How to Brainstorm Effectively

2 years ago

The creative process to get to a great job can be long and complex. But if we already take this into account, worse can happen when the creative idea just doesn't come! To overcome this creative block, as well as other similar problems, one of the most used techniques is Brainstorming. A great "explosion", capable of coming up with unexpected ideas and overcoming the psychological blocks of logic and banality.

What Is Brainstorming?

Brainstorming is a creative technique that relies on the collective. The idea: to bring together several brains to think together about innovative, even disruptive, solutions on a given subject.

The problems that can be solved by brainstorming are varied. It can be an innovation process: new product, new concept, new advertising campaign ... In this case, the goal is to put the creativity of all stakeholders to work. It can also be a question of launching a project. Before undertaking it concretely, a meeting allows you to identify the different ways of going about it. We can also wonder about the future in general: where is the company going and what new directions should it take to respond to the various technological, societal, and economic challenges? Brainstorming also makes it possible to solve management problems on a daily basis.

The brainstorming session thus gives free rein to the imagination of employees with varied expertise, to explore new avenues.

Comes from the world of advertising. It was theorized in 1939 by Alex Osborn, vice president of BBDO, a New York advertising agency. Brainstorming is a technique used today in all types of structures - from startups to large companies - and in all types of departments - R&D, sales, marketing, HR.

How to Brainstorm Effectively?

Contrary to popular belief, brainstorming needs to be structured and managed to be effective. If the brainstorming meeting is based on a principle of creativity, it is however necessary to put it in order in order to make the result of the brainstorming usable. 

Step 1: Define the objective of the brainstorming session

What is the problem to be solved?

What is the exact subject?

Why do we need to find innovative solutions to this issue?

Before soliciting the time and energy of several collaborators, it is essential to define your expectations for the brainstorming meeting. This starting point will allow you to prepare it well beforehand, and to manage it well in its course. A good start brief guarantees a satisfying brainstorm. 

Step 2: Define the number of participants for effective brainstorming

Neither too much nor too little: since brainstorming is based on the sharing and extrapolation of ideas, a minimum number of participants is required. But in order to be able to give the floor to everyone, we must also be careful not to have too large a group. The ideal number of participants is between 8 and 12, to be adjusted according to the conditions in which the brainstorming takes place. 

Step 3: Select participants with varied and motivated profiles 

The diversity and complementarity of profiles are the richness of brainstorming. Among the employees, choose those who have different expertise, backgrounds, and experiences. And who is motivated.

For example, you can invite non-managerial employees, whose point of view will be different from that of managers. And if you really want to open up prospects, why not invite people from outside the company, partners, or trusted suppliers for example?

Step 4: Explain the purpose and rules of the brainstorming game

 To conduct a brainstorming session successfully, it is important to present your goals to all participants. Because they too must understand what is at stake in the meeting.

The rules of brainstorming must also be clearly stated: the duration of the session, the stages, the necessary involvement of the participants, active listening, the constructive attitude, the positive formulation of remarks, and the prohibition of value judgments. Everyone must be able to express themselves freely: this is the sine qua non for an effective meeting.

Step 5: Ideation at the heart of brainstorming

Ideation is the phase of producing ideas. This stage of work is supervised by a facilitator who launches the debate, animates it, moderates the participants, and synthesizes the ideas.

To play this role of facilitator/moderator, it is possible to call on a professional from outside the company. Or manage it yourself as a manager, provided you are well prepared for the brainstorming methodology.

To foster team creativity, the idea is to work in a stimulating environment far removed from everyday life. Even plan a dedicated day that will allow employees to be fully present and focused on the creative process. 

Step 6: Brainstorm Summary for Effective Brainstorming

Brainstorming is thought of in 2 steps:

The first creative phase, which consists of mentioning all the ideas that come to mind (sometimes moving away from reality and the basic subject).

In addition, a second phase consists of selecting the ideas most in phase with reality; the objective being to find a solution.

The brainstorming synthesis and the creation of the solution are then shared with the group. 

Step 7: Check and Evaluate the Brainstorming Solution

Testing the solution through its effective implementation validates its effectiveness. This step falls under the role of the initiator of the brainstorming, who will be able to share the result of his assessment with all the employees who took part in the initial reflection.

How to Have a Successful Brainstorming Session?

Brainstorming is easy to set up. However, it is necessary to respect a few principles in order to have a successful session:

First, criticism should not have a place in brainstorming. All participants should be free to express themselves without fear of being judged.

Second, we have to get everyone to participate. It is even advisable to motivate the participants to unwrap all the ideas in their minds, even the most ridiculous. There should be no censorship in a brainstorming session. The more the think tank launches into crazy ideas, the more innovative solutions can be found.

Then, you have to focus on quantity and not quality during brainstorming. The more ideas there are, the more likely the session will be successful.

Finally, the ideas proposed should make it possible to broaden the debates. The facilitator should guide the session from time to time in order to optimize the results of the brainstorming.

Therefore, brainstorming is a kind of informal meeting through which many ideas come together. Participants or work teams let their creativity speak without any constraints. In short, it is a participatory method of problem-solving that has already proved its worth.

Individual Brainstorming

Paradoxically, individual brainstorming is usually more effective than group brainstorming, despite the fact that a larger number of ideas can be developed in teamwork. In fact, the presence of other individuals can generate a sort of competition that undermines the stability of this work, complicating the normal process that should lead to the flow of ideas. Alone you can be more free and creative and for this, you can get better at elaborating certain concepts, perhaps without restrictions or censorship. However, there is a very important aspect to underline: usually individual brainstorming it is used to solve fairly simple problems, which do not require more elaborate reasoning or more simply it can be used to collect some ideas that can be submitted and subsequently elaborated. To do individual brainstorming, you just need to be in a place where there is no external interference and where you can easily concentrate to give free rein to the flow of ideas.

Brainstorm: Mistakes to Avoid

If the freedom of expression and spontaneity are essential to carry out a creativity session, it is strongly recommended to respect certain rules:

Never criticize or denigrate the idea proposed by an employee: this could break the group dynamic;

Do not immediately put aside ideas that seem the craziest or the most original: they are sometimes a source of innovation;

Identify an issue or a subject that is too broad: the participants risk getting lost in the flow of information and thus be counterproductive;

Make a distinction according to hierarchical positions: each stakeholder must be valued in the same way.

As you will have understood, leading brainstorming sessions cannot be improvised. You need a minimum of organization upstream and a maximum of motivation during the meeting! Providing creative tools, producing unrestrained ideas and innovating, while respecting the rules of the game, are the keys to successful brainstorming.

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