Need an Innovative Solution? Bring Together People With Divergent Views and Skill Set

This article originally appeared on Microlearning, our bite-sized online solution for leaders and individual contributors.

Why do it? 

When you need inspiration or input, it’s easy to turn to your usual advisers, whether it’s your boss, peers, or others whose thinking aligns with yours. But research suggests that groups with different and even opposing viewpoints are more effective at problem-solving and innovation. Working through tough issues with a diverse group may not only get you to a better, more nuanced outcome but could also turn skeptics into allies. 

 

How to do it:

1. Identify an upcoming project, decision, or other work where you need to take a different approach.

Setting a strategic direction, solving an intractable problem, designing a new feature — just about any situation that calls for novel ideas or approaches is a good candidate. 

 

2. Clarify what kind of input you want.

Consider: 

  • The outcome you’re looking for: Ideas for a new product design? Potential solutions to a customer issue? 
  • What you will ask people to do: Offer feedback on existing ideas? Come up with new ones? Work on a prototype? 
  • How much of their time you’re asking for: One call or meeting, a series of workshops, or ongoing help? 
  • How you will use their input: To inform the design of a product, reach a decision, or vet a solution? Or something else?

 

3. List the different perspectives that would be helpful for the discussion.

For example: 

  • A technical expert 
  • A customer
  • A salesperson 
  • An optimist 
  • A realist 
  • A creative thinker 

 

4. Reach out to people with the perspectives you listed.

If you don’t know the right people, who might? When you reach out to ask people for help, include your goal, what you need, the time commitment, and how you plan to use their input. 

For example: 

“Hi, Ali. My team is starting to work on the design for a new customer portal. I’d love to get your insight as a sales rep into our customers’ top needs. Would you be willing to join our 90-minute brainstorming session next week? Your thoughts will help shape our initial features list.”