The brainstorm is a tool that was invented by Alex Osborn, an American creative advertiser. This practice is based on the creative capacity of a group to find new ideas, outside of all influence from norms or preconceived notions, in order to resolve a problem.
One of brainstorming’s principles is to generate the most ideas possible in response to a question that can also be identified as an issue. Those who work in a creative environment often face a lack of ideas. When this happens, brainstorming can be an excellent way to stimulate creativity within your company.
By preparing yourself properly, you can avoid having unproductive meetings. Here are four simple steps to successful brainstorming, whether it is done in person or remotely.
1. Identify the needs and limits of the brainstorm
For brainstorming to be useful, it is important to prepare by doing an exercise that helps reflect on what the session can or cannot bring.
Before the meeting, you have to determine:
The issue, which is the meeting’s objective. Since the goal is to find solutions, it has to be presented as a question:
- How can we contribute to increase in a product’s sales?
- How can we attract the targeted audience’s attention?
- What content creator should be chosen for this mandate?
The constraints, which are the limits being faced:
- Is there a deadline to respect?
- What market are we trying to reach?
2. Prepare in detail for the brainstorm
Picking people with varied backgrounds of knowledge and from different hierarchical levels creates a valuable diversity in the group. Ideally, there should be between 5 to 10 people.
Learn the level of knowledge that participants have in relation to the issue, and share in advance all necessary information with those who need to get familiarized.
Make the brainstorm official for participants by sending an email invititation at least one week before the meeting, whether it is happening in person or online.
This email should include:
- The suggested time and date
- The question, being the issue to discuss during the session
- The context of the subject, including needs, constraints and all relevant documentation (briefing document, client presentation, visual, link to connect to the meeting, etc.)
*Note : Once you have everything you need to send out the invitation (those who are invited, contextual details, etc.), we strongly recommend that you survey people on their availability. This would prevent you from having to change the date and time of the invitation often, which could potentially confuse the group.
3. Choose a brainstorm facilitator
The brainstorm facilitator should be experienced or at least have witnessed the work of an experienced facilitator.
He or she has to remain impartial and be able to get the conversation back on track when it diverges from the main topic. In an ideal world, this person is positive, efficient and knows how to make participants feel comfortable.
At the beginning of the meeting, the facilitator has to set the rules and communicate them verbally or, even better, write them on a board.
These rules can consist of inviting participants to put all stereotypes and prejudices on hold, to encourage out-of-the-box ideas, to build on others’ suggestions, etc.
4. Brainstorming sequence
There are several techniques to ensure that the exchange of ideas goes smoothly. One of these is the divergence and convergence technique.
Divergence is the period when participants think of ideas, and convergence is when ideas are grouped together.
Here is how to use the divergence and convergence technique:
- Distribute sticky note pads (Post-it notes) to every participant
- Leave a few minutes for participants to write down their ideas concisely
- Place the notes with the written ideas on a board or a wall
- The facilitator has to read every idea out loud
- Group the ideas into categories
- Vote for the best category
- Give the ideas to the person who planned the meeting so a smaller group of people can study them
Adapting brainstorming to working from home
If your brainstorm is happening by videoconference, you can use a collaborative document like Google Docs and live chatting tools to allow participants to add their own ideas and to participate proactively in the session.
Other tips for a successful brainstorm
- Keep track of time. The facilitator or one of the participants should be in charge of keeping an eye on the clock during the brainstorm. For example, the timekeeper could notify the team every 15 minutes to indicate how much time is left.
- All ideas are good. Ask participants to share their ideas starting with the words “and if”, followed by the idea. This will lessen the pressure felt by the person who is sharing their idea.
What to remember for efficient brainstorming
For a brainstorming session to be fruitful, you have to:
- Define the issue: its needs and limits
- Prepare the meeting details: issue, participants, context, invitation
- Choose the right facilitator: impartial, disciplined, etc.
- Ensure that the session runs smoothly: using the technique of your choice and respecting every step
A brainstorm session that is not properly organized or directed can quickly become useless. On the contrary, an efficiently led session can be captivating, stimulating and can generate extraordinary ideas.
In need of ideas for promoting products or services? Don’t hesitate to reach out to Capital-Image’s team of professionals who can help you plan an efficient brainstorming session or can give you new ideas for your business.