6 rules for better brainstorming

peopleIf you’re like our company used to be, any mention of ‘brainstorming’ is generally met with a collective, audible sigh. And why is that? Usually because many companies do it wrong.

The wrong/easy/lazy way is to put a group of people in a room and ask them to come up with ideas for something. And what happens? Generally, the most dominant personalities in the room overrun the session with their ideas, beating everyone into submission with their will and forcing them to accept their less-than-stellar, quasi-obvious solutions.

How do I know this?

I used to be one of them.

After several of our brainstorming sessions were going south, we decided to do something about it. Now we have some simple rules around our brainstorms that have really boosted productivity and efficiency at our agency. They’ve also created better ideas.

Rule #1Have a clear objective at the beginning of the session. If you don’t know what you want to find out or accomplish, your session will spiral out on a tangent quickly.

Rule #2Have engagement rules. Give your participants a framework of how you’d like them to brainstorm. They could be as simple as filling out Post-It notes, calling out ideas in turn or writing solutions down on one piece of paper. Regardless, if participants don’t have rules, dominant personalities will own the session.

Rule #3If it’s your meeting, be the moderator, not a participant. Your job is to inspire people, which is just as important as idea generation.

Rule #4No pessimism. As soon as people start to criticize ideas in a brainstorm, people shut off. Create a safe environment where everyone can speak freely. As the moderator your job is to encourage people to think wildly. Sometimes the right idea comes from an outlandish one.

Rule #5Set rigid time limits. People can do amazing things under pressure. If you give them all day, they’ll take it. Add a little time pressure and you’ll see your group really kick it into gear.

Rule #6Give your group feedback on the session. After all, everyone wants to know that their contribution was valued. It will also get them fired up for the next session.

For some great brainstorming exercises visit www.changeminds.org

Paul Williams also wrote a great article on brainstorming tips.


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