14 Ideas to Achieve Brainstorming Success

October 12th, 2010 by Rob Berman Leave a reply »

profiMARS business model brainstormphoto © 2009 Mundo Resink | more info (via: Wylio)
Brainstorming is an essential tool to problem solving.  We do it everyday in our non-work lives.  For example, where should we go to eat?  What should we do this weekend?

However, at work, we sometimes erect barriers to using brainstorming.  The goals and processes need to be clear in order to attain our direct results.  The output should be solutions to the problems that are presented.

Here are some brainstorming tips:

1.      Avoid passing judgment of others’ ideas.

2.      Think differently than usual.

3.      Take an idea and improve, modify or build around it.

4.      Quantity is more important than quality.

5.      No idea is a bad idea.

6.      Have a welcoming environment.

7.      Suggest your idea and move on.  Do not become an advocate for a point.

8.      Listen to the ideas of others with an open mind.

9.      Have a large whiteboard or lots of paper sheets to tape or stick on the walls.

10.  Focusing the group on the whiteboard or sheets of paper on the wall focuses everyone on the common problem(s), not each other.

11.  Be careful about the levels of authority in the room.  Entry-level staff may not speak their mind in front of Vice Presidents.

12.  Consider using brainstorming techniques that are “silent” and encourage everyone to participate.  Examples might include mind mapping and affinity diagrams.

13.  Consider a blended approach.  Begin with a “silent” exercise and then open it up to a roundtable of adding ideas.

14.  For geographically diverse or technical groups consider using Wikis.

The Takeaway

After completing brainstorming exercises, make sure all participants are acknowledged, ask for their feedback on the process and how to improve it.

Those are the ideas.  What do you say?  Please comment below.

1.      What else would you add to the list?

2.      What have been your brainstorming experiences?

3.      How does your organization utilize brainstorming?

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo.com.

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9 comments

  1. I think the biggest barrier to successful brainstorming is fear of being judged for out of the box ideas. So I love both #1 and #5 in your suggestions as ground rules so that “wild ideas” are welcome.

    When my coaching clients are “stuck” we often turn to brainstorming. Giving ourselves permission to entertain “crazy” ideas is not only fun, it breaks the client’s tension, and renders excellent strategies.

  2. Sticky post-it notes and a white board…. oh the memories. 🙂 I actually used to really enjoy leading brainstorming sessions. As you point out, the key is to create an environment where everyone feels empowered to speak up. I used to lead a cross-functional team that worked on process improvements. Some of the best ideas we implemented came from brainstorming sessions using tips that you’ve mentioned. Great post Rob.

    • Rob Berman says:

      Sherryl:

      One of the best benefits of brainstorming is removing some of the limitations we place on our thinking. Your experience bears out that point.

      Rob

  3. Agree with Jeannette.

    You have to bring forward ideas that are really far out to get somewhere. The weirder and more unusual the better. If you really use your imagination and discuss crazy ideas that most people would say can’t be done you will get fantastic results.

  4. I’ve conducted a lot of brainstorming sessions. I’ve found that asking one question at the end of the session has produced some of the best ideas. “I want your wildest ideas, don’t hold back no matter how wild it is.” This is so liberating. You would be amazed how many new ideas come from people who were afraid to mention an idea because they would feel stupid. You give them license to feel stupid and it turns out that many of the wild ideas have real merit.

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