Tips for More Effective Group Brainstorming

Written by on October 17, 2012 in Career - No comments | Print this page

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When you are in need of better ideas for your business, whether it is coming up with a new product, improving a current one or solving a problem you face, brainstorming can be an effective technique. But, it can also be a big time-waster if done ineffectively. Generation of new ideas is crucial for the success of any business and here are some tips to better utilize this useful tool.

Lay Out Some Rules

While it is often said that there are no bad ideas in brainstorming, this is not necessarily true. If you want to make the session effective, you need to lay out some groundwork of what the session is attempting to accomplish. Clearly outline the goals of the meeting and what objectives you aim to achieve. By establishing clarity, you create a clear starting point for formulating ideas and knowing what is possible and what is not possible in terms of solutions.

Create a ‘’Creative’’ Atmosphere

Creativity is definitely something that can be fostered and nurtured and you want to create conditions that will allow it to shine through as strongly as it can. If feasible, consider having the session outside of the office—creating some physical distance between the workers and the emails and phone messages that are probably piling up as they are away from their desk might give a mental boost.

Do some exercises before the session starts to promote relaxation such as a short meditation or some sort of breathing exercise. Encourage a positive atmosphere devoid of negativity and judgment; you want everyone to feel comfortable participating. Use exercises that can boost creative thinking and provide visual aids such as books or displays that have some relevance to what you are trying to accomplish.

Divide Larger Groups

Often times, a ‘’group’’ brainstorming session turns into a handful of the dominant personalities doing all the talking while the rest of the group sits in silence—hardly effective. To maximize participation, it would be a good idea to break people into smaller groups. Research has shown three to five to be a good number. When people are in pairs, it is likely that one person will end up dominating while groups of more than five are likely to split into sub-groups.

Keep the Focus

While you may think of brainstorming as a stream of consciousness exercise where you just keep spitting out whatever comes to mind first, that is not exactly how you want it to be if you want to achieve optimal effectiveness. After you have established your brainstorming groups, set some guidelines to help everyone stay focused on the objective and questions outlined at the start of the session.

Perhaps, address just one aspect every 30 minutes. You want to allow adequate time for everyone to give input and discuss and refine any ideas. Brainstorming sessions are about bringing good ideas to the surface, where they can be analyzed and molded; you want to make sure you get as many of those good ideas to the surface as possible.

This is a guest post.  Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about a variety of business topics, particularly strategies for enhancing creative thinking. You need a place to record all the great ideas that come from your brainstorming session; if you are interested in alternative options to traditional dry erase boards, follow the link to check out some good choices. 

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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