Brainstorming sessions can be the best ways to yield the most out-of-the-box and creative ideas - when done the right way. What are the best ways to leave a brainstorming session with newfound inspiration and drive to solve the problems at hand? Here are some tips to help you!
We can’t deny that some of the best ideas come from eureka moments that hit us out of nowhere. But other than these small spurts of inspiration, most of us can agree that many people do better when given sufficient time to digest the topic.
A productive discussion should be preceded by a clear agenda of what the session is going to be about. Before bringing everyone into the same room together for a brainstorming meeting, sit down and map out a clear agenda for the specific things you'd like the team to discuss and notify the group ahead of time. We recommend at least several days or maybe even a week or so in advance. This gives your team time to sit down and think about the topic before coming to the meeting with relevant ideas and suggestions, which can help to serve as the foundation for your discussion later on. You can also check in on your team’s understanding on the workshop agenda before the meeting commences (Check out this template that Mentimeter has created for you: Prepare a workshop like a boss)!
In a brainstorming meeting where many people may be throwing around ideas across the room, it is crucial to have someone to act as the prime facilitator. Make sure that the meeting will be led by someone who is skilled at both stimulating ideas from the rest of the team while staying on track.
Having a facilitator will keep the discussion focused while keeping the environment open-minded, it is important not to remove the thinking hats from your team members who have a lot of creative juices flowing during the meeting. During brainstorming sessions, there are bound to be many suggestions that are innovative but may be unrelated to the topic, the facilitator can then acknowledge these suggestions but keep it aside for future consideration so as not to stray from the main agenda. This is important because we do not want to disregard these ideas as they may be useful in the future.
Sometimes, the reason why we hold brainstorming sessions is because we can’t find solutions to certain problems. It is important that you walk into every single brainstorming session with a specific goal or problem that you want to solve. The more specific the focus, the more targeted the solutions can be at solving the problem. This allows the rest of the team to center their energy onto solving the problem at hand.
Brainstorming sessions can require quite a lot of energy, especially when you require your team to sit in a room for an hour or so to come up with new ideas. However, a shorter session will require people to come up with ideas more quickly, and will prevent people from losing energy or motivation during the session. Meetings do not need to be long in order to be productive, you do not need to complete everything you set out to do in that one meeting alone. Remember that it is okay to take note of the suggestions worth discussing but leave them for another time, you can even schedule a follow-up meeting with your team member to take the discussion further. We’ve written a whole blogpost on how to make your team efficient, which you can read more about here: How to make your team more efficient.
A brainstorming session should welcome all ideas, no matter how out of this world. Be receptive to everyone’s opinions without any prior judgements, you never know when a seemingly crazy idea can actually be something that works. Many good ideas also stem from inspiration from others’ ideas, so allow your team to feed off one another’s energy to bring more ideas to the table. Encourage your team to suggest as many ideas as possible and you will be able to find the diamonds in the rough.
Everyone in the room is there for a reason, no one should be there to just nod and listen to what others have to say, they might as well not join the discussion. Encourage everyone to speak up and give their own suggestion, and remind them that all ideas are welcome. People of different backgrounds may approach the problem in a different manner, giving you a plethora of different ideas to solve the same problem. If any of your colleagues are afraid of sharing their suggestions, why not try anonymous feedback? Mentimeter can be used in many different meeting situations in order to collect opinions and make sure that no voice is left unheard.
Once you have your ideas laid out on the table, what’s next? Brainstorming sessions are good for providing you with a wide array of ideas, but to stay efficient you need to take the pool of ideas suggested and then let the team select the few that they feel should be given further attention to, that way you won’t be left with 100 ideas and not knowing where to start. Mentimeter already has a few templates all ready for you to use, check them out here:
An idea is just an idea unless you act on it. Once you have agreed on a set of ideas, the last step to seal the deal would be to implement them. One of the biggest pitfalls about brainstorming meetings is that without proper follow-up actions, these ideas do not become something actionable. Make it a habit to assign action items at the end of each brainstorming meeting. It could be as easy as assigning people to lead the project, or scheduling meetings with the member who suggested the idea to find out more, ultimately you and your team should leave the meeting with something actionable to do.
Not only will this ensure that you are working your way towards solving the problem you posed, but it will also provide assurance to your team that the time spent in that meeting was something worthwhile.