Scott Berkun, in The Year Without Pants, discusses his first few days on the job at WordPress.com. At WordPress, all new employees had to start first by answering customer support tickets. This was true learning on the job, whereby they learned about the corporate culture, how to deal with customers, and how the WordPress support system worked. Rather than listening to someone tell them “here is how you fix it”, Scott and other new employees actually did the fixing. Scott compares his “training” at WordPress to his training at Microsoft. At Microsoft, he monitored customer service calls or read follow-up reports to learn. Scott writes:
These efforts were useful, but they were impersonal. Listening to someone else or reading a report doesn’t put a fist in your gut the way being the person responsible for fixing the problem does. Making everyone work in support forces everyone to take customers seriously, which we should since they pay our salaries. Despite my distaste for it, the idea of making all employees participate in support, regardless of their distaste, was fantastic. p. 13
What if everyone in your organization had to do support or customer service work every now and then? How would that change how we treat our customers/patrons and each other?
We’ve recently had a whiteboard installed in our office conference room.Â The purpose of the whiteboard is to jot down all the great ideas that my colleagues have and collect them in one place.Â In an effort to get folks into the practice of brainstorming, my colleague, Sherri, taped two paper cups to the board and asked people to generate ideas for the use of the cups.Â Anyone could put up any idea, combine ideas, and put up as many ideas as they wanted.Â The primary rule of the exercise was that any sort of evaluation of the ideas was not allowed.Â It’s been a fun exercise, and from the looks of the board, my colleagues had fun and generated some good ideas in the process.Â What I’ve learned from the exercise is the importance of focusing the brainstorming sessions.Â Sherri was able to direct our attention on the two paper cups, so our ideas were all relevant to each other.Â While you don’t want to stifle creativity, the focus on one concept (the cups) was nice in keeping the ideas mostly related to each other.Â It’s been a good exercise, and I’m sure we’ll continue to get even better at generating ideas.
What suggestions do you have for brainstorming?Â I’ve you have an idea that really works for you or your group, please feel free to leave a comment.