Are You Making the Most of Your Brainstorming Sessions?
In the movies, company brainstorming sessions generally consist of suits shouting out ideas at random until someone comes up with the perfect plan. In reality, brainstorming in this fashion seldom leads to sudden, flawless inspiration.
What is the best brainstorming method? One might argue that the aforementioned group problem solving proves most effective, but this method has its drawbacks. Peer pressure and shyness can keep intelligent employees from speaking up. Negative feedback and tension can cause a dysfunctional work environment. The influence of others can stifle creativity and cause novel ideas to be suppressed.
These issues can be avoided in several ways.
Before the group meeting, require each employee to produce a set number of ideas to bring to the table. The obligation of participation creates an open environment in which introverted individuals can share their ideas without feeling too bold. Not only will this engage more employees, but it will also inspire unique ideas that are not influenced by the thoughts and opinions of others.
Use an online method of thought compilation. It is much easier to write an idea down in a shared Google document without the pressures of a round table discussion: fear of rejection, time constraint, over-talkative employees, etc.
Revise your approach and rephrase the question at hand. By thinking of the issue in new ways, you force yourself to be creative and think of the problem in a new light. Try to relate your business questions to practical issues in your own life. Spark new solutions by taking a tangent. Don’t limit yourself to narrow-mindedness; think big picture.
Ask for help. It is more than likely that other companies have faced the same problems and have good advice to offer. You could decide to take an entirely different approach or they could inspire you to make the same decisions they made. Either way, you get a new perspective.
Focus your energy. Brainstorming on too many issues at once will confuse you and your coworkers. It is much more efficient to solve one problem at a time so that you remember the details of the issue and don’t mix up the specifics of one discussion with another.
Stay open-minded. Don’t become so committed to an idea that you are unwilling to listen to the thoughts of others. You could miss out on some great ideas that could help not only with the issue at hand, but also with future problems.
Critique before you speak. Review each idea on your own and take notes before sharing with the group. This sidesteps emotional criticism and leaves room for constructive, well thought-out analysis.
Come together only after you have had time to review everyone’s ideas separately and rationally. This will save valuable time during your meeting and invoke more stimulating and productive discussion. Irrational fights are less likely to break out and the group will feel more unified, as they all have an idea out on the table. If everyone is part of the process, everyone will be more likely to respect the process.
Implement these techniques and you will be sure to have a fruitful and successful meeting every time.
For some more brainstorming tools and techniques, visit http://www.mindtools.com/brainstm.html
Got any great tips that help your company brainstorm effectively? Leave us a comment below telling us what works for you.