Seven Simple Ways to Brainstorm Better
- Get a facilitator, preferably an outsider. An insider might be inclined to champion one particular idea and hamper the free flow of ideas. Capable facilitators are good at managing group dynamics, sorting ideas, assisting in questioning ideas, giving all the participants a chance to voice inputs, and disciplining the group where necessary.
- Do background research and make sure all participants are prepared. Make sure everybody understands the theme of the discussions and the objectives of brainstorming. Circulate background data, papers, or any reading material that the facilitator and participants would find useful.
- Discourage negative comments and shooting down of ideas. Bad ideas might lead to good ones. Discourage rash and unsubstantiated judgment of ideas. Encourage cross-fertilization of ideas. By building on each other’s ideas, your participants can extend ideas for depth and breadth of impact.
- Get all the participants to contribute. In group settings there’s always a possibility that all the participants might not contribute. Depending on group dynamics, some participants might dominate the conversations. Do not go around the table or single out people to make them contribute. A good facilitator will understand why each participant is selected and what expertise he/she brings to the table.
- Keep records of all ideas using some visual scheme (e.g. mind mapping,) or an enumerated list. Record as you go. Organize ideas in logical groupings. Whiteboards, flip charts, large walls to stick Post It notes are helpful. If necessary, allow people to write down their ideas and then group them with others or connect them to develop an emerging overall direction. Disapprove of any participant taking notes individually. Recording of all ideas will give the participants the opportunity to enhance others’ ideas.
- Don’t ignore the obvious. The most effective solutions emerge from a extending an obvious solution.
- Brainstorming is inadequate if the ideas do not lead to any action. Conclude the brainstorming session with a list of next actions. Assign responsibilities and gain consensus on next action.