Brainstorming has often been viewed with skepticism, primarily due to its tendency to produce vague and incomplete ideas. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Our guide is designed to help you conduct brainstorming sessions that yield creative and valuable outcomes. We’ve incorporated tried-and-true strategies and tips that will ensure your brainstorming efforts are fruitful.
Is a Brainstorming Session Necessary?
Group ideation can be incredibly beneficial – it encourages participation, introduces fresh viewpoints and fosters an environment where team members feel comfortable voicing their thoughts. These advantages significantly boost aspects like team spirit, employee involvement, and productivity.
However, if idea exchanges can occur via Slack or email threads without any hitches then perhaps there’s no need for scheduling a Zoom or an in-person meeting just yet. A successful brainstorming session demands time investment as well as meticulous planning. Everyone values their time. That’s why disrupting colleagues’ workflow for what might end up being a brief discussion isn’t ideal.
If you’re facing an extensive project requiring diverse inputs and expertise levels then conducting a brainstorming session is absolutely necessary. As we’ll explore further on in this guide, well-planned brainstorm sessions can yield significant returns.
What does Ideation Mean?
The term ‘ideation‘ may pop up frequently when discussing brainstorming but don’t let it confuse you – it’s simply another word for generating ideas while ‘brainstorming’ falls under its umbrella term category. Regardless of which term is used they both fundamentally focus on creating new concepts during the creative process.
Getting Ready for a Productive Brainstorming Session
Choosing the right participants is crucial to a successful brainstorming session. You want to ensure you’re not wasting anyone’s time and that you get valuable results. Don’t limit your selection to just those in your immediate team. Consider inviting people from other departments or teams who can bring fresh insights, expertise, and experiences. This will help generate a wider range of practical and diverse ideas. Keep the group small though – between 3-6 members should be enough for everyone to contribute.
Establish Clear Goals
Start with defining the problem at hand clearly so everyone understands what needs solving. Share these objectives before starting so everyone knows what they’re working towards, saving precious time during the actual session itself. This is also an excellent chance to set any limitations such as budget or timeline constraints that could affect idea generation.
Create a Structured Plan
A brainstorming session shouldn’t be chaotic. It needs structure. Having an agenda ensures no one wastes time on underdeveloped ideas or vague strategies.
If there are several topics up for discussion, prioritize them based on importance and tackle them when everyone’s still energized and motivated. Also allocate specific timeslots for any brainstorming techniques you plan on using.
Encourage Pre-session Idea Generation
Starting from scratch during a brainstorming meeting can be tough which is why it helps if participants come prepared with some initial thoughts. When sending out invites, include details about what you hope to achieve along with any relevant notes or restrictions, asking each person to prepare 3-5 preliminary ideas. This approach not only makes sessions more productive but also boosts participant confidence encouraging them to share their thoughts freely.
Encourage Anonymous Ideas Before the Meeting
To ease worries about sharing thoughts in a group, consider asking for anonymous ideas that can be openly and fairly discussed at the beginning of the meeting. This approach works well with groups made up of people who don’t usually collaborate, ensuring a productive start to your session.
Assuming you’ve prepared adequately, aim for brainstorming sessions to last between 20-30 minutes. This timeframe allows enough room for idea generation without losing focus or going off-topic.
To stick to this time limit, you might need to set some ground rules. Request participants not use laptops or other devices as they can distract from the task at hand and try to keep unrelated chatter to a minimum.
While it may seem odd to limit brainstorming time when trying to generate ideas, having an end time can help attendees concentrate and perform better under pressure.
Don't Hesitate To Reject Unworkable Ideas
If you feel like things are veering off course during your session, guide it back on track by addressing impractical suggestions. While everyone should feel free to voice out-of-the-box ideas, there may be times where intervention is necessary if discussions deviate too far from the session’s objectives.
Appoint a Session Leader
A senior team member should take on the role of session leader, which could be you or another person involved in the project. The leader’s responsibility is to keep the meeting focused and ensure all agenda items are covered.
Designate a Note-Taker
Choose someone to document all ideas shared during the brainstorming session. While note-taking is often part of some brainstorming methods, having one person dedicated to this task ensures no valuable thoughts get lost. Consider writing down the meeting minutes for future reference.
Having a specific note-taker also helps keep everyone engaged in discussion rather than being preoccupied with their own notes.
Preparation Techniques and Idea Generation
We’ve found ‘brainwriting’ as an extremely effective way for group brainstorming. In this method, each team member writes down an idea then passes it along for others to expand upon it with their own thoughts and solutions until it evolves into a viable project concept.
At the end of your meeting, you’ll have several well-developed ideas that can be further discussed, refined and prioritized. What makes brainwriting so beneficial is its blend of individual thought process with collective collaboration while providing an opportunity for feedback on ideas that some might have been hesitant to share initially.
The grid generator method is a collaborative brainstorming technique where team members fill up a grid with their ideas, then combine them to create comprehensive solutions. Start by creating a grid that matches the number of people in your team for both rows and columns. Pass it around so everyone can contribute an idea.
Once the grid is filled, mix and match ideas from different rows and columns to develop them further. This approach works well if you have a large group or aim to generate multiple ideas.
The bubbles technique resembles mind mapping and works well for individual or group brainstorming sessions. Begin by drawing nine circles on paper, placing the problem or theme in the center circle. Fill out the remaining eight circles with team-generated ideas, then pick out the most promising one.
Repeat this process using your chosen idea as the new center point of another set of nine circles. Continue adding related thoughts into other circles; keep repeating until you’ve fully explored all aspects of your central idea.
After generating numerous ideas during brainstorming, it’s crucial to sift through them and identify those viable beyond just the ideation stage.
One effective way is through an “idea face-off.” Evaluate each concept’s pros and cons before comparing them against each other – eliminating those that don’t hold up under scrutiny. This democratic approach helps weed out any impractical suggestions while retaining only feasible ones.