Ideation Nation: 5 Ways to Rethink Team Brainstorming
We have all been there. The outset of a new initiative and without a clue of how to kick off process successfully with the right creative juices flowing while also fostering team cohesion. The standard default is a brainstorming session. Insert eye-roll.
Traditional brainstorming can lead to groupthink and conformity. Over the years, I have heard employees express apprehension around participating in team brainstorming. The feedback ranged from being shy, not having the time and even feeling that the same people will run the show, thus determine the outcome.
No matter what idea manufacturing technique you employ, priming the environment for a richness in psychological safety is needed to reach your desired outcome. Google considers this to be a vital element in a strong team.
So how do you begin to adopt new behaviors that build trust and yield big idea returns?
Below are 5 alternatives to a traditional brainstorming session that do exactly that:
- The Hat trick– Assign pre-work before a meeting where participants are encouraged to cultivate ideas/solutions for a task or a problem. They are then submitted to the meeting facilitator. All ideas are anonymous and get placed into a hat. The team then discusses each idea unaware of who submitted it. This helps protect against the unconscious or conscious biases that can arise in a workplace.
- Gamification – This turns the creative process into a game. One rule, no judgement. Prizes are given to help infuse fun into the process. Awards can be provided for exceeding volume thresholds, most wacky idea and other creative milestones. This fast-paced session is bound to build an idea pipeline.
- Eye Candy – Work through the problem using only visuals. In sessions I have planned in the past, we provided teams with stock photos, glue and bristol board. The goal is for each participant to create the potential solution in a visual format. This works great for marketing, branding and web design problems, as well as amazing mood boards.
- Intrapreneurship – Set the stage in advance of the session that all participants will be expected to act as business owners. The entrepreneurial mindset breeds different thinking and liberates one from typical silos in which we find ourselves. Participants will be encouraged to enter into domains different from their core job to expand their thinking.
- Wall paper– Arm each participant with a pad of sticky notes. Everyone has 5 minutes to think independently about a challenge…no peeking! Then post those notes around the room. Themes will emerge and a gem can be found.
Ideation is a process that requires no judgement, unwavering trust and encouragement to get you to the finish line with something innovative and meaningful. In the famous words of Bob Dylan “don’t criticize what you can’t understand“. The best organizations make this very characteristic of open-mindedness a core value and part of the employee experience each and every day.
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