To the casual observer, brainstorming is a free-for-all of ideas and suggestions with the noble purpose of finding a nugget of gold among the rubbish. However, while this is certainly one way of looking at it, effective brainstorming in fact requires an element of planning and discipline if the best results are to be achieved. Like a game, this playful and creative ideas-generating technique benefits from defined rules and parameters within which the participants can express themselves freely.
First of all, consider the team: the idea is to have a broad mix of different thinkers, to stimulate some exciting creative chemistry. But overdo this broadness by inviting more than ten participants, or employees from different management levels who may be inhibited in front of each other, and the session might not be so productive. Think carefully about the venue, too – choose a space that is not associated with regular (dull) meetings, and which will put your team in a fresh mindset.
Once you have your dream team, let them know what you want from them and try to set the appropriate tone. This process can begin before the session itself, by sending articles and other thought-provoking materials to the group. Remind them throughout that there are no bad ideas and that you are there to collaborate: each idea can be built upon by the rest of the group. Get those ideas expressed first and foremost, and only then take time to judge them against a pre-defined set of criteria, according to the aims of the session.
The most effective brainstorming sessions tend to have a well-defined structure: begin with outlandish ideas to loosen everyone up, give them some time alone to list some ideas to share, then develop and shortlist the best ones. If you begin with a clear goal, and measure your progress at each stage against this objective, everything is in place for a fruitful session. For more ideas on how to fine-tune your brainstorming session, check out this useful new infographic – then get those ideas flowing.
If you’ve got more tips, especially around how we can improve brainstorming, we’d love to hear them in the comments section below.