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8 Insightful Brainstorming Best Practices

Published on: August 28, 2011
Filed under: Facilitation & Brainstorming, Insights & Tips
About 15 years ago, I took a one-day course on facilitating meetings. Since then I have facilitated many, many sessions. In particular, I enjoy facilitating brainstorming sessions. The creativity and participation level make the time enjoyable for everyone, and the outcomes make it time worth spent.

Here are 8 ways to get the most out of your brainstorming sessions.

#1 Agenda: Develop an agenda that defines the purpose of the meeting, the outcome that is desired, and the timeframe of the actual brainstorming portion. Let’s use the example of brainstorming a product name. For a group of 5 participants, you’d probably need 20 minutes of brainstorming, whereas for a group of 10, you’d need 30 minutes.

#2. Educate: Use the first 5 minutes to frame the session and set the rules. For framing, review the purpose, timeframe, desired outcome, and next steps. For rules, explain that every idea is a good idea (do not let other participants negate or dissect the idea) and every idea will be written on the whiteboard—every participant’s contribution stimulates creative thinking! The goal is to get as many ideas on the white board as possible during the brainstorming period.

#3. Tools: Use a white board or flip chart paper, and a variety of colourful markers. Being able to see all of the ideas helps the participants’ creative process.

#4. Atmosphere: Establish an inclusive atmosphere. Not everyone is at ease to jump in and say their ideas aloud, so use eye contact to acknowledge individuals and invite them to say what’s on their mind. Establish a creative and fun atmosphere; for example, place colorful and odd-shaped stress balls around the table or blank paper and colourful pens.

#5. Ideas. Ideas. Ideas: Don’t get bogged down dissecting answers. First, it’ll decrease participation; second, it’ll waste time. The goal is to get as many ideas out of the group as possible; discussing and culling them takes place in the ‘next steps.’

#6. Decision maker: It has been my experience that the decision maker must be present. If not, the decision maker won’t like any of the ideas that are put forth. So make sure the decision maker has a seat at the table.

#7. Next steps: Hold a ‘part 2’ session to discuss, dissect, and cull the ideas. By this time, no one will recall who came up with the ideas, so no one will feel uncomfortable when it’s time to chop.

#8. Transcribe: The facilitator needs to transcribe all of the ideas into a document and send it to the team. This is a good time to reiterate the goal and the next steps.

Have a best practice to share? I invite you to share your insights using the comments field.

Crosby out.

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