We have all had that dreaded email asking us to attend a ‘brainstorming session’ at work.
Your company might need to change direction or a new project is starting and management is asking everyone to come up with new ideas.
Sitting in a room trying to be creative? It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea however at the same time brainstorming meetings are incredibly useful.
They give everyone a chance to contribute to the development of a new idea and often prove to be a valuable resource for management to start planning for a new project.
The question we want to ask today is how do you brainstorm effectively?
Individually Identifying Solutions
This sounds like the antithesis of a brainstorming session. Isn’t a meeting called so everyone can bounce ideas off one another? Why ask people to come up with these ideas by themselves?
An effective way of making a brainstorming meeting successful is to ask your team to come to the meeting with suggestions in mind.
The reason is that when the first person offers a solution to a problem we tend to cling onto that solution instead of thinking for ourselves.
Ralph Keeney, an emeritus professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, calls this the ‘anchor’. We fixate on this one issue or solution instead of trying to problem solve on our own. In fact using the Stepladder technique can also help to avoid this from happening.
Round Robin Brainstorming
Choosing each individual person in clearly defined method to contribute an idea is a structured way to conduct a brainstorming meeting and is one of the most common methods that management use.
It involves going round everyone in the room one by one and asking them to contribute to the meeting without being interrupted.
While some people can feel that this is a daunting experience – after all, every person in the room is focused on you at the same time – it actually proves to be an effective method.
Not only does it avoid one person taking over the discussion but will allow everyone to contribute. If combined with our first tip – to ask members to come up with a few ideas in their own time – it can work really well to generate new ideas.
Rapid Brainstorming Sessions
So that meeting you think is going to last hours with everyone firing off whatever thought is in their head at that time could, believe it or not, actually be over in as little as 5 minutes.
An effective way to brainstorm is to make people think on their feet. This really depends on your team. You might want to have them think over things in more detail with our first tip and then apply it with a round robin format or you could give them a time limit to come up with new ideas.
First set out the basic details such as project cost and what you want it to achieve. Then ask them to come up with as many solutions in a specified time frame.
Sometimes the best ideas are those that are thought up on the spot. A good idea is to send a follow up email the next day to find out if anyone has anything else to contribute as fresh ideas can come after the meeting has finished.
Brainstorming can be difficult even for those of you who are creatively inclined or can think quickly on your feet.
One method won’t work for every team.
By judging how your team thinks and then applying these techniques you will have a much more productive and effective brainstorming session that will yield great ideas for your company going forward.