How to Brainstorm

How to brainstormThere are hundreds of different techniques that managers can use to get results and to solve problems.

Most of the time, the same or similar processes just have to be repeated and it’s a question of how often and how well. Other times, more creative solutions are needed.

Our management training courses are suitable for all levels and will help you know which techniques to use in different workplace situations.

A group brainstorming session is a very powerful way to unlock ideas – if properly organised and managed. Sometimes thought of as a ‘thought sharing’ session, this free flow of uncensored ideas is a brilliant way of generating original solutions to problems, or thinking of new ideas for change.

Here are our Top Tips for Running Group Brainstorming Sessions.

1: Define the objectives

Make sure everyone is very clear on what the objectives of the exercise are at the start of the session.

2: Encourage creativity.

Make sure people are aware that they are not being judged on their individual ideas and that the process depends on the group coming together as a whole – a process which requires everyone’s participation to succeed. If you develop an atmosphere of light hearted togetherness, people will not be afraid to speak up.

3: Set ground rules

Before you start, set some simple ground rules. These should cover being courteous to others’ ideas – if people get really involved in sharing their thoughts they may get over keen and start interrupting!

4: Lead by example

Brain storming is about opening up and not being afraid of saying something silly or daring. You will need to lead the way with your ideas to make sure the rest of the group feel comfortable about contributing. Just make sure the ideas seem spontaneous and that other perspectives are encouraged.

5: Use visual aids

Make sure everyone has a simple visual of the session objective to focus on during the meeting. Any visual notes you make as you go along, e.g. if you write ideas on a flip chart, should not hide or overshadow this objective.

6: Don’t get stuck

It will be tempting for you and the group to take up one idea and start running through advantages and disadvantages. Don’t. Keep the ideas flowing and make sure everything is recorded. You can evaluate later.

7: Write everything down

Speaking of recording the session, someone should take detailed notes of the ideas being voiced – but that person perhaps shouldn’t be you. You need to drive and direct the discussion and taking notes may get in the way. If possible, ask someone external to the brainstorming session to come in and take this role.

8: Be a director

If the group’s ideas start to veer from the main objective, you will need to identify this and manage them back to the intended course. This needs to be done gently to avoid dampening their creativity and enthusiasm.

9: Stick to a time limit

Set a time limit for the brain storming session, and make sure you stick to it. This will have the added benefit of keeping your focus on-topic.

10: Plan where to go next

It’s important to plan how and when you will evaluate the ideas generated in the meeting. Without setting aside in advance a time to follow these up, you risk bias and just going with what first appeals to you.

Similarly, make sure the team know to what degree they will be involved after the session. They will have their own opinions about which ideas were good and bad – not involving them at all may get their backs up.

Invite feedback and further participation in a structured manner, e.g. set questions by email along the lines of “what did you feel was the best idea raised and why”.

Takeaway

As a final takeaway from the above, the main thing for you and the group to remember is that brainstorming is about the ideas produced by the group rather than saying that one individual made a better or worse point than others.

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One Comment

Tyler Murhpy says:

Brainstorming, or ‘mind mapping’ depending on how PC you want to be about it, is a great way to get results and ideas from staff, as, they see it as the opportunity to take a break from day to day work – especially if the brainstorming is conducted in a meeting room or away from the office.

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