Brainstorming is one of the core tactics of healthcare value analysis. This is where your value analysis workgroups throw out ideas to come up with lower cost alternatives to what you are buying or doing now. One of the tenets of brainstorming is that you need to “suspend judgment” until all of your ideas are listed on a chart for discussion. My question to you is, is this practice a myth or a missed opportunity?
We have facilitated scores of brainstorming sessions over the last 34 years and have kept current on new brainstorming practices. We think “suspending judgment” is still a good brainstorming best practice, even though some experts would differ with this statement.
Other experts have said that there are a lot of bad ideas thrown around in brainstorming sessions and that they should be vigorously debated and then eliminated immediately. Our opinion is that if you follow these recommendations, there will be a good chance that no time will be left to evaluate all the ideas accumulated on your chart and you will miss some big savings, quality, or safety improvement opportunities by doing so.
Here’s why. It is much better to list all your ideas and discuss them one at a time while “suspending judgment” until your list is complete. Then, you can have a vigorous debate about all of your ideas. This works best because once you have a complete list of ideas, one idea (even a bad idea) can trigger an even better idea. If you eliminate “so-called” bad ideas first, this won’t happen.
Another tenet of brainstorming is, “Don’t criticize an idea, but build on it.” While this sounds nice on paper, we have found it is much better to have a vigorous but thoughtful and courteous debate on all ideas, or your team members will feel that too often the person that speaks the loudest and holds the floor the longest will get their way. Vigorous debate is a much more democratic way to vet your best ideas, rather than being submissive or just going along for the ride.
Healthcare Value Analysis Teams
All of the ideas we just shared with you won’t work well if you don’t have an excellent facilitator for your brainstorming sessions. It’s their job to be neutral for your value analysis work teams while assisting, guiding, and coaching them in their brainstorming sessions. Your HR or nursing education department should be able to provide your work team this individual for you.
After many years of study and practice, we have found that brainstorming or a variation of it is still one of the best tactics for searching out lower cost alternatives to what you are doing now. Don’t ignore the huge benefits of this creative, inventive, and resourceful technique.
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