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Ever thought your brain was in a traffic jam? Well a good dose of brainstorming (if done the right way) can loosen up everything and get you flying all the way to your success story!
For many people brainstorming is not easy, we do get stuck with a lot of complications to every idea, and after doing considerable research myself, I realised that the key to getting your group to really think outside of the norm is to do these things:
- Nominate someone to be the Facilitator and Record Keeper
Make sure when the group gets together that someone is making sure everyone has a chance to speak and everyone has a chance to get their idea fully explained as well as written down.
- Make sure the group has no more than 10 people
The more in the group the less chance people will have of sharing their ideas. If you want everyone to be heard you have to make the group small enough so that they have the confidence and space to share.
- Choose an unusual comfortable place to sit and relax and talk
The location for the session is extremely important. If you conduct the meeting in the same room you conduct all your meetings, there could be old and negative memories still hanging around in the air, and people may be constrained. If you go somewhere comfortable and easily and relaxing, people will start saying whatever they want! Trust me, location is powerful.
- Set rules from the start:
- No one is to put forward a problem or a complication to anything that would inhibit the idea
- No one is to judge others ideas
- No one is to postpone their ideas until later – now is the time to say what you want to say
- No idea is to be considered too outrageous or too expensive
- Make sure the facilitator is encouraging quantity not quality of ideas
The rules of quantity really apply in this case as the more ideas to have the greater chance you will have of having some that will be real shining stars. Encourage quantity, and don’t worry about quality yet. As the brainstorming goes on, when things get in a rut, change course and come up with different alternatives.
- Encourage wild, outrageous and even expensive ideas
This is one of the hardest parts of the process, because this is the key to getting the creative juices going. So make sure any outrageous ideas are encouraged, the more encouragement there is, the more people will feel they can keep putting them forward.
- Make sure everyone knows that every idea has equal worth
Let everyone share something. The quiet person may feel too shy to speak because somewhere along the line they decided they weren’t creative. This is the day when all ideas will be considered and noted.
- Make sure the Record Keeper makes a good copy of the list of ideas
While the ideas are fresh in the minds of the team, you will find that after the brainstorming session is over, in each individual who attended the session, it is only the beginning. Many a time you will find a couple of days later people will come to the Facilitator and talk about some other expansion of the idea discussed. Encourage this and say these can be discussed in the follow up session.
- Arrange a follow up session with the same group to evaluate the list of ideas
It is critical to have a time gap between the brainstorming session and the follow up as it gives time for people to let their ideas simmer a little longer. When you follow up in another meeting, get the group to rank and assess each idea.
- Use the results of the brainstorming session to be the beginning of an action plan
When teams see their ideas put into action plans it encourages them to be even more creative and innovative both next time and when you are developing the action plan. If nothing comes from the ideas that were brainstormed, everyone in the team will feel it was a waste of time and not worth participating in next time.
So whether you are in a high level business meeting, a university seminar or a language centre group, your understanding of giving support to anyone’s ideas is critical to building confidence. Communication is key, whichever way it flows, it needs to be encouraging and fair.
- 8 brainstorming practices
- How to run a good brainstorming session
- 6 great ways to ruin a brainstorm
- Understanding the group size effect