Brainstorming is a creative technique for generating ideas in a group setting. It relies on the power of collaborative thinking to produce innovative solutions. However, without structure and facilitation, brainstorming sessions can easily become unproductive. This guide offers strategies for planning and directing effective team brainstorming that tap into collective knowledge while avoiding common pitfalls.
Establishing Ground Rules
The facilitator should start by explaining the goals of the session and setting expectations. Basic brainstorming ground rules include postponing judgment, encouraging wild ideas, and building on others’ suggestions. Quantify the intended length of the session and any other constraints. Designate someone to document ideas and remind participants to avoid extended discussions.
With basic etiquette in place, participants can feel empowered to share creative concepts without fear of criticism. The facilitator should enforce ground rules if needed while being careful not to dampen free thinking. Setting expectations upfront lays the foundation for productive ideation.
Guiding the Discussion
Rather than leave the discussion open-ended, provide a specific prompt to focus thinking. For a product brainstorm, the prompt could be “How might we improve X for customers?” If participants stray too far into problem analysis or evaluation, redirect them to idea generation.
The tier rank template technique structures discussion by eliciting a list of unfiltered ideas before combining and refining them. Participants silently and independently record ideas over 5-10 minutes before sharing concepts one round at a time. The facilitator captures them visually (on a whiteboard for in-person sessions or via digital whiteboarding software).
After consolidating contributions, the team rates and ranks the compiled ideas to identify the strongest solutions. This avoids getting bogged down by analyzing concepts prematurely while still allowing collaborative refinement.
Sharing embryonic ideas can feel risky, especially for introverted participants. The facilitator should actively invite contributions from everyone, allowing time for thinkers to gather courage. Using prompts like “Let’s hear from someone who hasn’t shared yet” and addressing quiet participants directly can help overcome reluctance while keeping the discussion moving.
Consider breaking into smaller groups if some team members dominate the conversation. Splitting up temporarily can change group dynamics to amplify fresh perspectives. Reconvene after several minutes and have each subgroup share standout ideas. Listen for concepts that spark energy and enthusiasm across participants.
Meticulously record all contributions without filtering initially and organize them into coherent groupings before evaluation. Capture key details, acknowledge wildcards, and tidy up ambiguous ideas. This shows participants their thoughts matter while clarifying concepts with potential.
Photograph whiteboards or save snapshots of digital whiteboarding sessions to share later for reference and posterity. Participants often continue exchanging ideas afterward, so make the content accessible. Revisiting this repository when initiating future projects can uncover forgotten innovations and fuel further brainstorming.
While open, non-critical idea generation lays the foundation for impactful brainstorming, directing the flow of conversation, encouraging broad involvement, and meticulously capturing contributions ultimately transforms aimless discussion into targeted, collaborative creativity. Following these facilitation best practices unlocks innovation.