Five brainstorming fails

When faced with an imminent brainstorming session at work the words productive and interesting rarely spring to mind anymore – but why? Brainstorming is still one of the most popular group creativity exercises and for good reason. When facilitated properly, a brainstorming session can be the birthplace for a plethora of clever, witty and exciting new ideas. These days, however, brainstorming sessions have become somewhat dull due to ill facilitation. People are now leaving a brainstorm feeling discouraged and cranky – like they’ve just left another uninspiring meeting. To ensure you get the most out of your future brainstorming sessions, avoid these five behaviours: 1.    Judge contributors’ ideas

It’s easy to point out the holes in someone else’s idea and it might even feel like you’re being helpful but when brainstorming, refrain from judgmental comments and encourage uninhibited ideas. Save analysis, discussion and criticism of the contributing ideas until the brainstorming session is over and it’s time for evaluation. It’s paramount that you don’t to let criticism stifle the creativity of the session.

2.   Assume every idea is fully formed

The whole point of a brainstorming session is to be free, unstructured and spontaneous. Some peoples’ ideas may sound crazy at first but that could just be the tip of their iceberg idea. Try to build on the ideas of your fellow contributors. In brainstorming there’s no such thing as a bad idea, just one that’s not fully formed.

3.   Allow people to talk over one another

It can be tempting to throw in your five cents as ideas come up but try to keep the discussion to one person speaking at a time. True creative brainstorming generates energy and excitement that can sometimes cause a group to get sidetracked. Unrelated topics can come up and in the spirit of encouraging all ideas, write them down on a separate list to discuss at another time. This will help to keep everyone focused.

4.   Jot down minutes

Don’t get consumed on recording every detail of the brainstorming session. This isn’t a meeting; it’s a creative expression session. Try to be messy and visual instead, using pictures, arrows and bubbles. Throw every (related) idea on the wall or piece of butcher’s paper and you will see the ideas take shape.

5.    Aim for quality ideas

Strive for quantity not quality. You want to fill the wall with ideas without worrying if they are going to be the right one. If you are the leader of the group try leading with example and throw up an outrageous idea and you will enable others to release their fears as well. You will no doubt end up with some great, innovative ideas at the end of the session.

One last thing: at the conclusion of a brainstorming session don’t leave the room hoping someone else will follow-up. Nominate one person at the beginning of the session that will be responsible for sending a follow-up email allocating action points to all brainstorming team members. Be sure to set a date to re-group or electronically check-in with a progress report.

Jo Sabin is the community manager at DesignCrowd杭州后花园

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