How well are you implementing brainstorming techniques for the team? Not only will this practice most likely produce great ideas, but it will also help bring the team closer together. Read more below.
There are two important rules for successful brainstorming:
With these two basic tenets, most brainstorming techniques naturally follow.
The art of brainstorming successfully is demonstrated best via positive creativity – the goal being that you avoid shutting others down as much as possible, and instead bring new ideas to the table or elaborate upon parts of a concept you enjoy or like. It’s easy to let conversations wander and turn towards nitpicking. Or to get hung up on details that ultimately waste everyone’s time. Yes, everyone knows there are limits on what a company can and cannot achieve. There are budgets and time constraints.
But the goal in a brainstorming session isn’t to spend an hour on three ideas. It’s to get as many ideas out there in half an hour or less, never spending valuable time to criticize an idea, but suggest a new one instead. That is how you get to the ideas that push a business forward. And it’s only then that you begin to ask how and get down to brass tacks.
To cut down on the useless criticism and get to those golden ideas, let’s talk about six effective brainstorming techniques that can help you make the most of your team’s time.
1. Set Your Limitations Aside
Let’s talk about rapid-fire brainstorming. For this technique, the focus is on speed and diversity. Set aside any notions of complexity or critique. It doesn’t matter if 80 percent of the ideas that are brought to the table in any given brainstorming session end up getting scrapped. The more ideas each individual plows through in a session, the more one’s creative juices get flowing. And the more the focus becomes “what else can I come up with?” rather than “why do I think this idea is bad?”.
Set a quota per person and meet it. Give everyone five to ten minutes to come up with at least half a dozen ideas. Then get everyone to present them succinctly and quickly. This leaves no time for anyone to get caught up on any one idea. If an idea is a bad idea, the person presenting it can quickly move to their next one.
If it’s a good idea, everyone takes notes and things keep moving. It’s easy to circle back to the best of the bunch after everyone’s gotten their ideas off their chest. This also keeps things from revolving entirely around the thoughts and opinions of just a handful of creatives in the room.
2. Follow the “Yes, And” Rule
Some people call this “mind mapping”, but it’s essentially a technique based on elaborating upon an idea with improvements or sub-ideas that aim to take the original concept and elevate it.
Based on improv comedy’s golden rule of saying “yes, and” to any development in the skit, the idea here is to avoid hitting a creative dead-end by accepting all changes and simply organically moving from one suggestion to the next. Rather stopping at an idea that isn’t perfect. If there’s something wrong with a suggestion, take your opportunity to amend or workshop it. Evolve the idea. Improve it.
3. Don’t Get Stuck & Be Fast
Another important technique in brainstorming is forced succinctness. When emphasizing that everyone gets a shot at improving an idea or coming up with their suggestion, it’s important not to find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time on a single person’s vision.
There’s no doubt that some ideas are better fleshed out than others, but encourage everyone to provide an attractive “elevator pitch” of their idea rather than present an entire plan off the bat.
Require team members to come up with ways to explain the most useful or engaging parts of their idea. And when it’s circled back to at another stage in the planning process, they can find ways to extrapolate on it. And take in suggestions to improve it further.
4. Get Visual
Visualization is an important technique in brainstorming to get certain ideas across to others in a quick and fast fashion. A picture can be a thousand words (or more). And it doesn’t need to be objectively well-done or have any sort of artistic merit to serve its purpose.
When relying on visualization, encourage team members to either prepare visual aids for their brainstorming ideas or simply sketch certain parts and processes of their ideas on a paper or whiteboard. This technique further elaborates on the idea that speed is important in brainstorming. By cutting down on unnecessary explanation where a visual medium can help provide a much clearer picture.
5. Include Everyone
There are two great techniques for involving everyone in the brainstorming session. The first is a basic round-robin, giving everyone a set amount of time to present their idea, as discussed previously. The other is the stepladder technique, which manages how team members get involved in decision making and are ideal for smaller groups.
The stepladder technique relies on a core of creative powerhouses (usually just two people) discussing ideas in a room together while the rest of the team brainstorms on their own. A third member is brought into the room to present their idea first, and then they hear about what has already been addressed, and how their idea might contribute. Then a fourth member enters, presenting their idea, listening to what’s been talked about, and so on.
For teams of twenty or more, this type of brainstorming is relatively unrealistic, and can easily take all day. But smaller creative teams can benefit greatly from this technique. It forces the ever-growing group to listen to a person’s ideas without them having been influenced by what’s already been discussed and deliberated (i.e. groupthink).
6. Brainstorming Online
Learning to brainstorm over the internet is especially important for businesses working remotely from home. In addition to out of coworking spaces, and other workspaces.
Any of the techniques above can be adapted into virtual brainstorming via an array of digital tools. This includes teleconferencing software and collaborative editing software, but it still takes a little practice to get used to brainstorming outside of physical space. You can let team members join the call one-by-one to simulate a stepladder decision-making process. Or give everyone a few minutes to present their ideas round-robin style and use a variety of software to aid in explaining and presenting your ideas and suggestions.
Brainstorming doesn’t need to be difficult or frustrating. It can be extremely fruitful with a little bit of cooperation and a focus on the core tenets of swift, expedient presentation and improvisation. Avoid getting hung up on the details, and move from idea to idea, taking notes as you go along.