You know the basics of a brainstorming session — prepping attendees with relevant background information, taking notes, being open to all contributions, 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 hurricane often lies in the 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 sessions.
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. Regardless of how much pizza you think your group can eat, keep it under 10 people. Smaller groups promote personal ownership of projects and help allow everyone’s ideas to be heard.
2. Think Outside the Box. And the Office.
Most employees spend 95 percent of their time at a desk, which doesn’t exactly stimulate creative thinking. Try hosting a brainstorming session in a refreshing atmosphere, such as a local coffee shop, library, or park. Don’t forget: 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 with comfortable places for seating and a whiteboard for collecting ideas.
3. Host Introvert-friendly Brainstorming Sessions.
Brainstorming may have been made for extroverts, but there are ways to ensure everyone’s comfortable contributing.
- Pre-assign tasks. Introverts like to think through problems before they vocalize a solution, so invite participants to do their own research ahead of time and bring resources to the brainstorming.
- Ask everyone to participate. 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 consider all ideas, you’ll arrive at 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. Place these creative nuggets 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 those without go to the “orphan file.” 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 scenario keeps advancing throughout a show. The idea is simple: Actors must follow and expound upon whatever direction another actor takes the story.
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 from zero every time.
6. Get Playful!
While you don’t hear much about fidget spinners anymore, in many respects, the concept was sound. Simply put: research shows that when people are engaged in playful activity, they can stay focused for longer periods of time. Additionally, playing with something — be it a stress ball, bubble blower, pinwheel or playdough — frees the mind to think creatively by tapping into our child-like, playful mind, free of self-editing or bias.
Consider investing in these types of fidget objects to stimulate your team’s best thinking. Other ideas include coloring books, Lego bricks, or Jenga blocks — anything that encourages your team to get into their creative headspace.
7. Who Said Your Brainstorming Session Has to Be a Meeting?
For ideas that require broader input from the entire office, consider creating a suggestion space in communal areas, like the office kitchen. We painted a wall with chalk paint in ours, but you can use a whiteboard or even bring out the sticky notes again for a less permanent fixture.
Better 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 your brainstorming sessions? Contact us.