What does “brainstorming” mean?
The act of brainstorming can mean different things to different organizations, however, it essentially means some sort of activity that generates ideas. Brainstorming can also solve problems, using a range of input from the team. It involves unprompted contributions from team members creating a “brainstorm” of unique ideas that will benefit the organization.
What’s important about an effective brainstorming session is that the ideas are spontaneous and in an informal environment. This produces more honest and open ideas from the participating team members.
- There are 4 types of brainstorming sessions (Brainwriting, Mapping, Reverse Brainstorming, Role Storming)
- It is crucial to never criticize any ideas when having a brainstorming session
- The goal of a brainstorm is to generate more original ideas
Why is brainstorming an important first step of any project?
So why is brainstorming an important way to begin a project? Quite simply, it gets the creative ball rolling. Once this occurs, the technical details will follow suite.
What are the different types of brainstorming?
There are a number of different types of brainstorming, but here are 4 types that any organization can utilize for a range of projects.
Unlike your conventional brainstorming session, brainwriting requires participants to write down their ideas, sharing them with the team after a set amount of time. They will then pass their idea to the next person who will add to it. For brainwriting, it is easier to facilitate when the employees are in some sort of formation like a circle.
When you think of brainstorming, what usually comes to mind is a big piece of paper with ideas and arrows. Traditional brainstorming is essentially mapping a central topic on a blank surface. Brainstorm mapping encourages the team can spontaneously yell out ideas and sub-ideas. The result is an organic map of the directions in which a project or initiative can go.
This is also a great way for employees to use their intuition which is a very valuable skill. Using your intuition requires practice but can be very valuable for brainstorming.
Reverse brainstorming is exactly what you think it is. It is an exercise in which employees look at how they could create a problem instead of solving it. Once the ideas to cause the problem have been recorded, then look at how to reverse them – it works really well.
This type of brainstorming can be incredibly effective in creating empathy for different roles and customers or clients. Role storming creates re-enactments of potential work situations, having employees play different roles. This puts them in other people’s shoes, helping them perform their jobs more successfully.
What are some brainstorm examples?
So in what situations would you employ the brainstorming techniques mentioned above? In addition to projects, brainstorming can improve a range of areas such as:
- Occupational safety
- Employee wellness
Effective brainstorming techniques
When participating in a brainstorm session, there are some techniques for the most benefit.
First of all, have an open mind. Even if something sounds silly to you, yell the idea out. The whole point of brainstorming is to create without constraining limits. The best ideas are sometimes the ones off the top of your head.
Let everyone speak. It can be difficult to be heard when everyone is yelling at once. This is why the moderator needs to make sure all ideas are recorded and heard. Additionally, if an employee is quiet or shy, the moderator can also encourage some input.
Stay focused. It is easy to get lost in an energetic brainstorming session so make sure you stay on topic. It is up to the moderator to make sure that the discussion stays on topic for the best results.
How to run a brainstorming session
During a brainstorming session, it is up to the moderator to guide the process along. A brainstorming session also requires someone to record the contributed ideas.
Make sure you have a plan. While brainstorming is an open creative process, it needs some structure to produce focused ideas. This can include planned questions, different central topics, and even art supplies. Focusing on brainstorming questions can be very effective. Some structure can actually maximize creativity during a brainstorming session.
Remote brainstorming is effective as well. Through strong remote leadership, remote brainstorming sessions can have as much impact as in-person.
Session rules are also a good idea. ASQ’s brainstorming rules include:
- No criticism, no evaluation, no discussion of ideas
- All ideas are valid and worthy of consideration
- All ideas are recorded
- Piggybacking—combining, modifying, expanding others’ ideas—is encouraged
How to generate more original ideas?
Ultimately, the goal of brainstorming is to generate more original ideas. When following the techniques mentioned earlier, encourage staff to speak up. Encourage staff out of their comfort zones.
Holding brainstorming sessions in a comfortable space is also very important. You want staff to enjoy these sessions and even look forward to them. Because honest answers are the goal, staff need to be at ease when presenting them. When planning brainstorming sessions, consult with the team to see where they would feel most comfortable. They will thank you.
Getting People Right (GPR) is an educational website providing professionals from all types of businesses with practical education in human resources and leadership. To keep evolving your leadership toolkit, additional GPR resources below will be useful: