People always come out after a brainstorming session either ready to conquer the world or lost at sea. The question is how can a leader continue to run an effective brainstorming session and stimulate Creative Thinking in his organization?
One thing differentiates leading businesses from followers and that thing is their capacity to innovate and generate ideas in this harsh reality of the modern and fast-moving society. At the consulting firm IDEO based in the Silicon Valley, known for the Apple mouse, idea-generation exercises are a daily routine. Brainstorming sessions are “practically religion” says David Kelley, the founder.
The main goal of a brainstorming session should be to generate a maximum of ideas in a limited period of time. An effective session should last 30 minutes with 3 to 10 participants; and cookies are always a plus! What really matters is not the brainstorming itself but the outcome. What good is it to find 50 great ideas if they go absolutely nowhere? The answer is pretty simple: useless.
Here are a few elements to take into consideration when organizing a brainstorming session in your business.
- Stay focused: state the issue in order to find the best fitting ideas and to make sure it is understood by each participant. Write it down on a whiteboard or an easel. This visual support must be the focal point of the meeting. The best topic statement focuses on a specific customer need rather than on some organizational goal.
- Establish playful rules: IDEO’s main brainstorming rules are “No judging” and “One conversation at a time”. The importance is the quantity of ideas and not the quality. The evaluation of each idea must come after the session, with the top management.
- Assign a group leader: to keep the ideas as free flowing as possible. The group leader is a stimulator of creative ideas, encouraging each person to speak up. The real keys to a successful brainstorming session are positive emotions, wild ideas, laughter and absolutely no criticism. The leader needs to ensure that no one says anything that throws water on the ideas of anyone else.
- Number your ideas: this point may seem contrary to the principles of Creative Thinking but doing so establishes goals to motivate participants. You can say at the beginning of the session, ‘Let’s try to get to 50 ideas”, to set the tone for the rest of the session.
- Get physical: brainstorming sessions are the perfect occasions to get creative and energetic. Some may bring competitors’ products or objects relating to the issue such as blocks or foam to find solutions. Use Post-it notes and colors. The crazier the better!
The outcomes from brainstorming sessions should be a rapid flow of ideas; there should never be a moment of silence in the room, and flexibility; where a group approaches a same issue from different viewpoints.
Give us your opinion on what makes an excellent brainstorming session!