Conducting Brainstorming

[tag]Brainstorming[/tag] can mean different things to different persons. I myself used brainstorming when we had to find out what actions we should do in a specific situation. But if we think differently about brainstorming does that also mean that we conduct brainstorming in different ways? Probably we do.

Never Work Alone – blog got the question how to conduct brainstorming and posted a summary of the response from the great community of [tag]managers[/tag] and [tag]leaders[/tag] over at the Never Work Alone Google group.

Here are some of the answers:

Dick Richards says: Brainstorming can be powerful in the hands of someone who knows how to set a climate of openness, a free flow of ideas, withholding judgment, encouraging participation, trusting the wisdom of the group, etc.

Here’s what works for Stacy Brice when she facilitates brainstorming sessions:
* No criticism of self/others
* No censoring of ideas–sometimes the best idea is the craziest one
* Everyone in the space is vulnerable; everyone in the space is completely safe
* What happens here stays here (meaning that people don’t have to fear having their thoughts talked about/laughed at after the session ends)
* There’s always a note taker who is not part of the brainstorming group. This frees me up to facilitate, and everyone else to participate

When they’re stuck, she ask them any questions that get people thinking about possibilities from angles other than the ones they most often use can be helpful in stimulating creative thinking. Knowing they’re safe in the brainstorming space allows them to be open, vulnerable, and sometimes even silly.

Another interesting method is described by Chris Bower who likes to use Post-it notes. The method:

* Make sure the topic being brainstormed is clear to all (write on a flip chart)
* Invite participants to record ideas on a note – 1 idea per note.
* Get everyone on his or her feet in any order, standing round a white board and ask him or her to stick all the notes on it.
* Then ask them to group the ideas according to theme and draw a circle round the group and label the theme. Probably needs a coordinator but everyone should join in.
* Encourage cross-fertilization of ideas and combining two or more ideas into one. New ideas should be recorded on additional Post-its.

Karl Whealton suggests setting up a collaborative website or just a single document on something like Writeboard could facilitate this. Maybe you can have an hour meeting and seed the page with the results of the meeting and keep it open for more input until a meeting the following week for next actions, etc. And of course, a collaborative page, especially one updated dynamically, would be incredibly useful for brainstorming with a distributed team.

What is your method when conducting brainstorming?
[tags]coaching [/tags]

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