How to brainstorm like a pro

At our office, we love a good brainstorming session. We’re all comfortable with one another and unafraid to speak our minds, no matter how silly our ideas may sound at the time. Whether we’re talking social media strategy or considering a new website design, we love bouncing ideas off one another. Here are some tips that I’ve learned along the way that will make facilitating your next formal brainstorming session a breeze.

Think about who you will invite to the session. It is a good idea to have a mix of people in attendance to ensure that no stone is left unturned. People who do not have any connections to the project will think of things in a different way than those who do. Consider inviting different personality types (e.g. creative, introverts, extroverts, etc.).

Prepare a brief project summary. Send this document to your brainstorming team prior to your session. Include all relevant background and request that people research independently to come up with ideas prior to the meeting.

Don’t be judgmental. The brainstorming environment should be a safe one where people are at ease with speaking what is on their mind. You may hear some ideas that you think would never work, but you never know – allow the group to explore and free associate with one another without the worry of being ridiculed. It’s your job to ensure that negativity is not in the room. If negativity rears its ugly head, however, politely point out that the group was assembled to provide a wide variety of ideas.

Be objective. You may be the one running the session, but you have to keep your ego out of the room. Do not get married to your own ideas and try not to steer people to your way of thinking. If you already had a concrete plan in place, there would be no need to hold the brainstorming session.

Remember why you’re there. Remember that you’re trying to get a lot of fresh new ideas. Your goal should be to gather as much raw material as you can. Save wrapping these ideas into a completed package for later.

Record the session. You should have someone in charge (yourself or someone you appoint) write down all the ideas the brainstorming team generates. You can even think about recording the session in addition to taking notes to ensure that no good ideas are forgotten.

Take some time away. It’s always a good idea to allow some time to decompress after a session and then revisit your notes. This will give you and the team a chance to come back and see if those sparkling ideas are still shiny. 

I hope these tips are helpful the next time you’re tasked with getting some great ideas out of your team.  Let me know if you have any other good brainstorming suggestions – we’re always looking for fresh perspectives.

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