Red Blob Maddness
groupthink    |    Oct 31, 2017    |    SHARE

Hands up. Who’s been to an ideas workshop — be it new product, brand positioning — the ones where all and sundry are invited and, at the end of a long day, all the butcher’s paper sheets are up on the wall and it’s time to vote for the best ideas?

You queue up and put a coloured dot on the ideas that really seem to work / fit.

Then there is the count up and, shazam! A quantitative measure of the most popular ways forward emerges.

I think this part of the workshop day is dangerous and should be avoided, because:

1. The ‘winner’ tends to assume a truth, an absolute-ness of the best way forward.

This is very naïve and dumbs down the value of the granularity of the earlier input from the session. The most popular idea is seldom the best idea. Brand strategy, for example, has umpteen considerations (brand hierarchy, brand legacy, competitor positioning, targeting etc.) So what value is there in seeking a hit parade of ways forward that are isolated from the hard grind of strategic planning that needs to occur next? I say this is a distraction and we avoid this. The sifting of group thinking takes care and expertise and we always do this in much smaller sessions later.

2. Participants in workshops of the type I describe usually come from many walks of life — from within and external to the client organisation.

Not all, by any means, have the experience and insight to make the right decisions for the issues at hand. So, in the quest for consensus and team engagement, we risk a bum steer by watching the votes too closely from those who actually have little real experience of the job in hand.

I know we seek an immediate conclusion to workshops; a wrap-up, an outcome, a job well done. But I say, offer the congratulations at the granularity — it’s really the detailed inputs from earlier in the day that we need for strategy design; leave the analysis to deeper 360-degree consideration by the experts and leave the coloured voting blobs out of the process.

BY: Tim Biddlecombe
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