A core value and differentiator for our agency is “jamming.” LABOV Jam Sessions™ are a proprietary process of listening, collaboration, ideation and team building designed to result in inspiring, actionable concepts.
We use jamming as a tool to uncover the magic or differentiation that lives inside a company and brand. Often, we conduct a series of Differentiation Jams with key teams, including sales, engineering, customer service and executive boards.
I’ve been asked about what a “jam” is and if it is the same as brainstorming or “spitballing.” It is very different. I’ll share some insights on jamming that you can apply with your teams:
Safe Zone. A true jam session allows for everyone to contribute, no matter their position or tenure. Ideally, break your sessions down to groups of three to five people so that no one can dominate easily. Also strive to put people from different departments together to get freer thinking.
Listening. When we prepare our clients for a jam, we let them know that the most important aspect of a jam is listening. We’ve all been in long meetings when someone offers a comment that had already been discussed earlier in the meeting. In that situation, the person had been preparing to share his idea and had not been listening. Listening must be at the forefront to create amazing ideas.
Focus on what you can influence. This is huge. We respectfully forbid participants to discuss or consider politics, pandemics, elections, company policies or any other roadblocks they do not have control over. They are here to look at what can be done, not why it hasn’t been or can’t be done. This sounds restrictive, but by the end of our sessions, it is often cited as one of the best results of the session. Participants were able to get away from the daily grind.
Come prepared. Instead of asking people to show up and start to think, we ask them to send their ideas in advance (electronically). This starts the brain in motion and serves as a good kick start for further, deeper ideation when the session begins.
Imagine the future, bad and good. Early in a session, we take people through scenarios that help them imagine their future. One scenario is a not-so-positive one in which they fall short. The other is a far more exciting one where they achieve beyond their expectations. As we guide them, they deal with the barriers that have stopped them. They identify the emotions they feel deep inside regarding how important it is for them to succeed. All of this helps fuel the energy to create meaningful solutions.
Have fun. It’s difficult to create when you’re tense or unhappy. We employ games throughout our sessions to make things fun and loose. We’ll ask teams to name themselves. Usually it results in some fun discussion.
Perform. Sometimes, we’ll invite musicians to join us and show the participants how a song is created. Then, they’ll join in and create a song themselves. It’s fun and it shows how any one of us can truly be creative.
It’s not about “perfect.” This is a very inspirational aspect of our jam sessions. We make sure everyone knows they are allowed and expected not to be perfect. They may suggest something that can’t work or may be incorrect on an assumption. It’s ok! The point is to contribute. Our clients live in a world focused on them being perfect and avoiding errors; this session embraces the opposite. Many great songs were created when artists put their fingers “incorrectly” on a fretboard or piano and a beautiful sound emanated from that.
More is better. We urge a lot of ideas be considered. Some think the first idea that comes to mind is best, but there is no research to back that up. The truth is, the more ideas you consider and discuss, the more likely you land on a magical one.
Dig deep. Once we identify and discuss all ideas, the teams then focus on only their top ideas and refine them so they are actionable. This is critical because this is where the most magical collaboration occurs, as concepts are combined, tweaked, twisted, stacked and streamlined into something that is inspiring and actually based in reality!
Act quickly. After our sessions conclude, our process promises that within 24 hours we produce a document detailing the concepts from the session and within 48 hours our clients present them to their leadership. This keeps the passion alive and has resulted routinely in ideas that have been adopted or piloted by our clients within that two-day period—unheard-of speed and progress for most corporations.
I’ve saved the most surprising aspect for last. Jam sessions serve as a powerful teambuilding exercise. People get to appreciate and know each other better; they practice listening and learn new ways to create and achieve together. Jam on!
Barry LaBov is founder and CEO of LABOV Marketing Communications and Training. He is a two-time Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year recipient and author of numerous business books, including the upcoming book The Power of Differentiation. Since 1981, LABOV has differentiated and launched products and brands around the world.