Brainstorming is a great creative thinking technique. It can help organizations identify problems, find opportunities for doing things more effectively, and achieve better results. Getting a group to think creatively can open doors for discovery and invention. However, inspiring creativity in your team isn’t always easy. Here are six ways to enhance your next brainstorming session to generate the production of ideas and inject energy into your team’s creative efforts.
1. Start with a Creative Exercise
Instead of jumping into talking about ideas right away, start off with a creative exercise. The best way to run a productive session is to make it fun. Exercises help your team loosen up and transition from the previous work they were doing. They also stimulate the imagination and get the creative juices flowing.
2. Get Outside of the Box
In order to think outside of the box, you need to get outside of the box. Being in the same location everyday can leave you feeling stuck in the same frame of mind. Work environments can be stressful, and it’s difficult to think about anything other than what’s causing that stress. Take the time to bring your team to a new place for your brainstorming session. Instead of meeting at the office, go somewhere they aren’t used to working. An unfamiliar place helps to break away from the norm so everyone can relax and think more creatively. Even if you can’t go far, try going outside to see how a different location can impact the productivity of your session.
3. Quantity, Not Quality
The overall goal of brainstorming is quantity, not quality. The more ideas you come up with, the better chance you’ll have at finding something that works. Have your team generate as many ideas as possible. While most of these will be tossed out, you’re only looking for one or two really good ones. You will have plenty of opportunity to evaluate the ideas after the session, so stay focused on producing quantity over assessing quality. Groups tend to self-censor when they worry about being judged. Keep your team on track by reminding them of this goal, and letting them know there’s no need to distinguish between good and not so good ideas at this point.
4. Positives, Not Negatives
To aid the creative thinking process, eliminate as many barriers to the flow of ideas as possible. Moving your team to a different location helps relieve some of the stress from your work environment. Telling everyone to focus on quantity over quality helps suppress the need to constantly evaluate things. Even further, you can release the creative potential of your group by suspending judgment and criticism during the session. Make sure everyone knows ahead of time not to bring up the “why nots” or the negatives. Focusing on the roadblocks you might encounter only freezes up the imagination. Invite your team to explore broader possibilities, beyond those that are practical or realistic. Start out the session by telling everyone to imagine they have all of the resources they could ever need with no limitations. If you come up with a great idea, you can work out the details later. During brainstorming, any idea is valid, so never say something is impossible or inappropriate. Participants shouldn’t pass judgment or criticize ideas in the generation phase. Criticizing an idea may stop your team from producing more. Wait to decide which ones are worth pursuing until you’ve generated lots of ideas, no matter how ineffective or unrelated they may seem.
5. Keep the Momentum Going
Jumpstart your brainstorming session by expressing your own ideas to get the team thinking. Once they start offering their own, keep a fast pace. Limit the time spent discussing any one idea. If someone wants to talk more about a particular topic, add it to a discussion list for later. After your team is done generating ideas, return to the list and let them finish expressing their previous thoughts. This ensures that discussion won’t slow down idea generation and could lead to the discovery of even more ideas once you have time to think and talk about them further. Elaborating or improving on the ideas you generate can uncover new combinations or alterations. Encourage your team to look at different perspectives and approaches to doing things. Creative minds try and think about something in alternative ways, even when existing ways might already work well.
6. Plan Ahead
Despite whatever brilliant ideas your team comes up with during the session, brainstorming won’t be successful unless you know what the next step is. The key to making your session worthwhile is knowing how to put what you come up with into action. Ideas aren’t effective unless they’re implemented. Part of planning your session is figuring out how you can capture, share and utilize what you come up with before you actually do it. Planning ahead will ensure that once you have an idea, you’re prepared to move forward with it.