Ah, the brainstorm… A cornerstone of idea generation; a boardroom mainstay.
What’s shocking though is how many people are wasting their time in sessions that won’t create truly original ideas. The average brainstorming sesh is often stifling some of the best ideas. It can be detrimental to your workplace’s sense of psychological, and creative safety — which you definitely do not want, believe us.
If we’re really all in the business of building strong, successful, and conscious businesses, it’s time to rethink the brainstorm.
1. Group Think Is Real
Stop the group think!!
Instead of calling everyone into a room to workshop or brainstorm an idea, provide team members with a clear brief or ‘ask’ and time to brainstorm on their own.
This ensures a wide range of perspectives and ideas, rather than one showy idea stealing the limelight from all of the smaller, potentially awesome alternatives — OR — a mansplainer running the show.
It also affords people the time to think independently and not attach themselves to ideas prematurely.
When you give people time to think on their own you help ensure that everyone has a voice. You’re also safeguarding against leadership voices bubbling to the top again and again.
2. Listen More, Say Less
Here’s a fact — People often feel a need to ‘fill the void’ with words. This habit, when brought to a brainstorm session, can lead to tumbling down rabbit holes that are hard to get out of. Ahh, we’ve all been there — can we get an amen?!
The only way we’ve found to work around this tendency is to recognize it and be disciplined about the time you’ll take to explore a single idea to its limits. Ask “What if?” only so many times — then pause, and move the heck on.
Redirect to something totally novel. Listen, set a timer if you must. Be sure to always have someone in the room taking notes so that you can keep track of idea threads that might be worth revisiting.
3. Inclusivity for the Win
Calm down — don’t spill your coffee. We’re not telling you to forego the collective brainstorming session altogether.
Once you’ve given people time to brainstorm on their own, go ahead and bring the team together. If you’re leading the brainstorm, ask that everyone share their thoughts with you before calling into the meeting so that you’re familiar with individual ideas and can prompt a kick-ass discussion.
Bonus if you can invite colleagues from a peripheral, though still related, team to join. For example, having a product designer sit in on a marketing meeting that’s brainstorming possible story angles will provide crucial, experience-based details. Sometimes, a slightly different perspective can spur a lightbulb moment.
4. Swipe Right
Instagram, our phones, ads, everywhere you look… we’re inundated all day long with images and visual cues. Don’t overlook our visual natures when you’re brainstorming. Bring some ‘swipe’ (aka dope imagery) into the room, and make sure you pick a room with plenty of space to post-it, scribble, and get crazy.
Might Is Magic
If your team is feeling stuck, look closely at the questions you’re asking. Instead of “How should we?” try “How might we?” instead.
Google, Facebook, and IDEO all use this simple turn of phrase to inspire creative thinking and create a more open environment where all ideas are welcome. The word “might” shifts focus from a single right answer towards many possibilities. It invites participation and maintains a certain optimismthat anyone is capable of generating a great idea.
Now, go on and show that brainstorm who’s boss.