How To Run a Brainstorming Session Efficiently
Few things can help your team generate ideas and solve problems faster than a good brainstorming session. Conducting a poor meeting is not only non-productive but can hinder you from doing your job well.
That’s why it’s so crucial to learn the art of running a brainstorming session. Preparing and facilitating an effective meeting will inspire your team, spark innovation, and move the organization as a whole in the right direction. Doing so requires you to employ the right strategies and inject a bit of creativity into your collaborative efforts.
Below, Poised shows you how to run a great brainstorming session.
How Do You Run Better Brainstorming Sessions?
Brainstorming is when an entire group facilitates open discussion to think of ideas and create plans for business growth. You can hold brainstorming sessions about product development, operational changes, service upgrades, and many other things.
The primary benefit of brainstorming is that it helps you to learn ingenuity and innovation on demand. It encourages team members to think freely among their colleagues and generate countless ideas, no matter how off-the-wall they may be.
You then select the ideas closest to your goals, refine them, and build upon them. Brainstorming often involves writing, talking, drawing, and other methods of sharing thoughts.
Brainstorming sessions must be informal to some degree and carry an element of spontaneity, but there are a few ground rules to consider for your team's sessions:
- Don’t allow any criticism or negative feedback while your team is brainstorming. Employees must feel comfortable thinking outside the box and sharing wild ideas.
- Prioritize the number of ideas over the quality. Think of it this way: collecting more ideas from different perspectives gives you the best chance of finding solutions.
- Encourage team members to combine concepts and build upon each other‘s ideas.
- Leave conventionality at the door, and promote an open space for an organic creative process.
Benefits of Brainstorming
It’s essential for your team to consider all possibilities and each other’s ideas. And innovation and creativity drive companies to long-term success. Effective brainstorming techniques empower employees to find ideal solutions for problems by listing every conceivable option.
Other benefits include:
- Boosting enthusiasm for a specific project or work in general
- Enhancing team communication
- Discovering innovative methods of improving efficiency, productivity, and engagement
- Recording the planning and development process, especially in online brainstorming
Now, implement these strategies to start planning and running your sessions:
Create an Agenda Before Starting
You can’t expect every individual who joins your brainstorming meetings to excel at idea generation and creative thinking. The best approach is to ensure your team knows the conversation topics, meaning you need to write a meeting agenda and distribute it to your team.
Having an agenda in hand will help some employees think of ideas beforehand (“brainwriting”) while helping others to get into the right mental space as the brainstorming session approaches.
This can go a long way in getting the creative juices flowing and helping everyone feel inspired. Keep in mind that your brainstorming agenda doesn’t need to go deep into details but should clarify the discussion topics and overall purpose of the meeting.
Creating an agenda essentially means choosing the participants, setting a date and time for the session, and securing a meeting space. You’ll also want to include the meeting’s purpose, a framework for the topics, and open-ended questions that can spark idea generation.
Make Realistic End Goals
Every brainstorming session needs realistic end goals. It’s important for your brainstorming group to have more information than solely the topic; they need to understand the overarching purpose of the meeting.
Establish goals for your brainstorming session that nudge your team into creative ideas but also places reasonable constraints on the ideas being generated. Yes, employees should feel free to present ideas without judgment, but having goals in place will keep everyone on the same plane. Be sure to re-establish your goals at the beginning of your brainstorming session.
Eliminate Side Conversations
Productive ideation revolves around the concept that there are no bad ideas without going down unprofitable paths. It’s easy to see how achieving that could be challenging! Wild ideas can serve a purpose, but your team must recognize when they won’t lead anywhere, and it’s time to cut them off.
The next time a team member throws out an idea that is too far off base from the meeting's topics and purpose, try to move on to the next idea quickly instead of debating it. The further away you get from your purpose, the harder it is to find your way back and facilitate productive ideas.
The group's facilitator should constantly monitor the conversation and steer the discussion back on track when necessary. Some techniques might be the step-ladder technique or the Round Robin.
Moreover, eliminate small talk from your group brainstorming sessions. If you want your colleagues to have the chance to catch up and build relationships through casual conversation, carve out a couple of minutes before the session begins. It only takes seconds for small talk to develop into side conversations that take your team off track.
Practice Active Listening While Team Members Talk
You must do more than just hear someone speak to actively listen. Pay attention to every team member's ideas and show them that they have your full concentration. This means removing your phone and other distractions from the situation, saving your daydreaming session until after the meeting, and ignoring your internal dialogue.
