Inspire creativity with a brainstorming meeting

You can lead your team through a brainstorming session using simple, tried-and-true brainstorming procedures. This article gives you a brief overview to get you started.

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Three approaches to brainstorming

Guidelines for a productive session

Three approaches to brainstorming

Different teams have different aims and personalities. What works for an outgoing team of sales people might be less successful with a group of technical experts. Each of the the three most popular methods listed here works best for certain types of teams or situations.

Freewheeling brainstorm    Use this method to foster a collaborative brainstorming environment and to encourage free association among your group members. Group members call out their ideas spontaneously, and the scribe records each idea as it is suggested.

Round-robin brainstorming    Use this method when you want an orderly brainstorming session that gives each member a chance to speak. Members take turns, in order, offering a single idea. The session continues at least until everyone has had a chance to add to the list. The leader or scribe records each member's idea.

Slip method    Use this method when confidentiality is an issue, or when you're brainstorming ideas about several subjects at the same time. Members write ideas down rather than sharing them out loud. The ideas are collected, organized, and presented back to the group.

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Guidelines for a productive session

  1. Invite as varied a group as possible to participate in your brainstorming session. A diverse group will help you gain the widest and most creative range of ideas.

  2. Select a leader and a recorder (they may be the same person). The trick to being a leader is to create the right structure for the process to work, but not to overcontrol it.

  3. Define the problem or idea to brainstorm about. Write out your problem or idea concisely and make sure that everyone understands it.

  4. Remind the team members of the following:

    • Project goal

    • Factors affecting the project

    • Available resources

    • Constraints

  5. Set up rules for the session. They should be aimed at:

    • encouraging members to have fun and come up with as many ideas as possible.

    • giving everyone the opportunity to contribute.

    • letting the leader have the control.

    • recording each answer unless it is a repeat.

    • ensuring that no one will criticize or evaluate another participant's idea.

    • setting a time limit.

  6. Start the brainstorming. This stage includes:

    • having the leader select members of the group to share their ideas.

    • writing down all responses so everyone can see them.

    • making sure not to evaluate or criticize any ideas until done brainstorming.

    • giving members an opportunity to think. During periods of silence, people are probably thinking or incubating ideas.

    • creating a diagram during or after ideas are presented.

  7. When you are finished brainstorming, go through the results and evaluate the responses. When examining the responses, you should qualify them by:

    • looking for and eliminating ideas that may be similar or repeated.

    • grouping like concepts together.

    • discussing the remaining responses as a group.

    • creating an organized diagram with a meaningful hierarchical structure, and figuring out if the responses fit in the diagram.

    • eliminating responses that do not fit.

  8. Implement the results of your brainstorming session.

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