9 Secrets of Successful Creative Brainstorming
Often times people confuse creativity with a specific skill, like writing or drawing, says direct mail copywriter and consultant Alan Rosenspan. But those are just techniques that can be learned. Creativity is the process of solving problems, of seeing things in a new way, of coming up with ideas and of connecting things, he says.
Does your organization do brainstorming? Rosenspan offers the following tips, including lessons he’s learned in leading and attending hundreds of brainstorming sessions over the years.
1. INVITE THE RIGHT PEOPLE. You might have assembled a bright and creative group of people, but they might have little experience with the actual problem or issue to be solved. This often results in “pie-in-the-sky” ideas that can never be realistically implemented.
2. FEED ‘EM AND REAP. The presence of Snicker’s bars or bags of M&M’s serve a number of important purposes. They stimulate, improve the energy of the group and ensure that people will always be eager to attend your brainstorms -- particularly in the afternoon.
3. DON’T INVITE THE BOSS. Brainstorms work best when every attendee is at about the same level. If you have to worry about what your boss is going to think about the next thing you suggest, you might not be so quick to venture that far-out idea.
4. CLEARLY DEFINE THE PROBLEM. Brainstorms are most effective when they are trying to solve a specific problem -- not just to “come up with an idea.” The problem should be written out and prominently displayed before anyone starts thinking.
5. PAVE PARADISE (PUT UP A PARKING LOT). Every brainstorm creates ancillary ideas that might not be relevant to the problem at hand. But they could be the best ideas. Don’t ignore them. Capture them on sticky notes and put them in a “parking lot” on the other side of the room.
6. DON’T EVALUATE THE IDEAS AT THE SAME MEETING. Your creativity hat is a lot different from your critical-thinking hat. Of course, you’ll need to prioritize the ideas, and winnow out the weaker ones, but don’t do it at the brainstorm. It’s sure to slow the flow.
7. MANAGE GROUP DYNAMICS. There’s no faster way to kill the creativity of a group of people than by having one person dominate the brainstorm. You need to make sure everyone feels comfortable contributing.
8. SHARE INFORMATION. Not everyone attending the brainstorm has the same facts or background. An excellent way to begin a brainstorm is to have every member give a brief overview of what they know that’s relevant to the problem at hand.
9. FOLLOW-UP IS ESSENTIAL. Some of the best ideas come up after the brainstorm. You need to share the notes as soon as possible, while they’re fresh in people’s minds, and then have a process for them to keep thinking.
Schedule a follow-up meeting with a smaller group of people who attended the original brainstorm. They can evaluate ideas, build on them and decide next steps. This can often be even more productive than the original brainstorm.
For more insights about effective brainstorming sessions, visit http://www.alanrosenspan.com.