There can be no replacement for a group of people getting together and thrashing about ideas and suggestions to solve a problem.
Brainstorming was a phrase first coined by advertising executive Alex Faickney Osborn in his book Applied Imagination, published in the 1930s. Since then, it has become enshrined in the English language as a term used to describe collaboratively generating ideas.
To get the most out of a brainstorming session, it needs to be approached with a degree of control and organization. Otherwise, you’ll just end up going round and round in circles and never actually get to any conclusion or solution.
Here’s out step by step guide to running a great brainstorming session.
1. Make Sure the Environment is Conducive
When faced with a challenging few hours outside of your comfort zone, it is very easy to allow yourself to become distracted by any degree of discomfort in your environment. So make sure that you set up your brainstorming venue to run as smoothly and as comfortably as possible. Seating, temperatures, comfort breaks, refreshments – all need to be conducive to powering brain power towards a solution.
2. Give Yourself Time and Space
Those participating in the brainstorming session need to have some time and space beyond the usual workday pressures to focus on the issues being discussed, and not get distracted by external demands, stress and pressure. You need to create that time and space for them in return for their full attention and concentration.
3. Set Some Ground Rules About Speaking and Interrupting
Everybody has a time and space to voice their thoughts and opinions. Constant interruptions should be discouraged. At the same time, if some people are dominating the conversation and not allowing others space to speak, then they should be muted. If someone is being noticeably quiet, it may simply be that they are more shy than the other participants, rather than not having any good ideas. Implement a balanced structure to the conversations.
4. Set Goals and Destinations
Have a destination in mind, then work back from there to create an effective road map which achievable stop off points on the way. Schedule them into a flexible timetable, and endeavour to follow the route in as disciplined and focused a way as possible. Have techniques in your pocket designed to overcome roadblocks, obstructions and brain freeze.
5. Write Down the Better Ideas
And the seemingly not so good ones too – sometimes its these ones that will rise to the surface unexpectedly when all seems to be lost! Install large landscape white boards around the room with a plentiful supply of different coloured marker pens, and track the discussions as the progress. As ideas develop and evolve, and then go completely off track, sometimes it’s useful to follow the trail back to the evolution of an idea to know where it may have gone wrong.
6. Keep Focused and on Topic
Keep distractions to a minimum and made sure you build in plenty of comfort breaks. But do brief participants prior to the brainstorming session starting that they will be expected to give their all to the task in the pursuit of the right solution. Half measures cannot be tolerated, as this wastes everyone’s time in the long run.
7. Don’t Lose Heart
If you get to the end of your scheduled brainstorming time and have not yet reached any conclusion, then don’t feel disheartened. Sometimes you need to take a break away from the intensity to let potential ideas free float and settle in more unexpected areas.