“You see people pushing the envelope on their thinking when they previously might have not even tried to put their ideas forward”

One of the most tragic scenes is happening in meeting rooms all across the philanthropic universe as you read this: a bunch of hungry, talented, fundraisers aren’t speaking up. For whatever reason, be it hierarchical power structures, a lack of influence, personal timidity, the resistance – they are doing their organization an extreme injustice by not questioning the status quo, by not questioning their assumptions, by not bringing their only half-baked thoughts to the conversation, by not doing what they were [hopefully] hired to do.

The only thing that can be more aggravating are the leaders who are acutely aware of this taking place under their nose and have yet to do anything about it. Brainstorming sessions should be about encouraging batshit crazy ideas to splatter everyone’s temporal psychic walls, inculcating themselves like parasitic tendrils into the batshit [or formal] ideas of others, stacking on top of one another other until the weight of the shitty ideas pancakes creates enough pressure [through conversation] to leave behind beautiful diamonds of strategic actionable insight.

I looooove brainstorming sessions. I’m THAT fucking guy. I love brainstorming sessions enough that I brainstorm about brainstorming sessions. My girlfriend has been creep’d out on multiple occasions by waking up to scratching sounds at 3 in the morning, my naked [you’re welcome for the visual] ass scribbling down ideas at the edge of the bed in complete darkness save a few rays of moonlight –  “I’ve just got to get this shit out of my head baby, you can go back to sleep.” Yeah, that fucking guy. That guy that comes up with hundreds of stupid ideas over and over, then let’s them marinate until – enough metaphors, you get the point, right? Hell, I showed up at my interview for my current gig with a formal list of 52 ideas, one per week to implement over the next year. A few weeks after I was hired, my manager asked if I would like to go over them with him in detail. I advised him to please throw them out – now having a much better sense of the organization’s strategic direction from the inside meant that those I knew that all of those ideas are shit – I’m forever gracious that he is patient enough to encourage me to cultivate them in this way.

This isn’t a pat on the back trying to impress you with the type of mental issues that I have. Let me impress upon you that I’m that guy in brainstorming sessions that at least 3-4 of my close teammates refer to as that guy “Oh, ok Alex, what are you thinking now?”

“Thanks for asking me! Umm, this might be a stupid question but…”

I hope I don’t ask you too many stupid DM questions, Vicky.

But this isn’t a post about how to better specifically engage your team in brainstorming sessions. There are way better resources out there for that- here’s a little help if you need it. Sorry, I had to.

Jeez, what a long preamble on this post eh…Let’s take 15:

I recently came across an article in strategy magazine, highlighting Christine Kalvenes, The CMO of PepsiCo’s Canadian operations. Christine has an excellent rule that she implemented with her team in 2013, and we are going to go ahead and steal it, integrate it, and better amplify our narratives. From the article:

…She enables her team to push the envelope with a 70/20/10 rule. Essentially, the team presents a plan that is 70% ‘proven’ marketing that they typically use to activate a product; 20% includes innovative ‘test’ marketing that they’ve tried before; and the remaining 10% is ‘stuff that’s completely off of the wall’. Once the 10% ideas can be successfully leveraged, they are folded into the 20% part of the following year’s plan”

One of those – why didn’t I think of that moments, eh. Or maybe you’re already implementing a structure like this? If so, congratulations!

Imagine what kind of transformation we could have if we implemented this across our sector – in looking at growing our monthly donor files, reducing direct marketing attrition, amplifying our participants experience at events, identifying new corporate partners. This is the strategic actionable equivalent of that quote “Most people vastly overestimate what they can accomplish in a day, and grossly underestimate what they could accomplish in a year”.

Having been in fundraising long enough, I can already hear the defeatist whispers of “Sure that sounds nice in theory, of course I wish I could do that, but I just don’t have the resources or budget to implement 20% to testing, let alone 10% to ‘off the wall’ ideas.

I’ll probably take some time to address that objection in another post some day, but for now – fine. Resource allocation wasn’t the point of this post anyways – what if you simply implemented this rule into your ideation sessions, both alone and as a group? Just thinking out loud – what if you told each of your colleagues that at your monthly brainstorming session that everyone had to provide 2 batshit-crazy ideas to the team? Hell, you might even end up with one that identifies a way to overcome your resource allocation issue in the next 12 months.

So go forth and cultivate the joy of giving. Our sector is, if you look at retention rates, literally dying for new ideas, new perspectives, to build a new status quo. We will never get there if we keep our thoughts to ourselves and don’t push the envelope, poke the box, all those tropes you don’t want to read about on another fundraising blog.

If this resonates with you, I’d encourage that you start here with a great exercise to test your notions of what’s possible. Keep an open mind while you do it: http://tim.blog/2016/12/07/testing-the-impossible-17-questions-that-changed-my-life/

For the #chickenshit fundraisers, this is for you – http://thecooperreview.com/10-tricks-appear-smart-meetings/

“She instituted a company manifesto that describes “consumers as our compass…Today, the department enters more awards shows, with wins inspiring other team members. She created a wall of fame and introduced a rotating ‘Challenger Award’ that is given to someone who ‘overcomes adversity by living our [consumer-driven] manifesto’. Departmental meetings are now less about ‘updates’ and more about ‘inspiring’ members by listing lessons learned, from how to drive consumer engagement on a small budget to the effectiveness of sampling”
May you continue to insanely cultivate the joy of giving

update: I came across this quote in my inbox the morning after publishing this post, seems fitting:

Great abuses in the world are begotten, or, to speak more boldly, all the abuses of the world are begotten, by our being taught to be afraid of professing our ignorance, and that we are bound to accept all things we are not able to refute: we speak of all things by precepts and decisions. The style at Rome was that even that which a witness deposed to having seen with his own eyes, and what a judge determined with his most certain knowledge, was couched in this form of speaking: “it seems to me.” They make me hate things that are likely, when they
would impose them upon me as infallible.
–Michel de Montaigne

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