Need fresh ideas in a hurry? Group discussions and brainstorming sessions have been used for decades as a method of creative problem-solving – but that doesn’t mean that you have to stay stuck in a brainstorming rut. Use some smart guidelines to make sure that your session stays stimulating and generates great ideas, rather than ending up as just another meeting.
Manage and moderate
Even though brainstorming sessions are about free thinking, somebody should be nominated to guide the flow of the session and keep everyone on track. This person should be someone with good social and negotiating skills. Their role is to facilitate and mediate, to break the ice and make people feel comfortable with sharing their ideas. They should make sure that people don’t feel criticised or become defensive about their ideas, prevent too much off-topic talk and enforce time limits to ensure a productive session.
Encourage out-of-the-box thinking
People may self-censor or feel too self-conscious to give ideas. This tendency to play it safe kills the creative process. When running a brainstorm session, try and create an environment that encourages people to voice ideas – even unusual ones – without being made to feel silly.
There are four general rules that can help:
1) go for quantity of ideas
2) withhold criticism
3) welcome wild ideas
4) combine and improve ideas.
View the problem with fresh eyes
Seeking an outside perspective can also assist if a team are unable to find a solution to a problem. This will provide a different view on a problem, creating questions or answers from a different angle that may not have occurred to those close to the problem at hand. This may also highlight an answer which may have been painfully obvious but initially overlooked.
Allow time for follow up and fine-tuning
Reduce pressure on brainstorming participants by saying up front that the first meeting is for rough ideas. Then schedule a follow-up session. This provides an “incubation period” for ideas before the second session where successful ideas will be identified, explored and refined.
If you need to bring together people from locations across the country, turn to technology. Electronic brainstorming allows for fast collaboration by enabling people in separate locations to brainstorm together using commonly available technologies such as email, video conferencing and interactive websites. Technology can also provide exciting tools to stimulate creativity and allow ideas to flow. An interactive whiteboard permits numerous people to draw and write directly on the touchscreen at the same time. It can run software such as the MS Office suite or brainstorming apps, and can connect to the internet so that ideas can be explored or researched on the spot. It can also save files from the board to a storage device, connect to tablets and smartphones and connect to a multifunction printer for scanning to and printing from the board. It’s a neat tool that can take any brainstorming session to the next level.