Brainstorming sessions can be great because they allow groups to approach a challenging problem or situation from different angles to generate a novel solution. They can also be huge wastes of time if they’re not led properly. Here are some basic Do’s and Don’t’s to consider when orchestrating your next brainstorming session:
- DO encourage all ideas, especially the wild ones: If you create an environment where people are afraid to speak up for fear of voicing a “dumb” idea, you could be missing out on some innovative suggestions. Who knows: if it goes well, two crazy ideas could combine to make a brilliant one.
- DO find a good environment to work in: Make sure that the place that you are brainstorming in isn’t in a crowded area with lots of sound pollution. This will ensure no one gets distracted. Also, make sure that you have enough space to write down all of your ideas, many businesses buy stick on whiteboard for their walls so they can write literally anywhere.
- DO establish rules: Ground rules like “no criticism” and “don’t interrupt those who are speaking,” can help your session be more productive if everyone understands the expectation up front. Another good rule? Participants must come prepared. In an interview with Forbes, Ralph Keeney emphasizes the importance of generating solutions individually before a group brainstorm; this way everyone has an understand of the problem and the end goal.
- DO promote quantity over quality: In a brainstorm, quantity usurps quality. If participants don’t have to be so focused on quality, they will feel more comfortable throwing out a large number of different ideas. The more the merrier.
- DON’T establish an environment of fear: A brainstorm isn’t a debate or a competition, so don’t make it into one. Nor should you reward or rank ideas (though this usually comes after a brainstorm), as it tends to make your quieter colleagues feel even more shut out than they normally might
- DON’T allow loudmouths to take over the conversation: If you’ve got people talking over one another, it may be time to revert back to middle school classroom rules and establish a “wait your turn” mandate. Startups are great places to get unconventional and creative juices flowing, but disorder won’t get you anywhere.
- DON’T anchor onto one solution: Two minutes in and you think you’ve got the perfect solution? While it may be tempting to end right then and there it’s safer to keep your options open, so make sure all your resources are exhausted before ending your session.
Photo Credit: Locus Research via Flickr