Are you kidding, not another intellectual powwow?
So, you assemble your team in one spot, buy them some brain food, and set them to work.
Now you're expecting your clever colleagues to generate the next big project idea or hatch an answer to a problem that's been plaguing your company for years.
- No one knows where to start;
- People seem too intimidated to propose an idea;
- Nothing tangible or meaningful seems to get done;
- Everyone is frustrated;
- Or, worse, you create a "committee camel" (An anemic, over-compromised solution of an idea, where everyone gets what they want but no one is actually happy.)
Though most leaders assume that meetings for brainstorming will just glide along naturally once everyone is in the same room together, the truth is that there is an art to getting the most from these "intellectual powwows."
And with some initial planning and the right tools, however, you'll be well on your way to continually fruitful meetings.
Make A Plan and Set Some Ground Rules
Contrary to what most people believe, structure stimulates creativity rather than hindering it. Before starting your brainstorming session, then, list some reasonable goals, make sure everyone knows their role, and ensure the group that mistakes are okay, and even very welcome.
In fact, it may help to start the meeting with a silly, high-energy warm-up exercise to get everyone's nerves out and prep the rest of the session for creative success. Dedicate ten minutes to just saying the first word, phrase, or idea that pops into everyone's heads, for example, or play a game like Catchprase or Pictionary to get everyone working and communicating together.
Make Sure You're Including the Right People
Especially if you plan to take some immediate action after your brainstorming confab, make sure the people with real authority are in the room, hashing out ideas with the rest of team. Without them, your members might feel like no one's taking their ideas seriously, and their drive to contribute to the session will likely sputter out. Intellectual diversity is also key to the session's success. Besides ensuring that you have a good balance between creative and practical types, you should also go out of your way to encourage lateral thinkers--that is, unconventional problem-solvers who regularly go out of their way to break with traditional work methods--to join in the brainstorming. Specifically challenge those members to play devil's advocate, question banal ideas, or come up with an ultra innovative way to approach the problem.
Record Your Ideas With the Right Tools
Writing down suggestions will help not only individual members feel validated, but also make the whole group feel like something tangible is happening. While traditional whiteboards or even flip charts for that matter are great, they're not always available, and buying them can be expensive. Wipebook dry erase flipcharts, or Wipecharts, on the other hand, are an amazingly portable tool made for offices or groups who want to get sh*t done, but still want to be eco-friendly at the same time.
There's nothing to throw away at the end of your focus group or meeting, making clean up easy--one or two swipes and you're ready for the next session. Plus, the stand-up design makes it great for visual thinkers, not to mention group work.
Apply Professional Brainstorming Techniques
Nominal Group Technique, a method that combines the freedom of individual work with the collaborative energy of group work, is an excellent way to get the greatest variety of ideas out there, without people feeling unduly criticized or unappreciated.
Or, when there are many factors at play in your decision-making process, you might consider making a decision-matrix table, a tool that will help everyone involved visualize all the elements you need to consider.
With these tips in mind, your brainstorming briefings are sure to be buzzing. Just remember the golden rule -- don't be afraid to make mistakes!