Just about everyone has participated in some form of group brainstorming at one time or another. It usually starts with a group of people sitting around a whiteboard throwing ideas out while someone writes them down. Then, we work through each idea until we’ve narrowed down the best ones. While this process may work some of the time it’s not exactly the most effective strategy for brainstorming.
Group brainstorming, when done properly, can promote creative thinking, boost morale, and bring a team together. It can also help you land the perfect idea. The fact is, however, that group brainstorming requires more than just a bunch of brains. It needs preparation, structure, and organization to be successful. Here are some great strategies for leading a productive brainstorming session with your team.
Visualize Your Goal
In order for a brainstorming session to be successful, you must first understand your overall goal. Think about the purpose of your session and write it down in a central location such as the center of a whiteboard or the center of the table. Visualizing and seeing your goal can help you stay on topic while also inspiring you to think creatively about solutions.
Mind Mapping is a visual brainstorming method that helps groups focus on a question or topic and connect all their different ideas. Start by writing the goal, topic, or problem in the center of the board. Then, write each person’s idea as a branch that comes off the main topic. Mind Mapping makes it easy to capture everyone’s ideas, build off of them, and visualize how they are all connected.
In this exercise, everyone writes down three ideas related to the main topic. Allow about four to six minutes for this process. Then, everyone passes their ideas to the person either to their left or right who will then build off the idea, adding additional information or creative strategies. After a few more minutes, everyone passes their paper again and the process continues until all the ideas have made it around the entire table. At this point, the group discusses the ideas and decides which ones are the best.
Document Your Discussion
Documentation is absolutely essential for any brainstorming session. Because brainstorming involves bouncing ideas off of one another quickly, documentation can help you remember the ideas so you can revisit them later. You can document your ideas digitally, with an audio recorder, or by taking detailed notes.
Starbursting is a great strategy that helps groups explore ideas by answering the pertinent questions, “Who?” “What?” “When?” “Where?” “Why” and “How?” On a paper or whiteboard, draw a six-pointed star and write the challenge or problem in the center. Then, at each point write the terms: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Now jot down ideas that answer each of those questions. Starbursting enables your team to think about all aspects of a problem and consider all elements.
An important aspect of brainstorming is to work together to share ideas and support each other’s ideas. Collaboration should be positive and never critical. Thank you coworkers for their idea and state what you liked about the idea. By focusing on being positive, you foster an atmosphere where everyone feels empowered to speak up and share their ideas.
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