Brainstorming sessions are a great way to get creativity flowing and come up with new solutions to existing problems, whether it’s creating a more innovative social media presence or figuring out how to work around a new budget. In elementary school, teachers talked about brainstorming to help kids gather their often chaotic, meandering thoughts and channel them into a constructive, organized space. The same idea applies to brainstorming at your place of business.
Brainstorming meetings could hold the key to a new company strategy that sets you apart from the noise, but not many people know how to do it properly. Here are some tips to help you make a decision or solve a problem with an effective brainstorming session.
1. Keep it diverse
Smaller companies may not have much choice, but for larger companies, aim to create a diverse mix of people and personalities from various departments and disciplines. You’ll get a swath of differing ideas. Some you may agree with, while others not so much. Regardless, the grouping of ideas allows for growth and cross-pollination. Having too many like-minded people in the same room won’t be as productive as it could be—and groupthink can really spell disaster.
At the same time, try not to go overboard on your invite list. You should keep it between 6 and 12 people total. You can’t have too many chefs in the kitchen.
2. Capture the moment
None of the brainstorming will matter if no one records it. While everyone should write notes throughout the session, you want a large, visual presentation that allows everyone to see and keep track of the things you come up with. You can use a white board, a chalkboard, a wall of Post-Its, an audio recorder, a camera, or iPhone. Capture even the stuff that you won’t use as it could potentially spark a new, more useful idea down the line.
3. Have a specific purpose in mind
Giving a broad objective will only come up with a bunch of disparate, unrelated ideas, quickly turning a brainstorm session into a lot of yelling and a waste of time. You want to brainstorm ideas around a central topic, one problem at a time.
Choose one topic for the entirety of the meeting or choose a few objectives and spend about fifteen minutes tackling each one.
4. Set a time limit
You don’t want to spend all day coming up with ideas because that inevitably leads to tangents and distractions—which could lead to some great ideas—but there is a breaking point. Generally an hour to an hour and a half is enough time to avoid brain drain. When people start yawning and silences seem to get longer and longer, you should wrap things up and take a look back at what you came up with.
Come up with some conclusions and what steps to take next.
Do some solo brainstorming
Even after the group has broken up, do some individual brainstorming. You may come up with ideas that you can apply to your own part of the process or relay new ideas to the group as a whole.
Brainstorming is an often underappreciated strategy. If ever you feel your ideas running dry, don’t be afraid to partake in a quick brainstorm session.
brainstorming image by Wikimedia Commons
meeeting by Open Clip Art