Brainstorming is one of the most effective methods for gathering a lot of ideas quickly. I am continually impressed at what can be achieved when you get several minds with different perspectives focused on one problem or topic.
Group brainstorming can produce amazing results by drawing on a magic force called ‘synergy’. Synergy is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “The combined effect of group members that exceeds their individual efforts. " Said another way, 1 1 = 3. Brainstorming works best if all participants know and agree to follow certain guidelines during the session. The ideal group size for this activity seems to be between four to seven, although we often facilitate brainstorming sessions with fewer and with more participants.
There are four ways guaranteed to shutdown a brainstorming session, including:
- Being critical.
- Negative comments.
- Lengthy explanations.
As a trainer, I find it useful to share the previous four points with learners prior to beginning a brainstorming session. Making your participants aware of these four ‘pitfalls’ enables you to make each group responsible for staying on track. When breaking a larger group into small groups for brainstorming, it can be helpful to have each group self monitor. If any participants begin to critique or evaluate during the session, I suggest that other members of the group gently guide the ‘offender’ back into the process by saying, “We're brainstorming, let's stay focused on generating as many ideas as we can. " Here is a suggested process for keeping your brainstorming sessions lively, focused and productive.
The facilitator announces the focus of the session - the key question the group will be answering.
Write the key question or focus of the brainstorming session and post it where it is visible to the group.
All participants input as many ideas as possible in the allocated time.
All ideas however impractical or crazy, are accepted.
The recorder posts all ideas for everyone to see.
The facilitator keeps posing the key question without variation to keep the process on track.
7. No Editing
Explain that the time to evaluate or critique the ideas is after the brainstorming has been done. During the session the facilitator can remind the participants, as necessary, to stay focused on brainstorming until the process is done.
Encourage participants to build on other's ideas. This triggers new thoughts which snowball the group process.
By focusing this interaction, the group taps the creative energy of each participant and fuses it in a chain reaction. This is synergy, a force whose sum it greater than its individual parts.
Dan Boudreau is Author of Business Plan or BUST! and hosts the RiskBuster Practical Business Planning Oasis at http://www.riskbuster.com