You know the basics of the brainstorm — prepping attendees with relevant background information, speaking positively, and so on. But what’s your company to do when you check all the boxes and still come away with stale ideas?
The difference between brainstorms that feel like a sprinkle and brainstorms that feel like a category 4 hurricane often lie in unexpected details: the location, the right mix of participants, and subtle cues that foster collaboration.
Here are a few ways to reimagine and reenergize your company’s brainstorming process.
1. Follow the Pizza Rule.
Jeff Bezos has a strict policy that no meeting should be attended by more than the number of people you could feed with two pizzas.
Invite anywhere from three to 10 people to your meeting. Smaller groups promote personal ownership of projects.
2. Think Outside the Box. And the Office.
Most employees spend 95 percent of their time at a desk, which doesn’t exactly breed imagination. Try hosting a brainstorm in a refreshing atmosphere, such as a local coffee shop, library, or park. Field trips are for adults, too.
If you can’t leave the office, consider temporarily transforming your conference room wall into a mood board or even converting a storage space into a think tank.
3. Host Introvert-friendly Brainstorms.
Brainstorming may have been made for extroverts, but there are ways to make sure everyone’s comfortable contributing.
- Pre-assign tasks. Introverts like to think through problems before they vocalize a solution, so instruct participants to research ahead of time and bring resources to the brainstorm.
- Ask everyone to speak up. Allow the whole team to speak up by having each person present their pre-meeting research. By giving everyone a chance to chime in and considering all ideas, you’ll settle on the best ideas rather than the loudest ones.
4. Stick(y) to It.
Sticky notes are a brainstorm’s secret weapon. Bring a few pads of Post-its and a handful of permanent markers to your meeting and ask participants to write down their best ideas, one per note. Throw them up on a whiteboard or wall and group related ideas together.
Then, have brainstorm attendees initial or star the sticky notes they think are the top five ideas. Those with the most votes stay on the board, and ones without go to the trash. Open the floor for discussion.
5. Adopt the “Yes, and” Philosophy from Improv Comedy.
In improv, actors use a method called “Yes, and … ” to ensure the plot keeps rolling throughout a show. The idea is simple: Actors must follow and expand on whatever direction another actor takes the plot.
A “Yes, and … ” brainstorming process will help create a positive environment where participants are free to share their wildest ideas. Focus on turning mediocre ideas into great ones instead of starting over from zero every time.
6. Who Said Your Brainstorm Has to Be a Meeting?
For ideas that require more input than fit the Pizza Rule, consider creating a suggestion space in communal areas, like the office kitchen. Our office painted a wall with chalk paint, but you can even bring out the sticky notes again for a less permanent fixture.
Fruitful brainstorms don’t just happen — they’re fostered by leaders who know how to encourage participation from a handpicked team of experts. Unsurprisingly, when you learn how to brainstorm creatively, you get more creative ideas.
Looking to harness the power of our brainstorms? Contact us.