Did the good old days of meeting up to pool ideas, knowledge and thoughts in efforts to create unmatched outcomes through brainstorming sessions come to an end? How could brainstorming sessions be organized in such a way that brings about valuable results? What are the main things to be avoided during brainstorming sessions?
The following article is based on research in addition to my experience in brainstorming sessions in an effort to help you harvest the most from the group idea pooling you conduct at your company or organization.
Brainstorming, in a few words:
Brainstorming is a technique for creatively solving problems and breeding fresh and unique ideas. Despite the belief that brainstorming negatively affects productivity levels and causes distractions and lack of focus, well-organized brainstorming sessions, especially for startups, have the ability to make decisions, “boost morale, enhance work enjoyment, and improving team work“.
So what are the main elements of a successful brainstorming session?
Though some elements may vary depending on some internal and external factors, the main elements of a successful brainstorming session are:
- Predefining Time Frame: People have a limited attention span, more obviously; people get bored! If you are trying to harness the unique thoughts and innovative ideas of those participating in a brainstorming session, it is always a good idea to pre-define the session’s time.
- Allowing for Short Breaks: Especially when the session’s time exceeds 30 minutes, it is recommended to take a few 5 minute breaks to allow for side comments and even unrelated topic sharing.
- Setting Goals & Objectives: Every brainstorming should have a set of interrelated goals and objectives; a purpose. This helps in regulating the session and in building a sound basis for any idea or thought proposed for discussion.
- Thinking of the People: Human beings are complicated creatures with many troubles, burdens and different concerns. In order to achieve results from any brainstorming session, it is advised, when possible, to make sure that attendance to the session is not obligatory especially in cases where a participant may be facing personal issues, stressed or even suffering exhaustion.
- Encouraging Participants: Sometimes, we tend to underestimate the ideas of people who seem to be quiet. It is a good idea to encourage each participant to share at least one idea or thought, you never know, the calmest could be the most creative of all!
- Using Visual Aids & More: Whenever possible, try to provide visual aids in sessions that call for creativity as opposed to solving problems. Visual aids have the ability to inspire ideas and blossom nontraditional thinking. For example, a white board has the power to create miracles!
- If participants are able to see their ideas in front of them, they will unconsciously try to build on them and even perfect them!
- Choosing the Proper Location: May it be a physical location or a virtual one, an effective brainstorming session should be held in a place where participants feel comfortable yet where not many distracting factors are present.
- Drafting Minutes of Meeting (MOM): A hundred ideas could be spelled out in any given brainstorming session. The key is capturing them all on record for future review and maybe an extended discussion of the unique ideas at a later on stage.
Where can brainstorming sessions be held?
Before Web 2.0, the natural place for holding any brainstorming session for a company team were an office, the conference room or even the cafeteria. Nowadays, brainstorming could be done at many different locations such as:
- Twitter: Though less focused, Twitter can be used to gather ideas especially when the participants are geographically dispersed. Moreover, Twitter is effective for informal brainstorming sessions which are held with different people all over the world with similar interests. All you have to do is propose a topic or ask a question and wait for the ideas to flow in your mentions’ section!
- Msn Messenger and Skype: Through their ability to host group chats, these two platforms have the ability to provide a great location for brainstorming sessions. The only problem here is that participants have more room for distraction since they can open multiple chat windows and browse the internet simultaneously.
- Facebook: I have noticed that messages specified to a group of people seem to have a different feel to them. Through Facebook, a message could be sent regarding a certain idea or topic to a specified group of people and the responses and discussions could be simply added via the reply button!
- E-mails: The e-mail is a highly effective way to conduct brainstorming sessions as well. Though impersonal, emails have more privacy options and is a better means for tracking and saving conversations and discussions.
- Outdoors: Never underestimate the power of brainstorming sessions held outside the normal office or internet boundaries! Some people are naturally more inspired when placed in an outdoor setting.
What should you avoid during a brainstorming session?
Attention and focus are vital for any brainstorming session, therefore, the following things should be avoided so the brainstorming session will not go wrong:
- Numerous, multiple side conversations.
- The use of mobile phones (unless in cases of emergencies).
Pool your thoughts with mine…
To conclude, I’d like to kindly urge you to share your brainstorming experiences with me and add any point regarding effective brainstorming sessions that I might have missed. Now tell me, do you think the good old days of old fashioned brainstorming sessions will beome obsolete in a few years? And what do you think they will be replaced by?