The Innovation Meeting

To make ideation meetings work, define your core terms as a group

My older articles tend to make me cringe or even disagree with myself. But some still have useful ideas.

One is How to Do a Brainstorming Meeting. When I read over it today, I nodded yes to the TLDR:

  • encourage or require agenda-driven, independent research in advance
  • most attendees present ideas from research/information-gathering
  • encourage precise thinking by enforcing brevity, such that no one speaks longer than, say, one minute 
  • present meeting agenda items, including next-steps, as questions
  • the title of the meeting itself is a question
  • Use a meeting agenda template that hard codes these principles; mine’s here 

While I still agree with this question-driven framework for brainstorming meetings, it needs to be updated.

For one thing, the whole premise of a special “brainstorming” category for meetings might be flawed. Maybe all meetings should be for generating ideas? With some people you meet, there are always new ideas born. 

But I also have two concrete improvements to how to hold a brainstorming meeting.

First: I wouldn’t use a doc for the agenda. Instead, I’d use some kind of templated approach, be it from a group workboard such as Mural or from a PM tool such as Clickup or Asana.

Second: define your terms.

Ideation Through Writing Definitions

Defining the most important words to your area of inquiry will (a) align your meeting attendees and (b) provoke new ideas.

Case Study: Brainstorming Meeting on Sales Training for an Outsourced Sales Company

Let’s say you want to train your salespeople to sell value instead of features and benefits. In B2B sales this is called value selling, typically.

And let’s say you name the brainstorming meeting, per the question-driven framework, as this core question: “How Do We Train Sales People in Value Selling”?

Well, you and I both know the very first reaction: what do you mean by value selling? Can you define that?

You can. And I would actually start there as a group at the onset of the meeting. Of course, you might want to come prepared with a pre-thought out definition, such as:

definition of Value Selling

Having a conversation about the features and benefits of a B2B solution in terms of its objective and subjective value propositions

Which might lead you to ask, what is it not? Well, value selling is not pitching. What is pitching?

definition of Pitching

Selling by trying to impress with features, benefits, data, and discounts – rather than by selling value

Which might lead you to question what B2B Sales in general is? How is it different than other kinds of sales? What are its most salient aspect?

definition of B2B Sales

A type of human, conversational sales where multiple buyers collaborate to make purchase decisions based on their desire to acquire value

Which might be all the defining this meeting needs to find solutions. Because just by putting these three definitions next to one another, each starts to make a little more sense.

Who knows what the core question’s answer will be – probably learning to think about, focus on, and listen for painful problems. Because there solutions generate value. Or you might find an entirely different way to frame and word that solution.

The point is this, though: defining the terms you use in your brainstorming meeting doesn’t just get everyone on the same page, it makes you think.

Have a great week ahead,