Brainstorming is a creative exercise to help you and your team come up with as many new ideas as possible. This means you need to establish an environment in which everyone feels comfortable voicing their ideas, no matter how crazy they may seem.
Remember, a brainstorming session is not the same as a planning meeting. Here’s the difference:
- Is for generating ideas
- Is for identifying issues
- Encourages different thinking
- Is open format
- Has a fixed agenda
- Involves a chairperson
- Usually involves minute-taking
- Follows action items
At a brainstorming session, any idea is valid and there should be no judgement or criticism.
How to brainstorm
The nature of brainstorming means your approach should be flexible, depending on what best suits you and your team.
If you’re not sure how to go about it, here’s one technique that has proven successful in business. You’ll need a pile of post-it notes for each person present, and a white-board.
Present the idea, challenge or opportunity you wish to brainstorm. This could be, "What theme should we have for our event?" or "What is the best date for our event?"
Give everyone about five minutes to write down as many ideas as they can on post-it notes, one idea per post-it. Tell everyone not to filter their ideas: they should write them down no matter how impractical, outrageous, extreme or crazy they may seem.
Have everyone stick their ideas on a white-board, putting each note near any others that seem similar. This should result in clusters of similar ideas.
Review the ideas by cluster (or individually if each idea is different to the next). For each type of idea, ask the group, “How could we make this work?” Discuss each variation of the idea and refine it to develop a possible solution.
Write up a summary of each type of idea, and determine an action plan to test and research the ideas further so that you can create a shortlist of the most suitable solutions.
* Note: Techniques adapted from Brainstorming How to Guide, EQuest Consulting