Two heads are better than one, right? That’s the idea behind brainstorming to find solutions to your company’s challenges. After all, the more ideas, the more possibilities.
But what’s the best way to go about getting your team together to brainstorm?
The way it’s often done is to call a meeting in which everyone shouts out solutions like traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Is this a good method? Maybe.
The Harvard Business Review has some advice, however.
Give the Problem a Name
They suggest using your team to clarify the issue before any brainstorming begins. A lot of time can be wasted going in different directions, so bring some focus to the session at the start.
Next, the Review suggests you limit the random shouting of ideas. This, of course, flies in the face of traditional brainstorming, which encourages just that. But this type of brainstorming can backfire.
When your team works as a group, they often use that group dynamic to achieve some cohesion on ideas and direction. But this is exactly what you want to avoid in a brainstorming session.
Let’s say you have four team members around a table. Each has a unique idea. Person A puts theirs out there. Person B listens and has an idea to add to it. Person C gets excited because it is similar to their idea, and the snowball rolls from there.
This seems ideal — exactly what we want to get out of brainstorming. But what we don’t learn here is that Person D’s idea never gets heard. And Person B has forgotten their idea because they like Person A’s so much. And Person C’s idea has morphed to match Person A’s. And it turns out that the idea shared by Person A wasn’t even the best one.
How do we stop this snowball from forming?
Brainstorming Isn’t All Storming
The Review suggests a few ways. One is the 6-3-5 method, where each person in a group of six writes down three ideas (quietly — shhhh!) and the slips of paper are passed along five times so others can add to the ideas (still quietly). Only after this process is complete does the team start brainstorming. This way, no ideas are lost.
Inc. Magazine suggests taking a little of the spontaneity out of brainstorming sessions by sending out an agenda a few days ahead. This, too, seems contradictory to the process. But gathering a group to just blurt out the first things that come to their minds is a risky use of your business’s time. Better to have them come with some ideas and let others suggest ways to build off them.
Listening Is Part of Learning
Inc. also cautions against dismissing any ideas too quickly. It’s easy to do: “Bah! That will never work!” Innovation doesn’t happen in rooms where this phrase is commonly uttered.
But take it a step further. Don’t just ban idea-dissing. Call on your quieter team members and force everyone to listen. The quiet employees are thinking too. They’re just not thinking out loud. Use all your resources, not just the big, shiny ones out front.
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