At Colossus Media Group, we believe that teamwork and collaboration yield productivity! That’s why our creative team hosts weekly brainstorming sessions. Each member of our team has valuable ideas that deserve to be heard, and we know that, in order to bring your business big results, we have to work together. Here are ten tips for productive brainstorming!
1. Set the Agenda
The first step to any brainstorm is determining what the issue at hand is. Once you’ve done this, you’ll want to create an agenda for the meeting that touches on each proposed topic or question. This is the perfect time to gather some preliminary notes on the subject of the meeting to be sent before the brainstorming session begins.
2. Send Out the Question Before You Start
Circulate the question or topic of the brainstorm before you start. Assigning this type of prep work could be as simple as asking your team to review some project-focused materials or presenting them with the problem at hand. By sending your question before the brainstorm begins (at least two business days in advance, please), you encourage introverts, who generate ideas best without others present, to participate. Most introverts process internally. If they have the opportunity to develop ideas on their own, they’ll be less likely to shut down and stop contributing. Additionally, sending out homework will keep your group from getting stuck on one idea that serves as the “anchor.” More independent ideas will come forth, which could yield better results in the long run.
3. Let People Know the Constraints
Of course, in sending out the question, you also must let the group know the constraints and parameters of the project. This is an easy way to keep things from getting completely derailed. Ask yourself what the group should know about the problem at hand. Then, compile any additional information you can think of to ensure that everyone is starting from the same page. This will keep you from explaining the material and prepare the group for what goals and resources they’ll have in execution.
4. Choose the Right Time
Don’t be tempted to schedule a brainstorm session at 4 pm on a Friday. Even if that’s a guaranteed time slot, odds are, your participants won’t be as willing and eager to contribute as you might like. Research shows that we are more creative during the early hours of the morning, so take advantage of this boost for the sake of productivity! And while you’re at it, keep your session short. The optimal brainstorming session lasts about twenty-two minutes (though it’s safe to round it up to thirty for the sake of keeping an even number.) Evidence shows that productivity increases with a time constraint. People are more likely to remain on task and actively contributing their best ideas!
5. Find a Change of Scenery
One would hope to foster an environment of relaxation in an ideal brainstorm session. That’s why it’s best to find a place offsite to host your session. Or, at the very least, a change of scenery that will surely get the creative juices flowing. You want your brainstorm sessions to feel organic, natural, as this will foster creativity, so consider taking a walk, getting some fresh air, or hosting a meeting at a local coffee shop!
6. Bring Sweet Treats as Motivation
Snacks and food are great brainstorming motivators. Not only does feeding people give incentives for them to show up, but it also keeps people from being distracted by hunger while simultaneously boosting their energy! Offer some carbs! Consider some caffeine for those who thrive on a quick energy boost! If you’re going to bring snacks, make sure that you have enough for the group and a few different options to ensure that there’s something for everyone!
7. “Yes, and…”
A successful brainstorm is driven by the same rule as a great improv session. “Yes, and.” Don’t waste time tearing down terrible ideas! Instead, add something to it or try to come up with an alternative just as quickly. Build on the ideas of others. You’ll find you have a more solid brainstorming session all together!
8. Write Down Every Idea
Make sure that you have someone keeping track of all of your ideas in one place whether this be a whiteboard or a large piece of paper. As the facilitator, it’s best for you to take a neutral stance to these suggestions in order to make people feel head and comfortable enough to share their ideas. This is especially pertinent in a group comprised of many introverts. Capture and visualize each idea or appoint a scribe to record everything so that you have a transcript to review once your meeting has finished.
9. But Remember… There are Bad Ones
Even still, there are going to be bad ideas, and that’s okay! Consider offering constructive criticism as to why that idea won’t work so that you don’t discourage people from speaking up. After all, you still want to foster an environment where even ideas that won’t work, are okay to have. Conversely, there’s nothing worse than wasting time by giving each idea its due diligence and careful thought and consideration. Take the time to weed out bad ideas by perhaps beginning your brainstorming session with a few moments for each group member to visually flesh out their idea or take some time to regroup and review the parameters of the problem or task at hand.
10. Send a Recap
Lastly, it’s important to send out a recap once the brainstorming session is done. This will include all of the information that was discussed and of course, highlight any steps that your team will take moving forward. This follow-up should outline an Action Item Commitment Checklist. This checklist will highlight what specifically your goal is and what the plan, moving forward, is to achieve it. Additionally, it should include a due date, specify the individuals involved in the proposed action, the result, and of course, your “why.”
These ten tips for productive brainstorming are sure to help you in your next brainstorming session. While too many rules often kill productivity, there are dozens of tips and techniques to help create a productive and imaginative culture for your group meetings!