If necessity is the mother of invention, brainstorms are most assuredly the father. Conducted well, a brainstorm can result in a wealth of ideas that deliver great value in the form of insights, innovations and improved employee morale. Conducted poorly, a brainstorm will find everyone leaving the room wondering how they can opt out of future gatherings. To ensure your next brainstorming event is as magical as a Penn and Teller show, we’ve assembled seven brainstorming techniques for your next meeting.
1. Do tell the leaders to pipe down
Everyone knows that the job of a leader is to wield their influence to deliver great outcomes. However, leaders wielding influence in a brainstorming session often kill more creativity than they create because people will feel compelled to “get-on-board” with whatever leadership is thinking. Since the purpose of a brainstorm is to generate fresh ideas, project leaders and other influential people in the room should practice keeping mum until it’s time to discuss the ideas submitted.
Tip: Once the point of the brainstorm has been stated, give everyone in the meeting seven minutes to work quietly by themselves and write down as many ideas as possible.
2. Do put it in neutral
Although it’s a good practice to have leaders keep their opinions quiet at the beginning of brainstorms, these meetings still require leadership and structure to be productive, which is why you should enlist the help of a neutral facilitator. Inviting a non-stakeholder to facilitate your brainstorm serves two critical functions: first, it keeps the meeting on track; and second, it removes office politics from the equation, which allows more people to take risks and share ideas.
Tip: A facilitator can be a person from another department with excellent communication skills or an outside consultant who specializes in facilitating meetings.
3. Do this at home
Sometimes it’s good to get out of the office to get a fresh perspective, but gathering everyone in an inspirational spot can be time-consuming and inconvenient. Creativity and brainstorming author and expert, Sam Harrison stated in a recent Fast Company article that, “Brainstorming should be business as usual—a familiar and constant face in the workplace.” He maintains that leaders who insist brainstorms happen off premises cause their companies to “lose the readiness and spontaneity of in-the-moment collaborations.”
Tip: Consider creating your own inspirational atmosphere at your next brainstorm by decorating the meeting space with festive streamers, posters and tchotchkes.
4. Do choose a well-equipped space
Whether your brainstorm takes place in a conference room, huddle space, or lounge area, it’s important to plan ahead to ensure everyone is able to participate in the process. High-quality video conferencing equipment, which features HD video and sound and wireless screen sharing, are essential for making remote attendees feel heard, understood and included. You will also want to choose an easy-to-use interactive whiteboard, such as Explain Everything, that allows everyone in-house and joining remotely to share notes, images, drawings, animations, etc.
Tip: Empower people to stay energized and ‘think on their feet’ during brainstorms by removing chairs from the room and conducting the session stand-up style.
5. Do remove the fear of failure
In the most popular Ted Talk of all time, Sir Ken Robinson, who was knighted for his research regarding the significance of creativity in education and the economy said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Robinson asserts that most companies stigmatize mistakes and therefore fall short of their potential to innovate. To ensure your brainstorm participants feel free to generate ideas, make sure it’s understood from the get-go that there are no wrong or bad ideas and that all ideas will be heard without judgment. After all, billionaire Sara Blakely maintains that the overwhelming key to her success was giving her ideas and herself permission to fail.
Tip: Allowing people to submit ideas anonymously to the facilitator encourages boldness and helps to reduce the fear of being wrong.
6. Do mix it up
Sometimes gaining the fresh perspective needed for a successful brainstorm is as simple as inviting a diverse group of people to participate. As Robinson stated in his landmark Ted Talk, “Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value. More often than not it comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.” The next time you conduct a brainstorming meeting invite people outside your department to participate. For example, if you’re in R&D and you are brainstorming ideas for a new product, invite people from marketing and accounting to participate and share their views. You never know what amazing new insights and ideas their input may inspire in your group.
Tip: Honor the time and input of people from other departments by sending a post-brainstorm thank-you note or a gift card for coffee or lunch.
7. Do have fun
Making brainstorm sessions a fun affair is smart business. Among the many benefits of creating a playful atmosphere for brainstorming are enhanced abilities of participants to think, be creative, solve problems, stay energized, and form positive meaningful connections with team members. Tim Brown, the CEO of global design company, IDEO concurs with the benefits of fun and maintains that “creating an office in which people have the security and comfort to play and not be judged allows them to take more creative risks,” which boosts productivity and results in better ideas and outcomes.
Tip: Consider playing brainstorming games such as pass the parcel, or giving out prizes for most ideas generated, most creative, best collaborative idea, etc.
All aboard the collaboration station
The best way to ensure your next brainstorm becomes a definite “do” for all involved is to employ Highfive. Easy-to-use and love, Highfive all-in-one video conferencing equipment foster an atmosphere of creativity and collaboration by allowing everyone to connect and share ideas with refreshing simplicity, thanks to HD video, audio and wireless screen sharing. For a dynamic and immersive brainstorming experience, give your team a Highfive.