5 Ways to Transform Your Next Work Brainstorming Session into Something Really Great
By TRISOFT team
Many great businesses start off with one great idea, one spark of genius, one “eureka” moment that makes the entrepreneur want to reach for a piece of paper to jot down their million dollar idea. But how can we stimulate that illumination to happen?
Brainstorming is a wonderful way to jumpstart the creative process. Not everyone has the time to sit around and wait for inspiration to strike, therefore we must take steps toward turning it into reality.
The origins of brainstorming have at their center an advertising executive, Alex Osborn who, in the 1940s, was dissatisfied with his employees’ results and began experimenting with ways to improve them. He discovered this idea of putting minds together, by observing two general principles: come up with as many ideas as possible and don’t put down anyone’s opinions by categorizing them as bad or inadequate.
So what else can you do to make a brainstorming session even more efficient?
1. Take your sweet time
Brainstorming is generally defined as “the simultaneous oral generation of ideas”. But studies suggest that group interactions actually inhibit certain people and discourage the development of ideas. Think about it: you all get into a room and have a certain period of time to come up with your best concepts.
But what if nothing comes from it? Or what if there are so many insights that stopping the meeting after the expiration of its attributed time damages the project? Let the meeting continue until you notice that no more ideas are coming out — whether it’s a few minutes or a few hours. Remove the constraint of time and the process will flow more naturally.
Better yet, allow people time to think before the reunion. No one can just start producing value at the snap of a finger. Set aside a few hours or days for preliminary opinions, which can even be jotted down — brainwriting. Then, the purpose of the meeting will only be to exchange ideas and improve on them, instead of coming up with them on the spot.
2. Everyone should take the stage
In a group dynamic, there will always be individuals who dominate the conversation, although they may not necessarily have the best ideas. Extroverts tend to claim center stage and make everyone around retreat to the back of the room. This imbalance in character and value formation can prevent the best ideas from being taken into consideration or even heard. Brainstorming sessions are also restrictive because only one person care “take the floor” at a time and, while waiting for a colleague to express his viewpoint, your own flash of inspiration might pass.
Moreover, certain people might fear the judgment of others who occupy positions of power. They imagine that, although they are good employees and usually deliver great solutions, one bad idea will propel them to the bottom of the team. Make sure everyone understands that there are no good or bad notions, only bases on which you will eventually build and create great products.
3. Organize, organize, organize
Despite the fact that brainstorming is supposed to be spontaneous, there is no rule that says you cannot apply certain organization principles to it and maybe prepare it in a way. Break down the problem into parts, so that you may see the relations between them and tackle the matter from various standpoints. Maybe the entire subject won’t generate many opinions or concepts, but if you can start again with only one aspect or facet of it, ideas will flow more smoothly. A free sharing of ideas can quickly devolve into chaos, if there is no structure in place.
The SWOT method was invented at Stanford Research Institute and it stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. Categorizing certain elements into these categories may revive a stale discussion and generate new business ideas.
This analysis tool can be used either inside the group, during the brainstorming session, or individually, while preparing for the group meeting.
5. Role Playing
Apart from the fact that it’s a fun method of brainstorming and spicing up the meeting, it can help introverts feel more at ease and express their points of view in front of team leaders or managers. The rapid exchange of lines and unplanned unfolding of situations may lead to rapid idea generation and creative problem-solving.
Consider using the above suggestions in order to improve the quality of your team’s brainstorming sessions. Choose the one that best suits the dynamic of your group and keep in mind that, even if the flash of genius does strike, the real work only now begins. You will have to build on those concepts and find the best solution for every problem that the client or product presents you with. It sounds like simple criteria to follow, but the challenge is orchestrating brainstorming sessions in which they are consistently put into practice.
At TRISOFT, we encourage you to look at brainstorming sessions as multiple events that are part of a process, one which allows enough time for individual pondering and jotting down of ideas, the confrontation of these opinions in a group setting, giving each one the opportunity to express themselves in a free and fun manner, thus generating novel ideas and solving complex issues.