A Meeting of the Minds

Last week I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with seven authors represented by the publisher of my book, Lessons From the Mouse (DC Press). We focused on topics ranging from book marketing to presentation skills and had lively, information-packed discussions. I left the meeting feeling jazzed, with several ideas for my business and I can't wait for our next gathering.

The meeting reminded me of the power of sitting down with a small group and brainstorming issues that impact the business, testing ideas, exploring options, and expanding our point of view. It gets us out of the cocoon of our individual opinions on how things should work and it stretches our thinking. We may not agree with everything that's said in the meeting, but at least we have the opportunity to consider ideas we may never have thought of ourselves.

Instead of a meeting of authors, why not consider a regularly scheduled customer service brainstorming meeting in your organization? It could occur at the company level or at the department level. A group of 6-10 people meeting on a monthly basis to discuss ideas for improving customer service.

If this sounds like a good idea to you, here are a few suggestions for ensuring the meetings are productive:

  • Have a topic for each meeting. An individual meeting might focus on handling customer complaints, or strategies for keeping the physical environment looking good, or ways to communicate stories of employees delivering great service.
  • Assign a facilitator for each meeting. In our case, our publisher, Dennis McClellan of DC Press performed the role of facilitator and did a great job of keeping the discussion flowing and on topic. There may be an excellent facilitator on your team who would be delighted to run the meetings, or you might decide to rotate the responsibility.
  • Develop a process for escalating the ideas generated. Not every idea will be implemented, of course, but there will be some ideas that absolutely should be implemented. Having an executive champion who supports the process and is willing to remove bureaucratic obstacles makes it much more likely that good ideas will eventually see the light of day.
  • Don't get discouraged about ideas that aren't implemented. Everything has its time and this may not be the time for a particular idea. Even if only three or four good ideas generated by this group get implemented each year, those are ideas that wouldn't have even been thought of without the help of this group. Success isn't about the volume of ideas that become actual practices, it's about the quality of the ideas that are implemented and their impact on the business.

I know that I'm not going to use every idea we discussed during last week's author's meeting. But I do have one big idea I'm already working on and four or five others that I will likely adapt to my business. Even in the unlikely event that none of these ideas work, my creativity was stimulated and I'm looking at my business in a new way. I'm sure glad I was at that meeting.

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