Employees often know the most about how to solve growth-related problems? you just need togive them the opportunity to make suggestions.

One way to do it: a companywide brainstorming picnic/retreat. Solar Press, a $63-million company, in Naperville, Ill., shuts down its printingplants, rents a space at a nearby community college, and assembles hundreds of full-time workers for a day of information sharing and brainstorming.

One eight-hour retreat, dubbed Solar Brainstorming Day, was complete with T-shirts, a catered lunch, and a beer party. It was held in July, the company'sslow month, so that little production time was lost. Top managers gave short speeches, and president and CEO Frank Hudetz presented a slide show onSolar's projected growth and future plans. Employees then met in departmental groups to discuss production bottlenecks, space and equipment needs, andstaffing requirements. The upshot: a list of 50 problem areas, each one assigned to an employee task force.