Brainstorming is often deemed an optimal method for stimulating new ideas in a free-flow manner. For decades people have been using brainstorming as a way to come up with creative solutions to problems. In group situations, brainstorming helps bring people together. It boosts the richness of ideas given that team members tap into the collective wisdom that derives from the experience and creativity of the group as a whole. In addition, this practice makes individuals feel valued because they have contributed to the solution. Even if one member gets stuck with an idea, another member can develop an idea in greater depth.
Before conducting a brainstorming session, it is important to take into consideration the following points:
- Do you need to use the brainstorming session at all? A brainstorming session should be used to generate ideas and identify solutions to problems, not for analysis or decision making.
- Is the time and money spent worth the brainstorming session? Or is it better to implement an already known solution and spend your precious time on more crucial probortunities?
- Decide how the session will be run and who the participants will be – Ideally a group brainstorming session should use round-shaped or U-shaped tables. There should also be a flipchart behind the members (roughly one per pair) and a lot of coloured pens, notepads, an overhead projector etc. Ideally, a group brainstorming session is made up of around 12 people.
- Prepare the participants and send out invites- Invite participants by post or email informing them about the time and the place as well as the duration of the session. Do also specify a certain deadline for them to reply to your invitation.
The next stages will outline how to actually run a successful brainstorming session:
Define the problem
At the beginning of the session, it is important to give a well-defined description of the problem and explain any criteria you must meet. Explain that the aim of the meeting is to generate as many ideas as they can and that individuals should not judge one anothers ideas in any case.
Provide participants with plenty of quiet time to jot down as many of their own ideas as possible. Then ask them to present them by making sure everyone has a fair opportunity to contribute.
Moderate the discussion
A group discussion is supposed to follow after all participants shared their idea. At this stage, new ideas should be created building on other peoples ideas. As the group moderator, you should encourage everyone to add their input, including introvert individuals. It is wise to allow one conversation at a time, and refocus the group if people become diverted.
Make sure you add some bits of fun while people are brainstorming just to make the procedure more pleasurable and welcome and inspire your team to come up with as many ideas as possible, no matter whether they are feasible or not.
Refrain from following one line of thinking for too long as the end result should be a melting pot of different ideas. Allow members to explore an idea alone, if they need to tune out a bit.
Naturally, by the end of your group brainstorming session you will have developed an entire bank of ideas. Although it could be daunting to classify these ideas in order to find the best ones, it is important to analyze them and organise them in such a way so as to identify common themes.
A well-managed brainstorming session is key to stimulating radical solutions to problems. Keep in mind that the best ideas come when all group members are given fair opportunities to provide input and feel complete freedom to express their ideas.
Image source: iStock