Brainstorming for great ideas: Here is how it is done!
The process of brainstorming is not a new one and definitely not old to run out of use. This simple and easy process has always helped businesses around the world to start a new business, expand or come out of a problem. The benefits of brainstorming exercises are many – it helps you solve a problem creatively and lets you see viewpoints that you were not seeing before. It is also one of the strongest ways to let your people know that they are valued and their opinions are welcomed, thus involving them with more ownership.
A brief history about this technique – it was popularized by Alex Osborn in his 1953 book ‘Applied Imagination’ to help working groups solve issues with creativity. While there are a lot of pros about this method, there are some cons too – A lot of constructive time goes in this activity and discussions can escalate to unwanted territories if not monitored properly. Brainstorming method needs to have a moderator who can guide the discussion to constructive outcomes and if he does not do that, not only time will be wasted but also the project can be jeopardized. Some people might even misuse this by pretending that the team is involved in the direction of project and charging more amount from the client.
To carry out brainstorming one must need to first set and then follow some rules or principles to achieve a better output.
How to make Brainstorming more constructive:
- Sit with an agenda. Having an agenda helps to give direction to the discussions and makes sure that by the end of the discussion, there is a constructive decision reached.
- Just at the start of the meeting, the focus should be on quantity instead of quality – i.e. to get more and more ideas rather than focusing on which one will work. The quality aspect of the ideas can be looked at in depth at a later stage. At this stage collecting more and more ideas is important.
- The members of the brainstorming session need to be communicated the agenda and the desired outcome of the session. It needs to be well communicated that the process is not a waste of time and in fact it is one way to solve the persistent problem.
- The place chosen for the process is normally a meeting room and not without reason. You need a quiet place which can have no interference with any of your internal discussions. Also, it helps to make you and your team free from prying eyes and hence, you can discuss openly and at length. The meeting room chosen should have all tools required to make the session a success – books, pens, whiteboard, internet access, projector, etc. This will help in saving a lot of time and the team can spend time wisely rather than scouting for stationery and internet access.
- To make brainstorming process more productive, always know about the motive of the process. Maintain questions as “WHY”, “FOR WHAT”, “Purpose or Objective?” constantly so that the line of discussion is not lost.
- Count in as many participants as possible, never hesitate to involve people from different sections of business, this will help bring in more options and innovations in the ideas placed.
- Always have a note of the points discussed or play a simple game like passing a sheet or notes to everyone. Everyone writes down their ideas and it is read out later by another person, ask them not to mention their names, this way employees won’t hesitate to write down the simplest ideas. But remember none of those ideas are to be judged, sometimes silliest ideas can turn out to be most innovative ones.
- Also to make this session interesting, throw in some random or out of the way topics so that it will help employees boost their moods or thoughts. This will only encourage and help the session not getting bored.
- Never forget to follow the best of the suggestions to make out the best of business and evaluating new business ideas. This will also be a major boost to the employees as they feel a part of the growth. Employees must be clear and focused on the outcome to set their target and thus, help the business grow with all new protocols and ideas.
- Reward is the best motivator that the moderator and the business can use to have more people joining the discussion and the employees suggesting ideas that get shortlisted and developed from a concept can be rewarded more in terms of commission or any other method. The idea is to make employees feel that not only they have a say in their organization, but also their best ideas can help them get more recognition and reward.
- Don’t be too critical of ideas that does not suit the current model. Criticizing in front of peers is a huge demotivation and the employee may lose confidence and for sure never raise his opinion again in the fear of being criticized. The employees need to be given solid facts and logical reasoning as to why their idea is being rejected. The employee will feel good that his idea was even given a thought and he will be motivated to be more involved.
- What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Lastly, whatever has been discussed in the meeting room should not be discussed outside of it. Lest, environment becomes competitive and it may hurt the work environment. The confidentiality of the session needs to be communicated and understood by everyone. The moderator / manager guiding the discussion should also practice the same and not discuss anything of the session outside.
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