Several weeks ago, I wrote a few articles on Creativity (Mental , Social and Innovation ) and there are many other tools and processes related to creativity that deserve attention. Brainstorming is one of them and in this article, I’ll look at how to set and prepare for an effective brainstorming session and in my next article, I’ll explore the rules to follow in the brainstorming session itself.
Suit ALL 3 Learning and Communication Styles
Every individual learns differently and communicates in different ways but there are three distinct types of learners and communicators:
You need to ensure your brainstorming environment and process will tailor to all three by providing an audible setting (this is obviously most common in a meeting style of environment). Also visual aids can boost the creative thinking. Provide additional tools and visual guides like white boards, flipcharts, sticky notes and even toys or gadgets can help people be more creative. For kinesthetic participants, they need to interact with things and have feelings during the meeting so plan to include interactive participation and ask specifically to brainstorm about feelings things will generate as well, as those feelings will lead to even more ideas!
Optimize the Environment
The environment should have the space it needs to allow people to flow around the room, just like you’ll expect from the ideas being generated. To encourage the creative process, let people decide how to arrange the room themselves if at all possible. Not everyone works based facing others as it’s confrontational, while others will excel from that if competition is their nature. Some will need to see the ideas, some just hear them, so its best to let individuals arrange themselves so they are comfortable and ready to participate in their own way that works best for them.
A good brainstorming facilitator ideally is experienced with the process and needs to easily handle and follow the rules to ensure the brainstorming session is effective. All these rules will be explored in the next article but in summary, the facilitator is required to engage everyone, capture notes and lead the process to ensure ideas are flowing, explored for branching and not holding up the process. The facilitator doesn’t need to participate in the creative brainstorm but any good facilitator will do so, since they are likely a very creative thinker themselves if they’d been involved in a lot of brainstorming sessions.
Provide Background Ahead of Time
Brainstorming is about sharing, expanding and building a set of ideas on some topic. However, not everyone will have immediate and spontaneous ideas so you should always provide some background information about the problem or topic before the session itself. This ensures it gives attendees time to process and think about it before the session. It will stir in their subconscious and likely, they will come to a brainstorming session with several ideas in mind to build on with the group. Not everyone needs this but it ensures that people are prepared and comfortable with the topic before hand and it gives them a chance to ask questions prior to the session so it can be used for brainstorming without distractions and delay.
This is an important one for creative thinking. You need to have a diverse group of people, with different styles, experience levels, positions, backgrounds or any other way to diversify a group for brainstorming. The last thing you want for brainstorming is a group of like minded individuals who all think the same. You simple won’t get enough variation or “outside the box” thinking without diversification. Sometimes people who don’t know much or anything about the topic can have the best idea so you want to ensure you diversify the group.
And finally, the last step you should do in preparing for an effective brainstorming session is to be kick start the creative thoughts in the group by having a creative warm-up exercise. Something simple and fun works well to gets warm up for a few minutes with an exercise anyone can participate in. One I like is to have a common everyday simple object and have the group list all the uncommon things that could be used for. Use a pencil, rock, plant, shoe, door, toothbrush or any other common object people interact with and list out other uses. This gets the mind thinking on NEW ideas and it quickly encourages weird ideas, which is important to allow for brainstorming.
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