One of the most time-tested techniques for facilitators has to be the “parking lot.” It’s the place where apparently extraneous comments during strategic thinking exercises go to await a time when they . . . are never heard about again?
That’s the problem with having a parking lot.
It is never clear what happens to a comment AFTER the parking lot.
In fact, I am not sure I EVER remember a comment getting out of a parking lot. At least not making it out of the parking lot and turning into anything productive.
What parking lot would you ever park in when you had little or NO chance of getting out of the parking lot once you were in it?
Parking Lots? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Parking Lots
We don’t have parking lots at strategy sessions The Brainzooming Group designs and facilitates (except for the parking lots outside the facilities where we are working).
Instead, we think of comments as fitting one of three categories. They are either:
- Germane to the current discussion
- Germane to a future or previous part of the discussion
- Not germane to the sessions’ objectives
If a comment falls into group number 1, we will capture and use it within a current strategic thinking exercise.
If a comment is in group 2, we capture and place it within the strategic thinking exercise it addresses, whether we’ve already been there or are yet to reach it.
And group 3?
If a comment isn’t germane, but it’s close, we’ll capture and place it in the strategic thinking exercise to which it most closely applies. If it isn’t close to anything we’re addressing in the session, the person who shared it needs to hang on to it for some future time.
More Efficient Strategic Thinking Exercises and Sessions
While they may seem counterproductive, it encourages everyone in the session to stay focused on the session objectives instead of veering off into conversations that aren’t currently relevant.
So park you cars outside the strategy session, and let’s work with all the ideas inside. – Mike Brown
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