Enhance the Effectiveness of Your Brainstorming Sessions
Ideas have to start somewhere. And many of the best and most innovative ideas come from collective brainstorming sessions. Whether it’s the next best-selling product, a new marketing strategy, or innovative sales technique, the best ideas are usually born from collective creativity. But like any business meeting, brainstorming sessions require proper preparation, execution, and follow-up. To get the most out of your creative gatherings, follow these guidelines:
Gather the right mix
The right combination of people is the key to every successful brainstorming session. Having an eclectic mix of personalities, abilities, and expertise is essential when fostering creativity. You want to make sure all necessary departments are represented and the chemistry is right. And, don’t gather a collection of “yes” men and women. It will be a waste of time if there isn’t a bit of disagreement in the room.
Be careful, though, when inviting anyone farther up the office food chain. A lot of times, an intimidating authority figure can halt creativity if everyone feels the need to agree with whatever the boss likes. Even though you want an assorted blend of brainstormers, make sure to identify a common goal or vision for the meeting. Everyone involved should share the same end goal.
After you’ve got your team together, make sure to pick a meeting space that facilitates creativity and innovation. Stuffy conference rooms just won’t do when it comes to brainstorming. A bright, warm, and inviting space is ideal for your collective creativity. You’ll also want the room equipped with tools for sharing and visualizing your group’s ideas. Make sure to pick a space with a whiteboard or easel space so the meeting facilitator can capture the ideas bouncing around the room.
Bring on the Brainstorming
First and foremost, it’s time to leave criticism at the door. The goal of your brainstorming session should be to come up with as many ideas as possible, not critique them one by one. Slamming ideas with criticism will only hinder the creative process. Instead, set a goal of 50 to 60 ideas at the beginning of the meeting and keep working toward that goal. Write down everyone’s ideas as they come. Once you’ve collected a wealth of suggestions, then go back and critique them.
One other note: If an idea pops into your head that is so far “out there” that it can only be seen by the Hubble Telescope, SAY IT ANYWAY! As a long-time veteran of brainstorming sessions (hey, I work in Marketing!!) sometimes it is those far-out ideas that break mental barriers to creativity for others in the group. You can even give a bit of a laugh when you say your idea, but say it anyway. You never know what one goofy idea can lead to by the end of the brainstorming session.
To stoke the creative fires even further, tell your brainstorming team to forget about assumed constraints like money, time, or resources. Not all these unconstrained ideas will be possible once you factor back in the constraints that come along with any project, but it will serve to foster out-of-the-box thinking and innovation.
Now that you have a wealth of ideas, all you need to do is implement the best ones. This doesn’t mean the brainstorming process is finished. Actually, the brainstorming process should never end. The actual meeting is only part of the process. The most successful brainstormed ideas come from organizations that have ingrained brainstorming into their company culture.
Encouraging constant and continued brainstorming will result in the best ideas, which, in turn, will result in an innovative product or service from your organization.