Almost all businesses will engage in brainstorming activities at some point. However, if the process isn’t managed correctly, it can quickly turn into a huge waste of time. Often, discussions can go off on tangents, circle the same ideas, or worse yet, they can lead to disagreements.
For brainstorming to be successful, it needs to be effective and efficient. As well as focused on achieving clear goals and objectives.
When we’re brainstorming ideas with clients, we like to follow these simple steps:
1. Identify Objectives
When identifying the objectives for a brainstorming session, it is always a good idea to think about the problems you are trying to solve. You can do this by beginning with your wider business objectives and identifying priorities within this.
Are there any business constraints that you need to address? Make a note of these and list them by importance, your top priority should be the focus of the brainstorming session. Once you have identified your focus, you should begin the brainstorming session by stating the overview and goals of the brainstorming session.
Setting goals and objectives for your brainstorming sessions will help to create boundaries and keep the brainstorming session on track.
2. Set a time limit
Setting a time limit for your brainstorming sessions can be helpful because it makes everyone aware that the goals of the session need to be met within a certain timeframe. This will help to keep discussions on topic and encourage team members to maintain momentum.
How long your time frame needs to be will very much depend on the size and scope of the project. If you are working on a large project, it might be a good idea to split the brainstorming sessions by topic and spread them over several days. Or alternatively, you could split the team into groups to handle each topic in smaller teams.
3. Write Everything Down
When the ideas are flowing, it’s important to keep track of everything that’s said. You could do this by writing out post-it notes and spreading them out across a table or board. Or make use of a white board or flipchart in a meeting room.
Make sure that you take a note of all ideas, both good and bad. Because you never know, with a little thought, the bad ideas could potentially turn into great ideas.
When brainstorming, it can also be a good idea to make use of visual aids. Make sketches, create mood boards and get creative. You could even bring along items like building bricks, modelling clay, construction paper, etc., to aid the creative brainstorming process.
It helps to communicate ideas visually because this gives the people around you the opportunity to visualise ideas and to come up with new interpretations.
4. Be Open to the Ridiculous
Ever heard the saying that every idea is a good idea? Well, obviously this isn’t strictly true, but in order for brainstorming sessions to work, this should be the prevailing attitude. And although not every idea will be a brilliant idea, a bad idea could provide the stimulus for a great idea. This is why even the most ridiculous ideas should be encouraged, to keep the creative process going.
Being open to the ridiculous also helps to create a sense of ease within the brainstorming team. The worst thing that could happen, is for individuals to be reluctant to speak up, for fear of being ridiculed.
5. Avoid Group Think
Groupthink is the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group, resulting typically in unchallenged, poor-quality decision-making. It often occurs where a group of people conform, out of a desire for harmony. Individuals are reluctant to challenge ideas because they want to minimise conflict as much as possible.
Groupthink is disastrous in terms of brainstorming because it creates a barrier to creative thinking and honest communication, while also preventing critical evaluation of ideas. Usually, in these situations, there will be one influential leader of the group, leading the discussions. While the rest of the group nods on in agreement.
One way to minimise the impact of groupthink is to appoint a moderator to encourage critical evaluation, through positive reinforcement.
6. Get Specific
At the beginning of a brainstorming session, it is a good idea to take a scattergun approach to the ideas process. The idea is to create as many ideas as possible while exploring all avenues and possibilities.
Once you have gathered plenty of ideas and you feel like you have considered all eventualities. You then need to hone in on the best ideas from this process. Begin by eliminating the least relevant ideas until you have a shortlist of the very best.
You can then take your best ideas and begin exploring each of these in greater detail. You could do this by breaking into smaller groups, or by taking them one by one. This will help to identify the most viable suggestions from the session.
7. Share the Results
Great ideas are usually the result of a huge team effort – they are inspired, shaped and influenced by a number of groups and individuals. This is why it’s important for you to share the results of your brainstorming sessions outside the group.
This will provide an opportunity for the ideas to be developed and refined even further, until they become a fully formed innovation.
Would you like to participate in some brainstorming with some help from the professionals? Sign up for one of our Innovation Workshops and get 10% off! Call us or drop us an email with code BLOG10 in the subject line.