We’ve talked a lot on the Wavelengths blog about brainstorming to get the creative juices flowing and come up with big ideas. However, it is important to make sure the products of your brainstorms are funneled into useable material.
One way to accomplish this is by defining your brainstorm process. Many times, a brainstorm is called to simply spill out ideas until a few decent ones pop up. But with a little preparation, you can actually boost creativity and better facilitate the development of new ideas.
Below are six suggestions for effective brainstorming*:
- Prepare. We all have busy days that lack free moments to spend real time preparing for internal meetings, but if you cannot effectively prepare, reschedule the brainstorm. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and your coworkers’ time by trying to run a meeting without any real preparation.
- Create an agenda, highlighted with the objective of your brainstorm.What are you trying to get out of this time? Send this out a day or two prior (as part of the preparation) to your attendees so everyone can be on the same page once they arrive.
- Consider individual time within a brainstorm.Sometimes, just quieting the room down and allowing focused time (even just 5 to 10 minutes) for people to think before they speak can help channel their thoughts in the right direction. This also helps wallflowers who may not speak up as much to have their thoughts already written in front of them to contribute as the group discussion begins.
- Use visual aids.I suggest magazines, thesauruses, dictionaries, candy and toys. All of these items help break up the monotony and can introduce fresh ideas.
- Recap the brainstorm.I can’t stress this enough, because oftentimes the best ideas come from reviewing the list of what’s been addressed and asking for final feedback.
- Assign homework. Have you ever left a brainstorm and then had a great idea come to you in the middle of the night? I have. Assigning homework – even just to read the notes and share any new ideas that have come up – can help address those lingering thoughts.
How do you like to brainstorm?
*Some of the inspiration for this post came from a fabulous article on MindTools.com. Check it out for further reading and analysis on brainstorming.