When managers or business leaders need to come up with some novel way to solve problems, brainstorming usually comes up. In fact, I believe that the term is incorrectly being used by many to connote business meeting.
I remember my boss, who has penchant for new business buzzwords, likes to call for brainstorming sessions; when in reality, he just likes to deliver 30-minute soliloquies during meetings. Usually we end up agreeing to what he is saying because we were not even given time to bring up our ideas.
Brainstorming is a very effective tool in introducing fresh and innovative solutions to almost any problem in the corporate world. To be able to use this correctly, however, we need to know what it means.
In the early 1800s, brainstorm is actually a type of mental disease. It was only in the 1930s that brainstorm was used to mean a serendipitous idea that provides solution to a problem. Brainstorming only “stormed" the corporate arena in the 1950s when it was introduced as a method to gather ideas.
Now, brainstorming is a conference problem-solving method that aims to generate spontaneous and original ideas from the members of the group. Thus, what my boss loves to do is called lecturing and not really brainstorming.
Brainstorming has two phases. The first is the imaginative phase. This is where all the ideas are presented and noted. The second is the practical stage, where the ideas given are analyzed and evaluated.
To get the most of brainstorming sessions in your office, and even in your home, you need to follow some rules. Here are the things you need to keep in mind to ensure an effective brainstorming session:
Find a good leader
A brainstorming session will almost always fail if the one presiding over the meeting does not have good leadership skills. You need to mediate, encourage, and inspire people so that they will freely share their ideas. Thus, a person who is narrow-minded, self-conscious, and domineering cannot effectively use this method to the fullest.
It is also the job of the moderator to keep the session moving. So, he or she should be ready to give crazy suggestions when no one is speaking. Many are afraid to give the first suggestion or to speak up first.
The problem that will be discussed by the group should be defined or outlined days before the brainstorming session. This will give the members enough time to analyze and think about the problem on their own. So when they come to the meeting, they are already prepared to tackle the problem and no time will be wasted in question and answer portions.
Create an open environment
All ideas, no matter how wild, should be encouraged in a brainstorming session. You should not laugh or belittle someone else's suggestions. People don't want to be judged and laughed at. Therefore, if you want to squeeze out all the thoughts and ideas of your team, you need to be objective. All comments to the proposals given during the first part of the brainstorming meeting should be banned.
Another way to encourage spontaneous sharing of ideas is to give a reward to the person who gave the most number of suggestions.
Mix and Match
After the imaginative stage, you need to discuss and evaluate all the ideas presented. The best way to do this is let another person defend somebody else's idea. This will help bring a fresh perspective to the suggestion.
Follow the guide provided above and you will reap the benefits that effective brainstorming will bring. Good luck and don't be afraid to pump up the jam.
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