innovation in a company is to take risks. At the individual level, if you take risks you become more creative – that concept applies at the company level. Executives will be forced to foster creativity, and that will be passed to the regular employee.

    Thanks for sharing!

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