Good ideas rarely happen by random chance. More often than not, they are the product of careful planning and diligent follow through. A successful brainstorming session is no different. When it’s time to generate new ideas, a little brainstorm preparation goes a long way.
Start your brainstorm preparation with these simple questions:
1. Can I explain the point of my meeting in one short sentence? If not, you may be trying to cram in too much thinking. Don’t overburden your brains or put yourself in an unnecessary time crunch. Think about splitting the work into multiple brainstorming sessions.
2. Am I allowing enough time to give people a break? Creative thinking is hard work. If you’re asking your participants to generate new ideas, be sure to plan enough breaks. Even the best thinkers need to use the bathroom and check their phone messages.
3. Have I invited the same people to multiple brainstorming sessions? When you plan a brainstorm, don’t always rely on the same brains for ideas. Shake things up and your participants are more likely to generate new ideas.
4. Did I invite the right people to generate ideas? Picking the right people is essential. Innovation is born from diverse experiences. Try to include a diverse selection of personality types, skill sets and work experiences to create a well-rounded brainstorming session.
5. Is this a brainstorming session or a trip to a toy store? When people plan a brainstorm, the first thing they often do is get sidetracked by the need to establish a “creative environment.” To put it simply, toys are overrated as a tool to generate new ideas. More often than not, they end up distracting people instead of focusing them. A good plan generates more innovative ideas than something to play with.
Get more in-depth information into creative thinking techniques.
Choosing A Brainstorm Technique
Choosing the correct creative thinking technique is an essential step as you plan a brainstorm. First, you should identify the desired outcome of your brainstorming session. With that in mind, review some of the many available brainstorm methods, and select the technique that will help you accomplish your goal. How do you pick the best brainstorm technique for your needs? Ask yourself these simple questions.
4 questions to consider:
- How many people am I inviting? (Large Group VS. Small group VS. Individual) – Group size is an important factor in determining which technique you should select. Some techniques like forced connections and mind mapping become unwieldy with too many members, while others like brainstorm go round and bridge building require more participation. For individual thinkers, brainstorm techniques like 0-60 and free writing work very well.
- Are they experienced brainstormers? (More structure VS. Less structure) – If you have a group with experience in creative thinking techniques, you can often jump right into the exercises and spend less time warming up and explaining the process. This allows you to introduce more time consuming techniques like brainstorm go round. With less experienced brainstorm participants, they may be reluctant to open up to the group. A brainstorm method like a magazine pull may offer a more comfortable introduction.
- Where am I going to host the meeting? (Off-site vs. On-site) – This will influence how much control you have over the environment and also influence the potential engagement of your brainstorm participants. If they’re removed from the office, they’ll likely have more focus on the process and enjoy a creative curve ball. If coworkers are constantly interrupting, you may want to select a brainstorm technique where continuity is less important, like alphabrainstorming.
- What is my desired outcome? (Fewer, in-depth ideas VS. More, top-level ideas) – Do you want a lot of ideas that might be possible or a few ideas that are fully explored? This will influence how much time you spend in each portion of the brainstorm. Spend more time on the initial stages to think of more ideas. Spend more time refining on the back end if you desire more thought out solutions.