When and How to Hold a Medical Practice Brainstorming Session

September 14, 2013

There's a time and a place for formal, sit-down meetings, but spontaneous brainstorming sessions have their value, too. Here are some advantages of the latter.

It's that time of week again, the 9:00 a.m. mandatory meeting. It never starts on time, people talk out of turn, the agenda is often not followed, and you feel exhausted at the end of the meeting. That's an hour of your life you won't get back, and you don't feel that the necessary items were resolved or communicated.

There's another way to approach your staff members when there are items to discuss. How about a spontaneous brainstorming session? I did this just this past Tuesday and I cannot believe how much we resolved in an hour! Brainstorming sessions don't have to be that long; it's just that we had a lot to talk about.

Here are some ways to make this type of “meeting” work:

1. Have a clear goal in mind. You don't want to go in and throw everything but the kitchen sink at your staff. Think about the top two or three issues that you want to resolve.

2. Start the conversation with something very casual like, “What do you all think about trying to modify the way we do X?” or, “Here's what I want to accomplish, what do you think is the best way to get there?”

3. Understand and appreciate that you don't have all the answers. That is why you have a staff with a different skill set. It's actually refreshing knowing that you don't have to solve your practice's issues all alone. You might be surprised by what concepts and ideas your staff comes up with.

4. There are no rules for ideas. Some of the best innovations come out of sessions like this when staff is free to be creative with their ideas. The more you encourage your staff, the more they will participate.

5. Have fun. I know that seems a little odd to say, but the more fun you have, the more likely your staff will relax and come up with some great solutions. Laugh, joke, say some ridiculous things. You never know what is going to strike an idea in your staff.

6. Don't make it too long. The idea behind a brainstorming session is fresh, quick, new ideas to replace old, inefficient ways of performing a task or procedure. Leave the staff with some action items to ponder. Maybe you are trying to come up with an internal audit system to ensure your practice is in full compliance with HIPAA. Conclude the meeting with, “Maybe we should come up with some sort of internal auditing procedure. Think about what might go into that sort of system, and we'll chat about it again next week.” You have not only inspired your staff, you have given them time to work on something you need, and you're telling them you trust them to come up with this procedure. It's a win-win.

Regardless of what you are trying to accomplish, putting your trust in your staff is the first step in reaching your practice's overall goals. You're not a superhero (even though I'm certain you have a secret cape), so step back, take a breath, and let your staff shine the way you need them to.