Your successful brainstorming session

New ideas thanks to brainstorming

A successful brainstorming session can do a lot for your organisation. These days, nothing stands still. Everything is changing fast. Products are updated and working methods are revised. A good brainstorming session with your coworkers can also generate a lot of improvements and new ideas.

There are hundreds of topics for brainstorming: a better approach to your customers, a new marketing concept or a new service within your company... a new strategy. Essentially it’s a question of generating new, usable ideas during the brainstorming session.

Brainstorming is more than simply having a meeting

Successful brainstorming is not easy and it requires a certain technique. It’s a question of allowing the staff’s creativity free rein. A brainstorm session is not simply a meeting with a group in order to get together a bunch of ideas. It’s a lot more than that. A good brainstorming session is first and foremost a collaborative model whereby each participant is thinking along with the others as an equal.

Alex Osborn, an American advertising man and creator of the concept of the brainstorm established a number of basic rules:

  • Don’t criticize and don’t immediately judge. Osborn claims that you first have to be able to uninhibitedly gather all of the ideas and only evaluate and judge them later.
  • Collect as many ideas as possible, quantity is more important than quality.
  • Encourage people to go really far in coming up with ideas, even if they are completely outlandish.
  • Build further upon each other’s suggestions.

The major culprit for unsuccessful brainstorming is criticism. This discourages the participants in the brainstorming session from making suggestions. And yet, it often happens that ideas are shot down immediately. That’s usually because as people, we do not always respond well to change, to discovering unknown pathways that lead who knows where. If we do manage to open our minds for new ideas, not to rush to judgement and to assertively defend our ideas, then there’s a good chance that the brainstorming session will be a success.

Extra tips:

  • There are different methods for brainstorming. Brainwriting, mind mapping or negative brainstorming, are a just a few from a long list of techniques. Research which form is suitable for the purpose of your brainstorming.
  • You can engage the help of a professional coach who can moderate the brainstorming session from an outsider’s perspective.
  • Be sure that there is plenty of trust and openness among the participants.
  • Very clearly define the purpose of the brainstorming session. What is the result that you hope to achieve from it?
  • Split the brainstorming session up into parts: the idea phase, the assessment phase, the development phase.
  • Clearly indicate when it’s time to start the assessment phase.
  • After the brainstorming session, keep the employees informed of what happens with the results. That will motivate them for the next session.
  • Don’t let a brainstorming session last too long and include regular breaks.
  • Spread the brainstorming sessions over time so that participants can have the chance to allow ideas and proposals to mature in order to reconsider them.
  • If participants find it difficult to generate ideas out of fear of being criticized, have them submit them anonymously.
  • Make sure that no one will be disturbed. If possible, mobile telephones should be turned off.
  • A new method that is being used now is holding brainstorming sessions through instant message or chat programs. Find out if this method would work well for your organisation.