How to have a good brainstorm session with your team?
There is an old adage that says, ‘two heads are better than one’. This continues to live on because there is a lot of truth in it. When two or more minds come together, higher productivity is achieved. This is why brainstorming is important to every organization in order to come up with numerous ideas on a topic.
How brainstorming was born
Brainstorming is a technique that has been around since 1942, designed to generate ideas for the solution of a problem. The term was coined by Alex Osborn of US advertising agency BBDO after he felt frustrated with his creative team’s output. He then initiated research and experiment to find ways on how he can tap the creativity of his team. In 1953, he released his book called ‘Applied Imagination’ which introduced brainstorming. The book emphasized that brainstorming with a group yields better results than individuals working alone. However, it also made clear that judgment should be deferred for effective idea-sharing to happen.
Additionally, Osborn suggested new rules when brainstorming, including:
- Not criticizing ideas – brainstorming should provide an open environment that welcomes all sorts of ideas. Judgments discourage participants from sharing what’s on their mind.
- Encouraging the production of a wide array of ideas – the more ideas are generated, the more possible solutions a group has. Therefore, there should be no limit to the number of ideas shared to the group.
- Motivating participants to suggest unconventional ideas – sometimes, even the most unconventional ideas can be brilliant ideas.
- Building upon each other’s ideas – when ideas are combined, the teams yield better results.
Brainstorming is usually composed of a group with a facilitator directing the flow of the activity. The success of brainstorming largely depends on the participants’ potential in sharing their thoughts and ideas in an environment that is free of judgment. Also, the setting is informal which encourages participants to engage more in the sharing. The method aims to define a complex or simple problem and generate various ideas that will either be accepted or rejected later on. During the process, participants share differing ideas which help stimulate the human mind and result in solving the problem.
Tips to have a good brainstorming session
Brainstorming has already been proven an excellent technique for generating ideas. However, without doing it the right way, it will remain useless. Here are some tips in order to have a good brainstorming session.
- Postpone judgment. This is the most important tip because judgments destroy a person’s confidence and willingness to share. Brainstorming is not the stage for judging ideas. At this point, there is no bad or good idea. Judgments should wait until the team has to start accepting or rejecting ideas.
- Individual brainstorming. Brainstorming sessions should start with individuals writing their ideas in private. This is helpful, especially for introvert members who feel uncomfortable letting out their ideas. This also prevents biases and judgments. The medium to be used for this part of the process can be anything that the members are comfortable with. They can use paper and pens, whiteboards, and other materials.
- Group brainstorming. After everyone writes down their ideas on paper, the group brainstorming should follow. At this point, it would be easier sharing ideas and everyone will have their own ideas ready to share.
- Encourage even the most ridiculous ideas. What may seem ridiculous at first can turn out viable later. So, groups should not limit ideas to only the serious ones but should also encourage outside-the-box kind of thinking.
- Encourage a fun environment. Work doesn’t have to be boring and neither does brainstorming. Groups should make the environment fun and informal. It is when people are relaxed and having fun that they are more open to sharing. According to Leigh Thompson who is a Management professor, groups that shared funny and embarrassing stories about themselves yielded 26% more ideas than groups that were more serious.
- Set a time limit. Whatever way a team brainstorms, the facilitator should set a time limit. This keeps the members from over-thinking their suggestions and end up filtering them. When they know they are under time pressure, they just write down whatever comes to mind without analyzing it.
- Follow the round-robin method. Groups can be creative when soliciting ideas from their members. For this method, the participants come together in a circle while their facilitator is in the middle. He then goes around the circle, asking each person to offer one idea, and records all the ideas. Facilitators should remember to refrain from making judgments or evaluating ideas at this point. That should be reserved for the main brainstorming part.
- Keep the discussion on track. Given that brainstorming sessions are encouraged to be fun, it can be easy to get side-tracked. Facilitators should know how to steer the discussion in the right direction for the best results. While it is okay to sometimes get derailed, groups should be quick to get back to the topic at hand.
- Distinguish the introverts from the extroverts. Every group has different participants. It is easy to generate ideas from extroverts but it is a different story with the introverts. Long before the start of the session, facilitators should already have an idea about who the introverts are. He should prepare ways on how to bring them to share their ideas. Introverts should not be left quiet because they might bring the best ideas.
- Be thankful. When the session ends, facilitators should make the effort to thank everyone. The process may be over but simple gratitude goes a long way. This will encourage the participants to continue supporting brainstorming sessions in the future. Also, facilitators should let the members know that even if their ideas were not chosen, their efforts contributed to the activity’s overall success.
Brainstorming has been proven effective for idea generation across all industries. Also, it is not only useful at work but also for studying, marketing, and content writing.