Brainstorming is a creative technique helping to find a conclusion for a specific problem by gathering a list of spontaneous ideas. The term was popularized in Alex Osborn’s book Applied Imagination in 1953. Brainstorming is now widely used across the globe in all types of organizations.
Every process or technique has its downfalls and shortcomings. However it would be wrong to consider that everyone should work in confinement all the time instead of having the opportunity to listen to and to build on the ideas of others.
To improve the efficiency of this creative technique, and avoid wasting time or taking bad decisions, brainstorming sessions have to be managed the right way. The brainstorming success depends on a combination of factors that can be partially controlled.
Don’t allow criticism.
Encourage wild ideas.
Go for quantity.
Combine and/or improve on others’ ideas.
Stay focused on the topic.
Focus on one conversation at a time.
HOW TO MANAGE A BRAINSTORMING SESSION?
Define Goals & State the Problem in advance
Write down a brief description of the problem prior to the meeting and send it to the participants. Stay high level and don’t enter too much into details so that you don’t give any direction to the future brainstorming.
Gather participants from as wide a range of disciplines
Try to bring together a panel of people with a broad a range of experiences. This foster the idea generation process and bring up more diverse set of ideas and opinions to the table. Brainstorming’s should give the opportunity for people with very different backgrounds and with various expertise to meet and learn from each others.
A positive ambiance will always stimulate creativity. It’s hard to get anything out of a meeting when the participants are dragging their feet to get there. The reality is that meetings are often perceived to be boring because they’re repetitive or seen as unnecessary. Encourage an enthusiastic, uncritical attitude among brainstormers and encourage participation by all members of the team. Encourage them to have fun!
Ideate Individually in the beginning
Creative ideas emerging from brainstorming sessions come both from the synergies in the group and from the minds of each participant individually. Before you start an open discussion on the problem and to share ideas, it is important to give some time to generate ideas individually. This allows you to gather everyone’s opinions, even the ones from the shy participants.
If you had already defined the goals and the problem in advance (step 1), the participants could already have a list of ideas prepared before the meeting. Encourage them to write these down, and remind them not to exclude any ideas appearing to them as ridiculous or uncomplete.
Generating ideas individually will allow the participants from very different backgrounds to share their own understanding of the problem and of the solutions without being influenced by the group. During the meeting, give 10 to 20 minutes to the participants to write their ideas on sticky notes in form of a word or a sentence.
Have fun generating your next big idea and don’t forget to document everything. Use notepads, sticky pads, video, whiteboards and flowcharts to keep your sessions interesting and flowing.