How do you keep everyone engaged while brainstorming?

Tania Cruz
May 23, 2016 · 4 min read
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During the ideation step of the design thinking process, brainstorming and coming up with creative ideas is key to innovation. Innovation happens through collaboration. And to achieve collaboration everyone should feel free to share their ideas. Get everyone engaged during the brainstorming session, and your teams will come up with the most creative ideas for innovation.

Before we start the brainstorming session, we should be aware of personality types and behaviors. According to the Disc personality test, there are four different behavioral traits: dominant, influencer, steadiness, and compliance. If we do not asses these behaviors from the beginning of the session, we could end up with dominant and influencers being the only ones speaking their minds. We need everyone ideas. We want diversity, we want participation, and we want collaboration during the session. To achieve this, we need to address biases, encourage diversity, and constructive feedback from the beginning of the process. We want people to feel comfortable and engaged.

Here are a few tips on getting everyone engaged during the brainstorming session:

Create a non-bias environment

An environment for brainstorming has to be non-bias for creative ideas to flow freely. People have to feel comfortable in expressing their ideas. If we do not create a comfortable environment for everyone to feel free to share their ideas, we are limiting creativity, and subsequently innovation. We need to eliminate judgments, biases, and any uncomfortable feelings.

Don’t judge good or bad ideas

Even though not all ideas are good and not all ideas are bad, sometimes what sounds like a good idea, could be the worst idea ever. Other times what sounds like a bad idea, could be the idea that brings the most innovation to a company. We should allow for what sounds like good or bad ideas to flow freely during the brainstorming session. We need crazy, simple, dangerous, off the beaten path, irrational, complex, and many other type of ideas. What became a $27 billion dollar business, FedEx, in the past was once considered a bad idea.

tania cruz - brainstorm - good and bad ideas-compressed
tania cruz - brainstorm - good and bad ideas-compressed

Create a diverse team

During the brainstorming session we need diversity. The quality and creative yield of ideas in any brainstorming session will only be as good as the people who make up the group. Diversity comes from different backgrounds, cultures, genders, age, talents, skills, knowledge, expertise and perspectives. A diverse team could exponentially increase your team’s ability to come up with a variety of ideas and point of view. Ideas are better when there is diversity. Diversity is the “secret sauce” in successful brainstorming session. Embrace the unexpected!

Allow the diversity of thoughts

There are people whose minds produce complex ideas, others are better at deconstructing complexity, and some at simplifying it. Let’s allow the diversity of thoughts to happen and the brainstorming session would become more engaging and interesting for all.

Encourage constructive feedback

The teams should feel free to receive and offer constructive feedback. During the brainstorming session it is completely normal to propose an idea without considering all the areas it might impact. People should feel free to go deeper into analyzing ideas, and to offer or receive constructive feedback. This is how great conversations and engagement develops. To develop the ideas further constructive feedback is needed. After all, brainstorming is a process to learn and exchange ideas.

The idea of brainstorming is to get as many ideas as possible and to then start connecting those ideas. When you start connecting them, you might come up with even more ideas. Try to start organizing the ideas into connected buckets. The wall holds everything you put on it, not your business. The brainstorming session is a time to break and fix things. Allow everyone to be themselves, and engage them to bring their ideas. Sometimes people come up with crazy ideas, or ideas that sound crazy today. Every idea during the process should be saved into buckets. Some ideas are good for today, others for the future, and others are just junk. The idea that sounds like junk today, could be the most innovative idea in 20, 10, or even 2 years from now.

Do you have more ideas on how to engage people while brainstorming?

Originally published at Tania Cruz: Design Strategist.

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