(Epic Party is part of the Alternate World Collection)

The poor cops didn’t have a chance.

It was a brisk Fall night and they were responding to a noise complaint. They were in a nice suburban neighborhood, full of closely aligned single homes, and the white one on the corner was obviously having a party. By the looks of things, they had quite a crowd – lots of cars on the street and the place was lit up like a Christmas tree. As they approached the front door and rang the bell, they knew their presence was discovered. After a minute or so, with some noticeable commotion inside, the door opened. That’s when the officers were take aback.

Standing before them, with a benevolent smile, was Father Cronin. A gentle kind of guy, with an unobtrusive presence and a big smile. Father Cronin was a parish priest from St. Bernadette’s. What the officers didn’t know, was that the brief commotion before the door opened, was the group quickly nominating the good Father to be the front man, and him fumbling to reapply his collar so his status would be immediately recognized.

After the initial shock, the conversation was brief, and obviously very polite. The police officers mentioned they got a call about noise, and Fr. Cronin explained how the group was celebrating the big parish show that took place earlier that night. They thanked the good Father for his time and assurances on less noise, and he sent them on their way with a wink, a nod and an improvised blessing that no doubt kept them safe through their night.

It was a great party. And, thanks to Father Cronin’s masterful interaction with the town’s finest, it was one of the more memorable ones!

This is 901

There were many memorable parties at this house. I know, I grew up here. The house number is 901, and it’s now in the family for close to 60 years. It’s the inspiration for my company’s name. It is a place where everyone was, and is still, welcome. We were a big family, and our parents loved to celebrate. We had parties for everything. Milestone birthday? 21st’s were the best. Anniversaries? Mom and Dad’s 25th was a classic. Weddings? Once the reception ended, the party began kicked in back at the house. Holidays? No brainer. Pick an event. We could turn anything into a party. Sometimes they would just spontaneously happen. When friends and more friends start coming over, anything was possible. As they say…”if these walls could talk.”

Fortunately, the police showing up was an exception. The 901 parties were fun, full of life, and always great. Generally safe. Sometimes epic.

One of the reasons was because everyone was invited. Our house, and its parties, were inclusive and diverse. When I graduated 8th grade, Mom and Dad naturally let me have a party, and I had to invite the whole class. And it was awesome. A few kids missed it, and boy were they sorry. The reason the party featuring Father Cronin was so good, was because Mom and Dad invited the entire cast, crew, and friends of the evening’s musical production. Put a bunch of neighborhood thespians around a piano, add some libation, and things get loud. The only mistake from that party was not inviting all the neighbors.

Some people subscribe to the theory that a good party must have an exclusive guest list, but for me, that is counter intuitive.

Break from the Routine

Ironically the same dynamic occurs in the business world all the time. Take brainstorming. “Let’s gather the team and generate ideas!” Sure, just pull everyone into a boring conference room, throw a bunch of post-it notes on the table, and see if that elusive idea comes up that will finally break us out of our funk. The intent is good, it’s just that the process sucks. Think about it. How many bold new ideas come out of the average brainstorming session? I’m talking about the game changer. The one that disrupts, grabs attention and starts a business on a new trajectory. Ideas on this scale are as rare as Unicorns. In Design Thinking, the brainstorming phase is called “Ideating.” And for people that utilize Design Thinking, it’s usually because they really, really want those unexpected and amazing outcomes.

If you want to improve your chances for the boldest of ideas to spawn from your next brainstorming session, then invite everyone! Find people that have nothing to do with your team, or the problem you are tackling, and bring them to the party. If you’re worried about time, then make it quick. If you fear you’re pulling people away from their work, then promise to return the favor. At Pfizer, my team loved impromptu ideating. We’d feel the moment and just start kicking around ideas, then we’d start pulling in random colleagues to help us noodle on a problem. Everyone loved it! Plus, people enjoyed being part of something new and getting a reprieve from the daily routine.

When the challenges are even juicier, Design Thinking workshops are a perfect way to take them on. They’re also an ideal opportunity to invite everyone. My friend George is a Design Thinking force. He invited me to a workshop where a team was trying to reimagine the Glacier tourist experience in Banff, Canada. Here I was, a guy from a pharma company, working on a challenge with a group of people from the hospitality industry! It was great, and it worked. The ideas from that gathering far exceeded what the sponsors were expecting! Every opportunity I get to do some ideating, or run a Design Thinking workshop, I spend lots of the planning time thinking of who to invite.

Go Big, Go Bold

Should you find yourself passionate about finding those allusive, incredible ideas, yet you stay hung up on time and resource worries and settle for the boring old conference room, team only, brainstorming approach, then Stop! Put yourself in that Alternate World where the need for the idea is far more important than the logistics of time and resources.

Make your next brainstorming session epic! Frame the problem. Ask yourself who else you can invite. Look across teams, consider support staff, pull in vendors, or get truly ambitious and try a quid-pro-quo. Invite a team from a completely different industry, then return the favor.

Make it lively. Make it fun. Who knows, maybe the cops will show up!