There is power in numbers. Whether you’re trying to come up with a new product, improve marketing strategies, or increase efficiency and productivity in the office, brainstorming sessions lead to positive results. Follow these tips to make your company’s next gathering of the minds more effective.
1) Be Open to Unusual Ideas
There are no bad ideas. Even if an idea isn’t ideal for your business, it still sparks discussion and helps you narrow your focus. Encourage employees to think outside the box, and you’re naturally going to have a more powerful brainstorming session. After all, you don’t want your team to feel stifled. Never criticize an idea, even if it doesn’t fit your company’s needs. Develop a creative, welcoming environment so everyone feels confident having a voice.
2) Focus On the Best Ideas
While it’s true that there are no bad ideas, it’s important to focus on the best ones, especially when time is limited and multiple people and their ideas are involved. You want people to feel comfortable giving outside-the-box input, but at the same time you don’t want to waste time and resources discussing an idea that’s clearly not going to work. When you know an idea isn’t feasible, decline it in a positive way. For example, instead of just denying it outright, you could express appreciation for the idea and then redirect the conversation back into a more logical direction. There’s a fine balance between keeping your meetings on track and shutting people down, so always be kind and uplifting.
3) Diversify Your Group
When you work alongside and hold business meetings with the same people day after day, you’re going to start thinking similarly. Invite people from outside of your immediate circle to join the table, and you’re going to get a wide range of perspectives and thoughts. You may even want to find people who don’t work for your company to provide some impartial feedback. When you’re too close to something, it can be difficult to see the bigger picture and overcome your personal biases.
4) Document Your Sessions
Sometimes the best ideas go to waste simply because there’s no record of them to reference. You’re not always going to have that ‘Eureka!’ moment — sometimes ideas take time to settle in. There are many ways to document your brainstorming sessions. You can record them with audio or video, write down notes, or ask someone to write ideas down on a laptop throughout the meeting. There are also handy brainstorming apps you can use that make it easy for you to jot down ideas whenever inspiration strikes.
5) Have Fun With It
The best ideas don’t always happen around a conference table. The mind flows more freely in uplifting environments, so try holding your next brainstorming session during an extracurricular activity. For example, you could take your team to the local bowling alley and brainstorm there while you play a few games. This approach encourages creativity and removes the mental barriers associated with professional environments. As an added bonus, company retreats boost morale, which also boosts productivity and reduces turnover rates.
6) Know When to Stop
Eventually, you’re going to exhaust your minds and hit a wall. When it comes to brainstorming, you don’t always need to burn the midnight oil. A half hour is a suitable amount of time to try to come up with new ideas. After that point, it’s unlikely that you or your team are going to come up with anything new. Another reason why time-limiting your meetings is beneficial is because it creates a soft deadline. Many people work more effectively under pressure, and designating a half hour’s time for brainstorming pushes people to make the most of the allotted time.
7) Provide Plenty of Context
It’s very difficult to create a successful brainstorming session from scratch. Always provide your team with as much information as possible so they can make informed judgments. For example, if you’re trying to come up with a new company logo, you could provide some rough sketches of ideas, information on how you want customers to react to the logo, and examples of existing logos you enjoy. This helps your thinkers hone in on specific ideas and target smaller niches. Look at it as fishing in a small pond with the right bait, rather than casting a line in the ocean and hoping for the best — the first option is going to yield more fish.
8) Prepare Ideas In Advance
Filling in existing lines with color is easier than creating a painting on a blank canvas. Before your brainstorming session, ask participants to come up with a few ideas to bring to the table. This gives you a starting point that you can expand on. Sometimes ideas happen at random times, so it doesn’t make sense to limit yourself and your team to just a brief meeting. Encourage your team to always be brainstorming so you have food for thought right from the beginning of the session.
Sometimes you’re going to have incredibly productive, successful brainstorming sessions — sometimes you won’t. Don’t get discouraged when you don’t come up with anything. The best ideas often take days, months, or even years to marinate and come to fruition. Foster an open, creative environment first and foremost, and the rest should happen organically over time.