Businesses and franchisors that successfully emerge from the COVID-19 will need to rely on creativity.  As an outsourced CFO, I have been working with franchise concepts and business owners on strategies to come out of the COVID-19 crisis.  The ability to be creative and problem solve is the most crucial factor in developing a plan.

When it comes to problem-solving, people want to jump right into brainstorming.  The most exciting part of problem-solving is coming up with a solution.  Most (including myself) are impatient by nature.  We love to look at potential solutions to problems quickly.  However, if a franchisor or business owner wants to get the most from their brainstorming, they should take time to define their problem.

Brainstorming is essential during COVID-19

I published an article on Creating a COVID-19 ReOpening StrategyThat what a result of a brainstorming session with franchisees and management. 

When we started, we began with the question, “How do we open up our stores?” We knew there was more due diligence that needed to be done to define our problem.  We eventually clarified our problem to be, “What can we do for people to feel safe in our stores after COVID-19?” By defining the problem, it enabled us to go down several different, more beneficial paths. Mainly, we were able to look at the customer journey differently and determine the changes needed in our business practices.  More importantly, it allowed us to brainstorm additional ideas that we may not have come up with had we not better defined our problem. 

This process helped us be more creative.  Having defined our problem, and using some of the methods below, we were able to have a better discussion on how to reopen, train employees, and determine ways to sell our service. 

Below are six tips as you begin to brainstorm how to emerge from COVID-19. 

Define the Problem

In case you couldn’t figure it, I think this is the first step to any brainstorming process.  Albert Einstein said, “If I had twenty days to solve a problem, I would take nineteen to define it.” Often the real problem is not as easy as “how do we grow our business?” 

Here are three questions to ask to define your problem better.

  1. Have you asked, “why?” When you initially define your problem, ask yourself or team, “why is this the problem?” Keep asking until you run out of answers – try to think of things with more creativity than you did before.
  2. What else could the problem be?  For instance, it’s easy to say you need to reopen and grow after COVID-19.  But what are the reasons that prevent this?  Once identified, you may be able to start seeing a pattern of what the real problem is.
  3. Does anyone else have a similar problem?  For instance, if you have a competitor, have they encountered this problem?  How did they define the problem?

Jump Start Your Creativity

The good news is most of us are wired to be creative.  My background is in accounting, which most would argue includes a lot of non-creative people.  When put in the right environment, and with a little self-improvement, most accountants are very creative.  This can be true for everyone.  Here are three quick ways to jump-start your creativeness.

  1. Read a book or articles that have nothing to do with your business.  When did you last spend time reading something that dealt with a different industry or subject?  Pick up some new knowledge, and you’ll be surprised how you start using some of the ideas in your franchise.
  2. Get away – I know it is hard right now to stop thinking about your business and the ramifications of COVID-19.  When a situation is so intense, you begin to limit your ability to think outside the box.  Go for a run, call an old friend, play a game…step away and yes, embrace your creativity.
  3. Start sketching – ya, that is right, start drawing.  It doesn’t matter if you are artistic.  You can even take a quick class. This is a great way to jump-start the creative part of your brain.

Put A Process in Place

It is a waste of time to start brainstorming without having a structure.  As Bernhard Schroeder says in his book Simply Brilliant, “most brainstorming is ineffective because it does not start with a clearly defined problem, an alignment of the objectives of the solution (as related to the problem), and a structured format with clear time limits.”

Here are four tips to keep in mind when determining a process to brainstorm:

  1. Gather the right team and data.
  2. Agree on the problem.
  3. Come up with as many ideas as possible.  Strive for quantity, not quality.
  4. Don’t criticize as ideas are being evaluated.  Fairly judge the ideas for the best one(s) that solve the problem.

Brainstorming – Part 1

Would you be surprised to know that there are actually brainstorming strategies and methods?  I am sure we all knew they existed, but most of the processes I have been involved in include throwing out ideas and putting them on a whiteboard. 

Brainstorming strategies include SCAMPER, IdeaGen (mind mapping), Phoenix List, Blue Ocean Strategy, Tempero, and Observation Lab.  Even if you only spend 5-10 minutes looking into each, your next session will be much better.

Brainstorming – Part 2

T.S. Elliot said, “Good poets borrow. Great poets steal”.  Most people know that Apple didn’t create the first mp3 player, but they get most of the credit for it anyway.  A large percentage of new products or services are just iterations from existing ones. 

Look around and see what other companies are doing.  Examine both competitors and other well-respected companies from different industries.  For instance, I published an article that spoke about Wynn’s response to COVID-19.  While you most likely don’t run a casino, it doesn’t mean you can start iterating with their ideas. 

Brainstorming – Part 3

I mentioned six different brainstorming strategies.  To dive into each would turn this blog into a book.  However, I will quickly discuss mind mapping.

A mind map is an easy way to brainstorm without worrying about order and structure. It allows you to structure your ideas visually.

A mind map is a diagram for representing ideas arranged around a problem. A mind map can turn a long list of monotonous information into a colorful, memorable, and highly organized picture that works in line with your brain’s natural way of thinking.

What is a Mind Map? - Definition & Examples - Video & Lesson ...

Why is this important?

You might ask, “why are you putting out an article on creativity during a crisis?” For business owners and franchisors, being creative is a vital step to assuring the short-term and long-term sustainability. 

Think of all of the high-level problems that need solutions right now.  How will your business address customer concerns around COVID-19?  How can you begin to replace some of the revenue lost?  Do you need to consider long-term changes to your business model due to changes in customer habits?  These questions require creativity and brainstorming. The businesses and franchises that are successful just may be those that embrace their creativity.

Krieger Analytics

I am Matt Krieger, the founder of Krieger Analytics, a CFO advisory partner for small businesses and franchisors.  I also am the owner and franchisor of a concept called Monkey Bizness, in Denver, Colorado. 

As a small business owner, I realized the benefits that a CFO could bring to smaller organizations.  I also know that franchisors and small business owners didn’t have the need (or budget) for a full-time CFO.  That is why Krieger Analytics is a part-time resource for our clients.  While most think of CFO’s being involved in finance and accounting (we are), I am also involved in much more.  I partner with clients by coaching on strategy, providing clarity for their business, building efficient and effective processes, and making confident business decisions.  Conversations are free, so don’t hesitate to reach out at matt@k-analytics.com.

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