Brainstorming is a skill that all small/big teams should master in order to hone their collective problem-solving skills.
Before we dive into effective brainstorming strategies, let's look at what brainstorming is in essence:
What is brainstorming?
Brainstorming is a group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous production of innovative ideas and solutions. This strategy involves an active, free-flowing debate in which each member of the group is urged to think aloud and contribute as many ideas as possible based on their different areas of knowledge. Brainstorming is a highly creative and interactive approach to coming up with new ideas in a group setting.
Brainstorming combines an informal approach to problem-solving with lateral thinking, which is a way to discover new notions of finding solutions by looking at them in novel ways. Some of these ideas can be developed into novel, creative solutions to problems, while others can spawn new ones.
Why is brainstorming important?
Brainstorming helps employees to explore all options and be innovative in the workplace. This approach allows team members to discover the best solution for a problem by identifying all available solutions and weighing their benefits and drawbacks. Some of the most significant advantages of brainstorming are as follows:
- It allows individuals to think freely and without fear of being judged.
- It promotes open and continuing cooperation in order to solve issues and produce new ideas.
- It allows teams to quickly develop a huge number of ideas, which may then be refined and integrated to create the best solution.
- It helps teams develop consensus on findings, resulting in a more well-rounded and educated route forward.
- It allows team members to get ideas out of their minds and into the real world, where they may be developed, polished and implemented.
Effective strategies for brainstorming:
1. Appoint a designated facilitator
It’s generally helpful to have a group leader in any activity. Having a moderator will help the group to better collaborate. If possible, go for a professional moderator who is well-experienced at brainstorming. If professional facilitators are not possible, try finding someone in the team who has experience and understanding of facilitator responsibilities. It’s a bad idea to have a decision-maker be a moderator. Often decision makers are too close to the situation and they may not be able to run the process with impartiality.
2. Begin by performing a warm-up activity:
Begin an effective brainstorming session with a warm-up exercise. Warm-ups before a brainstorming session should allow you to practice improvising and creating ideas in a low-stakes environment. Don’t make the warm-up exercises too long or they will take away from the task at hand. Warm-up exercises include:
- Creating synonyms and antonyms for random phrases.
- Considering alternate applications for office objects.
- Telling a narrative in which each individual adds a single word or phrase.
3. Don’t mix the idea generation process with the idea evaluation process
It’s important to remain non-judgemental while generating ideas and at the same time, we can’t act upon all ideas. But how do we achieve the right balance? The way to go is to separate the process of idea generation from idea evaluation. You can divide the activity into Divergence and Convergence. Divergence is where people can give ideas and those ideas will be noted somewhere but not evaluated. Moderators can ask clarifying questions if need be and other group members can add ideas. Everyone is encouraged to participate without worrying about whether the idea ‘makes sense or not.
4. Create a group environment that fosters creativity
It’s very difficult for people to step out of their rational frame of mind. Moreover, its imperative to keep reminding all the participants during idea generation time that they should hold their horses/opinions on a particular idea. In fact, the best way to kick off brainstorming is to compel people to think of non-sensical/crazy ideas for a problem first. This simple approach works amazingly well and puts their mind into a more creative mode where the mind stops evaluating feasibility before articulating an idea.
5. Visualise your desired outcome
Keep your brainstorming session on track by creating a visual depiction of your aim. Consider your ultimate goal or objective, then write it down in a prominent position, such as the middle of a whiteboard. Your image will also serve as a reminder of the initial topic of the conversation, helping you and others to refocus and remain productive.
6. Record the conversation
One of the most important tools for good brainstorming is documentation. Documentation might help you refer to them later and examine the whole extent of the debate. You can record your brainstorming session using an audio recorder, take thorough notes, or photograph any visual brainstorming tools such as thought maps or sticky note boards. No matter which ideas you finally choose, write them down or record them all during brainstorming.
7. Think aloud
Thinking aloud might help you feel more at ease sharing your ideas before they become completely formed. Talking out your ideas with coworkers as they arise may spark fruitful dialogue and allow others to organically expand on your ideas. Even if you're brainstorming alone, verbalising your thoughts may help you recognise outstanding ideas and work through any obstacles.
8. Encourage any and all ideas
This is an extension of fostering creativity. Try to uncover the good parts of every concept you and your team develop to foster creativity and openness when brainstorming. Even if a concept isn't ideal for a project, consider its prospective benefits and other advantages. Being encouraging and helpful to yourself and others may make everyone feel more at ease expressing their ideas, which is essential for brainstorming success. Give positive affirmations to your team members when they offer an idea when brainstorming with a group to promote more ideas.
9. Organise your ideas
Once you have a few ideas, arrange and combine them to give the brainstorming session some structure. Charts and colour-coding are important tools for categorising thoughts or connecting different sorts of concepts. Organizing your thoughts at the end of a brainstorming session might also make it easy to go back over your notes afterwards and grasp the meaning behind each idea.
Customize your brainstorming session according to what works for you and your colleagues. Brainstorming is supposed to be a casual, but very effective and productive technique, so use it to its fullest potential to guarantee great results.