Brainstorming is a collaborative activity that helps bring people with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives (and their divergent ideas!) into the same discussion. Holding a brainstorm is a great way to get people to think freely and openly, helping to bring fresh insight into tackling the problem at hand. If you don’t have a team, brainstorming solo is still a great way to come up with lots of ideas quickly which can in turn lead to a more refined and ideal solution. Either way you choose, we’ve put together a list of our best tips on how you can lead an effective brainstorming session for your brand or business.
Define the problem and identify your goals
What are you trying to achieve with your brainstorm? What problem are you looking to solve and what type of solutions are you looking for? These are key questions you’ll need to answer before beginning your brainstorm. You and your team should come into the brainstorming session with a clear objective in mind. The questions you ask should encourage participants to come up with as many ideas as possible and think towards solutions.
Creating goals ahead of time will also help you use your time efficiently. For example, if your goal is to come up with 10 ideas per problem, you’ll know exactly what to work towards and when to stop.
Set guidelines and boundaries
While the open and freethinking nature of a brainstorming session is one of its many benefits, providing context and setting guidelines will be an asset in making sure the discussion stays on course. Time is a precious resource that you don’t want to waste, and while it’s good to not to be too rigid, you don’t want to find yourself getting caught up on talking points that aren’t relevant or useful to the discussion. Creating an agenda and setting ground rules beforehand is a good idea to ensure you’re staying on track.
Here are a few rules that are helpful to an efficient brainstorming session:
- Discuss one idea at a time
- Encourage hand raising and not talking over one another
- Stay on topic, and withhold judgment and criticism of any ideas
If possible, it’s also a good idea to have a facilitator that’s responsible for holding the team accountable to these guidelines.
Choose the right environment
Set the stage for your brainstorm and choose an environment that’s beneficial for focus and clear thinking. Time and place has a bigger impact than you might think and it’s important to set yourself up for success. If you find yourself daydreaming about lunch or getting bored of the same ol’ conference room, try a different time in the day or switch up your location. If new spaces and meeting times aren’t easily accessible, even something small like adding a new element to your usual routine could spark a fresh perspective and renewed inspiration.
Find the right tools
Having the right tools in your toolbox will make all the difference when it comes to having an effective brainstorming session. Whether it’s making sure you have access to plenty of room on the whiteboard or getting everyone on the same Google doc ahead of time, having a place to jot down notes and ideas as they come is important for everyone involved. You can always take it a step further by incorporating visual elements such as mind maps, flowcharts, and anything else that helps to organize streams of consciousness and inspire discussion.
Make sure to follow up
The brainstorm may be finished, but now it’s time to put those hours spent talking to good use. Don’t be afraid to send a follow-up email with a copy of the brainstorm materials, as well as the key takeaways, broken down by the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the process. Have someone take meeting minutes and create a summary of what was discussed. You can even go the extra mile and commit to following up on a few action items that you can assign right on the spot. Don’t let your hard work go by the wayside.. A brainstorm only works if you actually do something with what you’ve created.
They say that fortune favours the prepared, and with thoughtful preparation and energetic execution, your brainstorms are sure to lead you to incredible ideas. Come prepared with an open mind and treat every session as the learning experience that it is!
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