Do you recall the 7 stages of writing we learned in high school? I don’t expect you remember these stages, I was just trying for a cool introduction. The first stage of brainstorming is important, and not just in writing.
It is impossible to work in any field without having at least one brainstorm. A lot depends on the outcome. I’m talking about how I brainstormed to create this article with my colleagues. What is the outcome? As paradoxical as it may sound, the brainstorm is itself.
Before I make sense to you, let me talk about a few techniques and methods that can help you facilitate productive brainstorming sessions.
Some people believe in spontaneous brainstorms, but I prefer to plan ahead. I suggest that you give the team a brief description of the topic for the brainstorm. Although I would love to provide a checklist, it varies for each topic. If it’s for a client tell the participants everything you know about him/her, their requirements, examples that (she) liked, and any other information that you think might be helpful. You might consider a market analysis, or other ideas that have already occurred to you, if you are looking for an idea for your company. Give people food for thought, and do it in advance.
#2 Ground Rules
Although I may sound like a kindergarten teacher, when things get heated, we can lose control and start interrupting each other. Facilitators have a responsibility to ensure that everyone listens to each other. Engaging everyone is the tricky part. Asking participants to share their ideas in the room might make introverts shyer. These introverts will not speak if you don’t do it. You will be able to save yourself with common sense and knowledge about your employees.
The ground rules are to stay on topic and listen to others. It’s up to you and how you work. You can create parking lots where you put stickers with your ideas, or you could place a whiteboard in one the hot spots in your office for people to write down their thoughts.
#3 Don’t Allow Gadgets
Distractions are the worst thing for brainstorming sessions. To record ideas, we don’t use a laptop. Instead, we use old-fashioned whiteboards, pen and paper. In case you need to search for or check something, you might have a device nearby. There are no exceptions to this rule.
#4 Split into 2 Groups
Another option is to hold 2 brainstorm sessions with different groups. One condition is that the first group does not tell the second about the ideas they have come up with. This is a great technique as it allows for more people to talk and facilitates communication. Existing ideas can sometimes block new ideas. It works, it’s possible!
Brainstorms can last hours without any results. Limiting the number of ideas or time you brainstorm is a way to combat ineffective brainstorming. It is also a good idea to number the ideas you write down. This gives you a sense that you are making progress, which is always motivating.
#6 Share your ideas with the participants
Brainstorms are a series. If you are fortunate and have a finalized idea by the end of the first session, you are done. If not, then share your ideas with the participants and ask them to keep them in mind. You never know when an idea worth $1,000,000 will strike your mind.
Although brainstorms sound exciting and fun, I can tell you that they can be a real pain if you put too much pressure on yourself and your team. These tips will help you manage brainstorms.
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