Be mindful of your body language as others share ideas. Non-threatening body language like leaning in, nodding at key points, and smiling (genuinely) will do wonders for encouraging those around you to keep thinking creatively. Be particularly conscious of your facial expressions so that you don’t convey any negative impressions.
Eye contact is also crucial, and you should try to maintain it at least 70% of the time you listen to your colleagues. Asking open-ended questions and paraphrasing your team members’ ideas are other ways to practice active listening and build rapport.
Leave Room for Feedback on Ideas
As with other business activities, you want to encourage feedback during and after your brainstorming sessions. Try to carve out a few minutes at the end of each meeting for team members to share opinions on their colleagues’ ideas.
As a facilitator, keep the meeting positive and avoid non-productive criticism. It’s vital to refine ideas, but you don’t want to shut down employees and discourage them from participating in future meetings.
You may have some team members who wish to share ideas once the brainstorming session is over. In fact, some people will do their best work after taking time to digest what happened in the meeting. Communicate to your participants that you would love to hear more ideas via a shared document or email; you might be surprised by the useful information it generates!
Value Each Team Member’s Opinions Equally
Every team member's ideas and opinions are valuable, and you must approach your brainstorming sessions as such. You simply can’t have openness and creativity unless you identify the positives in every idea your team generates.
Sure, an idea may not be ideal for the specific topic or project, but perhaps it could benefit other projects or serve as a launchpad for someone else’s idea.
Your team must be comfortable for your brainstorming meetings to succeed, and people feel comfortable sharing ideas when their facilitators and colleagues are supportive and encouraging. Positively affirm every team member equally and voice your appreciation for every idea to pave the way for additional contributions.
Take Notes as You Go
Taking notes is a good idea in any type of business meeting, but it’s especially important for brainstorming sessions. You might be surprised how many ideas are generated when the creative juices start flowing, and your team members may go from one idea to the next very quickly. Try to write notes throughout the meeting so you can refer to them for information later.
Along with jotting down the diverse ideas of your employees, consider documenting how the process itself unfolds. Doing so can help you evaluate the session’s efficiency and productivity so you can find ways to improve future sessions. Facilitators often take notes during brainstorming meetings, but you can also designate a dedicated note-taker for the process.
Hold Meetings Virtually When Needed
If your company is like many others today, most if not all of your meetings occur on a virtual platform. However, even if you work in an office setting, your remote team can benefit from holding virtual meetings.
The key is to spend time tailoring your brainstorming sessions to an online environment. Your template will need to adjust, as will the brainstorming process.
When working with a video conference room, consider the following:
- Use call transcripts instead of sticky notes.
- Utilize a Zoom or Google Hangout whiteboard.
- If brainstorming with a large group of people, ask them to use the “raise hands” feature or comment in the chat before injecting their own ideas.
- Prioritize team-building activities.
As long as everyone has the opportunity to speak and share ideas, you can accomplish just as much idea generation as if you were meeting in person.
How Can Poised Help You Run Better Meetings?
If you find yourself running virtual brainstorming sessions, make sure you have the tools to succeed. Here are a few ways the Poised communication coach can transform your meetings:
Get Real-Time Communication Feedback
Poised provides real-time communication feedback to users without other people knowing about it. If you’re talking too fast, too often, or using too many filler words, the AI-powered coach will bring it to your attention and guide you to more effective communication.
Find and Fix Speaking Habits
Every communicator has speaking habits. Developing good habits and mixing the bad ones will make you a better communicator.
The challenge for many people is identifying their poor speaking habits, which Poised does for you. Our software tracks and analyzes your communication performance over time and shows you how to improve with each meeting.
Build Your Listening Skills
Remember that active listening is just as important as effective speaking. Poised notifies you when you’re consuming too much of the verbal space or interrupting your colleagues.
It even reminds you to maintain eye contact and encourage team members to elaborate on their ideas. Becoming a better speaker and listener will make you a force to be reckoned with!
Teamwork in Remote Workspaces
Every business runs on good ideas, and conducting effective brainstorming sessions is one of the best methods for generating those ideas. Keep the advice and information above in mind as you head to the drawing board to plan your next meeting agenda. Remember to facilitate an open and encouraging environment for all your team members.
If you need a little help with your communication metrics, turn to a communication coach like Poised. You’ll be speaking and listening with impact in no time!
10 Ways Leaders Can Encourage An Honest Brainstorming Session | Forbes
Maintain Eye Contact 70 Percent of the Time--and Other Key Tips to Become a Better Listener | Inc.com
The Stepladder technique: An alternative structure facilitating effective group decision making | ResearchGate