You must use these 5 elements for better brainstorming…!

Sedate meetings are now passé. With time at a premium, it is imperative that justice be done to the minutes and hours spent at meeting by bringing in the right focus to the process of making and taking critical decisions.

Brainstorming is an effective method to squeeze your grey matter and extract seemingly bright and innovative ideas and concepts. However, even brainstorming needs some level of preparation to ensure that everybody present can contribute effectively to the outcome rather than just churning the gears and getting no traction.

Here are five essential ingredients that will contribute immensely to get those creative juices flowing and ensuring high levels of achievement with the meeting.

1. Subject Clarity

There has to be some clear-cut understanding of the subject that needs to be brainstormed about by the team. Unless all present are not on the same page, the session will end up being a huge waste of time since everyone at the table will be driving in their own directions as opposed to taking the common approach. Once clarity of goal is established, it will be relatively easier to look for the desired solutions to the issue.

2. Radical thinking — individually not collectively

A common error which defeats the very purpose of brainstorming is that the team around the table begins to think as one. At this juncture, it is not team work but individual thoughts and ideas that are required to move towards acceptable solutions. It is said that nearly 50% of those present in a brainstorming session simply rehash known facts and figures and present them as new. While this may be acceptable to an extent, it deflects from coming up with bold and reformative action. At times, a seemingly acceptable solution put up by someone stops the rest from thinking further on their individual objectives.

3. Shepherding

While the wider objective of brainstorming is to encourage radical and sometimes even wild thinking and concepts, it is necessary that the group leader has to do some shepherding and temper the discussions from going into uncontrolled orbit. This calls for some strong proactive action where the leader adopts the stepladder technique to have everyone present their thoughts and ideas individually and thus prod the quieter ones to contribute. Animated group action sometimes generates heat that could lead to unpleasantness with some of the participants taking it too personally. Shepherding here is an effective tool to lead the agitated individual on a separate cooling trajectory until normalcy is restored.

4. Outsider’s viewpoint

Many a times, the perfect solution can come out from the unlikeliest source. It is a good idea to bring in at least one individual who is not directly or even remotely connected to the work being discussed. Many years back while working at a well-known international airline, I had several opportunities to attend meetings not connected with my responsibilities but where, on occasions, I was able to view the sessions from a different standpoint and make some useful suggestions. The outsider’s viewpoint could bring in some remarkable insights to the group discussion and trigger likely solutions that may not have been apparent otherwise.

5. The Funnel approach

Brainstorming has to essentially include broad, wide-thinking and innovative approach to getting a solution to the issue being discussed. Begin by having ideas widespread and humongous, outlandish to downright ridiculous because that is what brainstorming is. Nothing should be treated with contempt or disdain. Let the creativity flow unchecked and get those minds churning. Keeping an eye on the time, the session should eventually have inputs from everyone and which should be narrowed down to say four or five plausible solutions. The final and decisive part of the brainstorming should be focused on intense and detailed scrutiny of the shortlisted solutions so as to agree upon selecting the one that is most acceptable and realistic.

In a nutshell, brainstorming can be a hugely productive exercise if handled and conducted sensibly and with clear objectives in mind. Else it could be a complete and total waste of valuable time that any organization or company can ill-afford. The above suggestions are perhaps amongst many others but are essential to generating quality results.