Most of us in the learning development world either fall directly under Human Resources (HR) or have a tenuous connection to this department. For me, I am directly under the HR Director. This allows me to better function as I have a support system of HR professionals behind me. It also provides me the opportunity to strategize with them on organizational concerns.

At the beginning of the 2019, we in HR were asked to outline new ways to 1) decrease turnover and 2) identify measurable goals for 2019. For the last six months or more, I have been looking for interesting ways to incorporate my former experience and education into the private sector. CIA’s Tradecraft primer has over a dozen analytical techniques that have potential to be utilized in private sector environments.

From the primer, brainstorming appeared to be the most logical first method on generating new ideas. It is tagged as “an unconstrained group process designed to generate new ideas and concepts” (pg. 27). The guide further outlines several suggestions:

1. Everyone is equal in this process.

2. Attempt to remove any biases or long held assumptions.

3. Prohibit nay-saying.

4. Schedule the exercise between 60 to 90 minutes.

5. Visibly record the ideas.

6. Include an “outsider” to the process.

I scheduled out 60 minutes (#4) on everyone’s calendar. I provided some relevant background on the brainstorming process to our CEO’s administrative assistant (#6), who also agreed to take notes (#5) and moderate (#3). The HR team has always functioned as a team (#1) and we did not already have any significant biases (#2) on these topics. Here is how it worked:

The first topic involved examining how the company can reduce turnover. Some of the major points were to provide future/new employees with more information in order for them to better understand the job before beginning; help managers become better leaders; conduct follow-up with new employees after several weeks on the job; and, standardize team processes

The next portion involved creating measurable strategic goals for the year. As HR, we do not often have the ability to measure output like operations does. However, we did come up with several suggestions, including a check-in for new employees; training for managers; and offering professional etiquette courses.

While this was our first time using the structured brainstorming approach, I have worked with smaller groups to do this for developing out learning objectives or novel training approaches. The possibilities are endless.

Have you or your company ever used brainstorming to come up with some ideas? How did it work for you?