A widely used technique, brainstorming helps organizations generate more innovative ideas. This method of pulling up new ideas quickly is a valuable tool as it expands options, fires imaginative thinking, builds enthusiasm, and increases employee loyalty. Recording and documenting the session using a business transcription service allows companies to review the creative ideas and choose the best.
However, the big question is how to run a really effective brainstorming session. Here are some tips from the experts.
- Invite people from diverse groups and with different strengths: Having only participants from the same project at the session may not lead to any new ideas. The best way to fuel creativity is ensure that the participants are from diverse groups and have different strengths. A combination of background, experience, enthusiasm and knowledge will go a long way in generating new perspectives and allow you to leverage each participant’s strong points. When brainstorming on a product, companies can even bring in outsiders as they would view consumers or customers from a different angle.
- Have the right number of participants: Having too many people in the room will affect productivity. On the other hand, having too few participants may lead to insufficient stimulation for creative thinking. The key is to have the right number of people to function effectively — depending on objective of the brainstorming session.
- Get participants to think about the topic before the session: As a Life Hack article puts it, “The battle for a great brainstorming session starts days or even weeks before the meeting begins”. Brainstorming sessions fail when the participants arrive without giving any thought to the topic. There are two things you can do to ensure people come prepared:
- Let everyone know upfront what the expectations and goals are. Tell them about the scope of the meeting and provide them with any reading materials or contextual information at least two days in advance.
- Adopt a hybrid brainstorming approach, that is, individual and group brainstorming. Ask participants to come prepared with some ideas. The group can then hone these ideas and make them stronger. A University of Pennsylvania study found that this hybrid approach resulted in more and better quality ideas than the traditional team-oriented process.
- Facilitate well: Many companies hire professional facilitators. A good facilitator has excellent listening skills, astute group awareness, and the ability to help people express their ideas. Running the session smoothly is critical to maximize the results. The facilitator should write down ideas as they are generated so that they can be reviewed later. Good facilitators also encourage participants to come up with the best way to express ideas that are being discussed.
- Set a time limit: Experts say that setting a time limit on the session drives people to stay on the task and deliver their best ideas. Setting a deadline also ensures that everyone gets a chance to speak. According to sales training expert Brian Tracy, an effective brainstorming session lasts anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, and 30 minutes is usually the ideal duration.
- Brainstorm questions: This innovative approach involves encouraging people to come up with lots of questions around an issue or problem. Experts say that this can result in an in-depth analysis and a better understanding of the issue. This will ultimately pave the way for smarter ideas on how to deal with it.
- Allow anonymous idea submissions: Some people may be reticent about voicing their ideas in front of the group. It would be a good idea to have a platform for anonymous idea submissions where they can express their views.
- Put things together: When the brainstorm ends, put things in a proper framework. To define the course of action, develop an organized summary of themes, key ideas, and questions for further discussion.
- Follow up quickly: The idea generation exercise will be fruitful only if you follow up quickly. Mckinsey gives the example of a brainsteering workshop in a US university where quick follow-up action led to the university began moving ahead on several ideas that would ultimately save it millions of dollars. The university communicated the results of the decisions quickly to everyone involved, even when an idea was rejected. It is important for participants to know why certain ideas were not favored as it will help them come up with better ideas next time.
Documentation is critical in brainstorming sessions. It is important to capture valuable ideas as they crop up, including discussions, differences, questions, concerns and obstacles. Audio and video transcription of recorded sessions will ensure that nothing gets lost. Transcribing a brainstorming sessions will also allow you to evaluate how it was conducted and make improvements if necessary.