Four Strategies for Effective Brainstorms

We all engage in some level of brainstorming in our day to day lives whether we realize it not. 

What would be the perfect birthday gift? Where should my next vacation be? What should I do this weekend? And while these are seemingly mundane questions we ask ourselves, they are all met with the objective of coming up with a creative response.

When it comes to brainstorming at work, it can often be a love-hate relationship. The pressure of coming up with a great idea in a group setting can be stifling. And the fear of saying something “stupid” can inhibit your creativity.  That said, when structured correctly brainstorms are still a highly effective tool in ideating creative solutions. They allow for different perspectives on the same topic to converge and inspire. Moreso, they encourage the need for critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration which when combined, is a powerful tool. Here are four guidelines to keep in mind for your next brainstorm session:

Provide a stimulating environment

Where a brainstorm takes place has a significant impact on the quality of the session. As the process can take some time, it should be a clean, comfortable and distraction-free space that people can settle into. Nothing is worse than being uncomfortable during any type of meeting. It leads to fidgeting which can make you and others around anxious to get out.

A stimulating environment is also be created by encouraging people to cultivate problem-solving skills. Encourage them to think out of the box. Use collective brainpower to solve problems. Play off of each others ideas. Fostering a sense of open collaboration and dialogue is where brainstorms can flourish.

You as a leader need to take responsibility for creating the appropriate environment. Once you get the ball rolling, others will join in and help make things happen.

Assign a Goal

Brainstorming is the process of solving a problem. During a session when ideas are getting throw out there, It is easy to get distracted and sway away from the actual problem at hand. To ensure that it doesn’t happen, make sure that you set a clear goal that is related to your project. Always start with a reminder what you are trying to achieve and stick to it throughout the brainstorming session.

You should also ensure that you pick a goal that matters. Not every problem requires brainstorming, collective thinking or creative problem-solving. That’s why, it is always a good idea to have a specific, attainable, measurable and relevant goal.

Have a moderator and follow a time-limit

The end goal of a brainstorm is to have a productive session where ideas flow naturally. However, it’s easy to get distracted and move into tangents as people become more engaged in a session. A moderator will help drive the flow of ideas and ensure that it doesn’t go off track – leading the conversation towards the objective. They’ll also be looked on to help encourage the team and ask challenging questions to focus the session and draw creativity out.

Another key aspect a moderator keeps track of is the time assigned to the brainstorm. A time limit should be decided upon and set prior to the meeting, to ensure the best results. The longer the brainstorming session, the more taxing it is for the members. The time that needs to set depends on the problem that needs to be solved and also the capacity of the team members. If the project is large, it might be a better idea to conduct multiple session at smaller intervals.

Encourage “crazy” ideas

Brainstorming is different from systematic problem solving and lends itself to ideas that are more out of the box. Fun, silly, crazy ideas should be welcomed and cultivated. They not only illustrate a different perspective to the same problem but they can also serve as starting points for ideas that may be more realistic. By eliminating judgment within a brainstorm, you open the session up to a wider range of thinking.

As a leader, you might also want to use technology such as 3D, VR, AR to ensure proper simulation of out of the box ideas and brainstorming. Afterall, it is all about unlocking creative energy by using tools and techniques.

We went through four tips, tricks and strategies that can help you facilitate more effective brainstorms. While these have worked to get our sessions going, there is no hard and fast rule for a brainstorming session to succeed. As a leader be prepared to help drive the conversation and encourage your team. Be agile and remember it’s okay to stir things up if things are not going as you intended.

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