Brainstorming is an engaging and exciting activity that can work wonders for business and enterprise, and though they are a great way to get the ideas flowing for business meetings, if you don’t do it correctly you could be wasting your time. With a little consideration and planning you can make sure your business meeting brainstorming sessions are effective and rewarding – follow this guide to make sure of it.
What is Brainstorming?
Brainstorming is a creative and free-thinking method of idea-forming, used early on in the creative or problem-solving process. It can be done individually or (for better or for worse) as part of a group, either writing down ideas on paper or having a group leader write the ideas up on a board. As an initial activity, brainstorming is supposed to encourage spontaneous thoughts and ideas without criticism or judgement, ideally with rapid, numerous and diverse creative output. There are no right or wrong answers, and in general, the more ideas generated, the better the end result.
It is after the brainstorming process – as ideas are developed and consolidated into plans of action and quantifiable solutions – that criticism becomes important again, but during the brainstorming process, people are less self-conscious and more likely to contribute without criticism.
When is Brainstorming Appropriate?
Brainstorming is appropriate when there is a specific problem that needs to be solved, but the solution to the problem is not obvious. For complex and convoluted problems, human creativity, intuition and ingenuity is often the best medicine, and brainstorming is one of the most effective ways to flesh out these human qualities.
Brainstorming is most useful in the early creative process when potential ideas are initially formed. It is not usually appropriate in the advanced stages of problem solving, for decision-making or for analysis. Analysis and decision-making is something which may rely on the earlier ideas created by brainstorming however.
The Key to Successful Brainstorming
Brainstorming is not an exact science, but the problems you intend to solve or the goals you intent to reach should be clearly defined. A common error is to use brainstorming to discuss the solution to a problem, when in fact it should only be used to discuss the problem. As we have said, brainstorming is an initial activity to get the ideas flowing effectively.
In the Meeting Room
If you are leading a brainstorming session in the meeting room, the most important things are creativity, enthusiasm, openness and inclusivity. You should see the ideas of everyone as equally important, and you should try to create a comfortable atmosphere to help each person open up and contribute. Make it clear that even the craziest ideas are welcome, because they help with creativity and outside-the-box thinking.
Many people are not confident at voicing their ideas, and as such, it may be a better option to take the ‘classroom’ approach rather than the ‘boardroom’ approach to help the least confident people speak out and get involved, but the ‘boardroom’ circular table layout is usually better as each person in the group can face and communicate with each other.
You should encourage communication between the group members so ideas can develop, and you should set a good example by talking openly – just remember to withhold any criticisms until the end of the session. To keep the pace and the flow of ideas fast, never spend too long on an idea. Highlight ideas that are worth going over again and move on. Make sure you merge and consolidate ideas and develop them as far as you can.