Five Tips For Successful Brainstorming
Corporate brainstorming often fails because participants don’t enter into it in the proper spirit. There are two phases of the creative process: the imaginative phase and the practical phase.
The first thing to remember in phase one of a brainstorming session is this: all ideas are good. No matter how lame they may sound initially, write them down without comment.
You must establish an unthreatening environment in order to get your participants to loosen up and start throwing any ideas out. Consider these tips for better brainstorming:
First, identify the problem. It is often best to outline this ahead of time in written form so that everyone comes to the session with the problem defined.
Next, set the stage and the rules. Tell participants that the brainstorming session is for generating as many ideas as possible and that the person who comes up with the most ideas, not the best, will be rewarded. The only rule for brainstorming is this: no one criticizes anyone’s ideas. Positive thinking is the rule of the day.
Discuss the problem for a few minutes. Do you have it properly defined? Are you asking the right question? Here’s an example: about three hundred years ago there was a plague that first sent victims into a deathlike coma from which most never recovered. One man – an exception to the rule – was buried alive. The townspeople didn’t want this to happen again. One group had the costly idea to place food and water inside and an air hole from the casket to the surface. Another group’s idea was simple and low cost: place a 12-inch spike in the top of the casket so that when the lid closed there would be no question about the occupant’s status. Both answers were right, but the questions they asked were different. “What should we do if we bury someone alive?” and “How can we make sure everyone we bury is dead?”
Now, develop as many ideas as possible. Think quantity, not quality. You can sort out the wheat from the chaff later in the practical phase.
Finally, the session moderator is there to keep things moving. If things bog down, pull out these trusty questions. Why not? What if? What rules can we break? What assumptions can we drop? What if budget was not an issue? What if we looked at this backward from the desired result? Is there something we can eliminate in order to reach our result? Could we add something to the process?
Follow these tips and you’ll have better, more productive brainstorming sessions and creative thinking just might become a part of your corporate culture.