There are plenty of ways to make a company more profitable, but when it comes to producing innovative ideas, conducting a brainstorming session is still the best way to go.
Coined by advertising executive, Alex Osborn in the early 1950s, brainstorming is a creative technique that’s being used by thousands of companies all over the world. It helps improve sales, inspires teamwork and more importantly, drives innovation.
So, if your organisation is looking for that next big eureka moment, or if your team is struggling to come up with new concepts, here are some brainstorming techniques to make your next ideas session a certified success.
1. Pencil It in the Calendar
At its simplest definition, a brainstorming session commonly refers to a small group of people who come together and exchange suggestions to find solutions or generate fresh ideas for the company. Brainstorming is used across all industries and departments – from marketing to sales, to advertising and human resources.
There are two common mistakes most companies and people make when facilitating a brainstorming session. The first is not announcing it ahead of time and the second (which is most often a result of the former) is not coming to the meeting prepared. When this happens, a lot of valuable time is wasted; managers are confused on what to do first while colleagues fumble with their phones as they scramble to search for ideas. Without any real structure, the whole activity turns into chaos.
To avoid wasting precious resources, make sure to set your session ahead of time so that everyone can participate and come to the meeting well-prepared.
2. Be Clear with Your Mission
For employees, nothing is more infuriating than receiving an invite to a brainstorming session that doesn’t have a clear agenda. Most companies face a multitude of problems every day and not all of them can be solved in a single session. So, for employees to collaborate on an effective solution, an employer should be able to clearly state which challenge they’re facing and trying to fix.
It’s therefore important to set what you want to achieve in the session very early on. Is it to rebrand the website? Create better content? Improve social media management? Whatever the goal is, you have to identify what you want to accomplish after every meeting by assigning specific tasks to the people involved.
For instance, if your goal is to rebrand a website then ask your creative team to bring at least 3 new looks for a design they want to create. If, on the other hand, it’s for content, assign the writers to come up with five topics. Setting an agenda helps to keep the discussion and activities focused and effective, that way, no one’s time or effort is wasted.
3. Set the Tone
Even when you have strict goals, it’s important to keep the tone of your meeting playful and non-judgmental. A structured session doesn’t always have to be stiff and serious, more so if the objective is to generate ideas.
A team is always composed of different personalities, some are loud and confident while others are shy and timid. Hence, a facilitator should make sure that he or she creates a safe but fun environment where everyone will feel encouraged to contribute. For example, there are some words which, although well-meaning, can discourage others from participating. And you wouldn’t want to discourage your coworkers to get involved and be enthusiastic.
Apart from coming up with more innovative ideas, brainstorming sessions are meant to strengthen ties and encourage better communication among team members. To do that, it’s important to set every meeting with the right tone; one that will allow for both mistakes and light-bulb moments to happen. After all, great concepts weren’t always born out of perfect scenarios, if anything, most of them began as one big mess.
4. Use the White Board
While more and more people use gadgets in today’s meetings when it comes to brainstorming and thinking as a team, the whiteboard still does a better job than most iPads and surface laptops combined. There’s something about the visceral act of writing that makes ideas feel more real and memorable. And that’s not just sentiment talking. Studies show that writing by hand enhances memory retention which leads to better understanding of thoughts.
Noting your ideas is also a great way of visualizing what you’ve created. It’s a more efficient way of staying on track with everyone’s contributions and how each idea integrates into the overall goal. It’s also non-intimidating and something that everyone can use if they want to participate more actively in the session.
The whiteboard is literally a blank slate that every team member can use as a springboard for ideas. Its efficiency lies in its simple and non-intimidating design, which makes it an effective tool for the workplace.
5. Know That There Are No Wrong Ideas
If you follow steps one to four, then it’s very likely that you’ll get tons of ideas during your brainstorming session. However, not all of them will be great but that’s a good thing.
At the beginning of every brainstorming, you should always strive for quantity instead of quality. Dismissing judgment and analysis will allow for more unconventional and radical ideas to come through. Most ideas will range from the mundane to the outrageous, and only a chosen few will emerge to the top. It’s a matter of filtering through the muck of creative thoughts until you find the best one that fits. And when it comes to finding a solution, having more options to choose from, is always better than none.
6. Always Empower Your Team
Once you’re able to filter your ideas, you’ll probably be left with a handful of other options that are still very good. When this happens, let the team vote on which points they think are the most effective.
The best way to do this is by asking them to write or put a dot next to the concept they like the most. Of course, you can also do this with a show of hands, but it won’t be nearly as empowering for the employees.
If they’re really shy, it might also be the only other time they get to interact with the team or write on the board. It might seem small, but not only does dot-voting make them feel like they’re asserting their choice, it also makes them feel like they belong which will motivate them to do even better in your next session.
7. Keep Some Ideas for Next Time
After a successful brainstorming session, you’ll be left with a few very good ideas. Rather than putting them in the bin, note them in your minutes and keep them for your next meeting. They might not be the best solutions for now but there’s a good chance you’ll be able to use them next time.
And if, on the other hand, you find that your initial idea isn’t working, you don’t have to go back to the drawing board and call another brainstorming session; seen as you have them all stored already.
By following these effective techniques, you can turn a brainstorming workshop into a real learning experience, bringing your team closer together and working more efficiently.
Do you have your own tried-and-tested techniques for brainstorming? Let us know in the comment section below.