Team Brainstorm and Democratic Prioritization

One of the outcomes of this session will be a manageable list of priorities which were hand-selected and voted upon by the team at-large.

One of the outcomes of this session will be a manageable list of priorities which were hand-selected and voted upon by the team at-large. The list should then be given to the product manager to map out a 30 day roadmap.

The facilitator plays a critical role. I included a few short sound bites from a world famous design thinker being interviewed by Alex Osterwalder (inventor of the business model canvas).


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Give the team a heads up

Especially if the team is not familiar with frequent sessions such as this, it will only help to send out a short and sweet primer email the night before or morning of. Otherwise, there will be friction at the start of the session as people are trying to understand what’s happening. A few sentences about the topic, time, and purpose (or whatever you think your team needs to hear) should give them enough to know they are showing up to learn how to participate in something.

Location

If possible, host any collaborative session in a different space then where you host status meetings and other common work hours

Supplies

  • Pens, Pencils and/or Markers (heck, bring crayons if you can — anything to tap into the creative part of your brains)
  • Tape (this will be used to tape each sheet of paper to the wall)
  • Ring of 8 x 11 Printer Paper (one idea gets written on one sheet of paper)
  • Assorted Color Circle Stickers (these will be used to vote at the end)
  • Laptops (if you prefer laptop over paper, perform same task using Keynote and print your slides at the end)

Write the following question in large letters on your conference room’s whiteboard:

WHAT WOULD BE STUPID FOR US TO NOT GET DONE IN THE NEXT 30 DAYS?

Working on a startup means everyday matters. That means identifying what the team works on every moment of everyday matters, a lot. What is the most important thing that must get done today, if nothing else?

Start the Exercise

  1. Individually, team members spend 5–10 minutes in silence as they write down as many ideas they have — each idea gets put on its own individual sheet of printer paper or one individual Keynote slide.
  2. Print out each team member’s presentation slides.
  3. Take turns taping your ideas to the wall. When it is your turn to tape your ideas to the wall you should place one idea at a time on the wall — in doing so, briefly talk through the idea — this is essentially a 5–10 second pitch for why the idea is a critical priority that should be worked on before all other items.
  4. Each team member is given an equal number of colored “voting stickers” and is asked to go around the room and vote for the ideas which are the -best in their opinion. A vote is cast when a person places one of their stickers on the idea’s sheet of paper.
  5. There is no limit on how many stickers one person can place on one idea.
  6. When the voting ends, respectfully go through each idea and allocation of votes to determine which ideas obviously did not make the cut. Come to agreement regarding which items get put into a backlog for the next 60 day roadmap.
  7. Consolidate the remaining ideas into a manageable list of critical priorities to be completed during the next 60 day roadmap.

This exercise was first utilized by the design team at Pandora. It was through this prioritization strategy acquired 70 million monthly users on their music streaming platform.

Democratic election processes such as the one used in this exercise are great for getting buy-in from all participants of the exercise. By default, each person actively opts-in to be highly engaged by taking the initiative voice their ideas and have them heard by all team members in a focused setting. Furthermore, all participants get an opportunity to vote on a serious set of decisions which are critical to the company’s success.

This is a great process for teasing out the ideas tucked away in the corners of each team member’s brain while also building a manageable and actionable list of items that should be started immediately.

The ideas that do not receive enough votes to move forward should all be kept in a shared Google Doc, or even better would be an idea board kept on the wall. As the company gets through the more pressing issues over the next 15, 30, and 60 days it will only be a matter of time when those other ideas which initially seemed unimportant, not as urgent, and maybe even wacky might just end up becoming the seed of growth hacking initiatives, new acquisition strategies, and who knows what else. Once you find out, come back and let us know!

by Daniel D'Alonzo

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