How to Avoid Your Brainstorm Becoming a Disaster

Last Updated Apr 23, 2010 1:11 PM EDT

So, the last brainstorming session that you held completely failed to create a storm of ideas. Before you give up on brainstorming stop and think if you are making any of these mistakes. Listed by Paul Sloane, these are a few reasons why brainstorming sessions often end in a storm of disaster.
  • Set creative boundaries: Setting clear objectives and time-frames within which to achieve those objectives will be more productive in generating ideas than a loose, unstructured discussion. Frame your objectives as questions and if possible break up a objective into a number of concise questions.
  • Get the mix just right: Too few people is no good if you want a lively discussion and too many voices will just create a lot of noise. The optimum size is somewhere between six and 12 and also make sure that you get a few 'outsider' voices in. Those from outside the department or even the business may bring interesting and unexpected insights to the discussion.
  • Depose the boss: A boss or a department manager, especially a strict one, will hamper a free-flowing discussion, if they run the session. To get everyone comfortable in becoming involved, consider appointing an independent facilitator, whose views don't carry as much weight with the group.
  • Value Quantity over quality: Don't restrict the number of ideas even if they are totally unworkable. The more ideas you have, the more choice and a completely impractical idea ay even be the springboard that launches the winner so keep the ideas flowing in.
  • Follow through: If people do not see the discussions morphing into concrete results, they may be de-motivated form participating them again. Filter your ideas and categorise them in terms of their promise and interest. Reject those that are unfeasable. Allow people to vote in on the best idea and once a plan to implement it has been drafted let the discussion participants know that their idea is being acted on.
(Pic: Dr Stephen Dann, cc2.0)