"If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied"
Brainstorming is a recognised and well–established technique – a structured way of coming up with lots of ideas. The aim is quantity not quality, from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Brainstorming can be a powerful tool for generating ideas in a short period of time. Just like meetings, however, brainstorms must be organised and run well. If they are not, they can become demotivating and considered a waste of time.
Think about how you will run your brainstorming session. How will you generate lots of different ideas? How will you keep it going? It’s not difficult but it does require preparation.
How to run a brainstorm and get results
Decide where you are having your brainstorm. Allow for a maximum length of 30 – 40 minutes. That is long enough to expect people to be stimulated and responsive. If you are not comfortable facilitating the session, find someone who is or employ a professional facilitator. Clearly explain to your participants what you want to achieve and what you expect from them and plan three or four questions to get the conversation going. Be enthusiastic!
To encourage fresh and original thinking, ask people to think about opposites, ask for ideas from different sectors or different walks of life, pose questions that force the group to look at the issue from different perspectives, use colours, props, post it notes and visual stimulus. Make it fun.
At the end of the session, highlight some of the great ideas that have been generated, explain what happens next and thank everyone for their participation.
Some basic brainstorming rules:
- Explain the topic you are going to explore
- Ask one question at a time
- Write down every answer
- Give everyone time to speak
- Encourage wild and wonderful ideas – anything goes!
- Keep it moving
- Make it fun
- There are NO bad ideas!
If you are having trouble getting started, try the alphabet game.
As facilitator, start with the letter A and ask people to come up with solutions or ideas that respond or relate to the question you are trying to solve. Get people to shout out ideas – any ideas – starting with the letter A, B, C etc in rapid succession. Spend no more than a minute or two on each letter.
Then review what you have, select and group the most promising ideas – then work on each in turn, as a group or split into teams.