It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and energy that surrounds a brainstorm session, but don’t forget your role. You aren’t there to lead it. You’re facilitating a brainstorm. What’s the difference? A leader is there to guide the outcome of the meeting. A facilitator is there to assist the progress of the meeting. Whether or not you agree with the outcome of the meeting is immaterial, as long as the group has followed the rules laid out at the beginning of the process and reached a consensus, you’ve accomplished your task.
Simple tips to help you facilitate your brainstorming session:
- Don’t let one strong personality dominate the meeting. It’s natural for brainstorming sessions to have more and less outspoken members. Just remember to give every participant the chance to be heard.
- Keep the brainstorming session focused. There will be times when your brainstorming session loses momentum. If progress is still being made, see where the conversation goes before interrupting.
- Address negative team members and move on. Be prepared to speak with neigh sayers and other personalities that are detrimental to the creative process. But don’t be confrontational. Get to the root of their concerns as quickly as possible and look for solutions without adversely influencing the rest of the group.
- Set a time limit or an idea quota. This simple exercise lets people know what they’re trying to achieve and when they’ll be done. That way they’ll stay engaged.
- Have a brainstorm plan and stick to it. If you aren’t sure where to start, download the Think Unbound Brainstorm Prep Checklist whitepaper (coming soon).
- Provide clear directions and next steps at the conclusion of the meeting. Your brainstorm participants were nice enough to spend some time helping you solve your strategic problems. Thank them for attending and let them know what their next steps are
Get more in-depth information into creative thinking techniques.
Following Brainstorm Etiquette
No creative thinking guide would be complete without a few brainstorm rules. The point of a brainstorm is to generate the most ideas possible, and the easiest way to create a nurturing environment that encourages sharing is to follow some simple rules of brainstorm etiquette. Simply play by these rules and the whole group will succeed..
Follow these rules for brainstorm etiquette:
- Come to the brainstorm session prepared. Whether you’re the facilitator or a participant, show up on time and ready to go. If preparation or research was required for the meeting, set aside some time beforehand. Everyone’s time is valuable. Be sure to respect it.
- Nobody rides for free. Every participant has been invited for a reason. You were invited because you bring a unique viewpoint, skill set or experience to the meeting. If you’re facilitating, remind your brainstorm participants that they were handpicked because their input was valued.
- Give the brainstorm your undivided attention. Time is limited, so make the most of it. You aren’t fully engaged if you’re staring into a smart phone or distracted by a side conversation. NOTE: Scheduled breaks should be provided so participants can keep up with other work-related projects.
- There’s no ownership in a brainstorm. Every idea belongs to the group, so don’t be afraid to build and develop on any idea that the group generates. Building and developing is the positive alternative to judging.
- Mute your internal judge. This isn’t the time to filter, limit or discount ideas. This brainstorm session is about generating the maximum quantity of ideas. There will be a time later to evaluate the possibility of each idea.
- Provide clearly defined next steps at the end of each brainstorming session. Nobody likes to leave a brainstorm without a clear picture of what’s going to happen next. Let them know what your plan is and how you’re going to develop the ideas they shared.