Tips and Tools For Group Brainstorming Success

Brainstorming sessions are a great tool to solve problems or develop ideas in the workplace.  Our agency thrives on building brainstorming opportunities for our clients in order to unleash the creativity in teams that will provide opportunities for upcoming campaigns or products for that business.  However, not all brainstorming is created equal and this article will outline some of the basic approaches for doing brainstorming in-house without a trained consultant.

Without a proper set of guidelines and tools, brainstorming can turn into a disaster.  Co-workers can argue, ideas are completely shut out of the picture, and an entire day is wasted on building tension within the community.  If you do decide to hold a brainstorm in-house, here are a few tips on how to keep your brainstorming sessions on track and successful:

Determine the problem you’d like to solve and set goals

This is a great way to keep your brainstorming session on track. Setting specific, actionable goals or objectives about what you’d like to achieve in the session will mean that you leave with more accomplished and, likely, a framework for a successful follow-up session (if necessary).

Set a realistic time limit

Setting a time limit for your brainstorming session is important for multiple reasons. First, it will ensure that the meeting doesn’t drag on to the point that it becomes ineffective and negatively affects participation (and the desire to be there). Secondly, setting a specific end time will make it more likely that you accomplish the goals that you set at the beginning of your meeting.

Take notes

Make sure to have a whiteboard or easel ready to write down the main points, questions, or ideas that your group develops. Whiteboards are great because they are easy to erase or edit. Easels have the added bonus of allowing you to collect the paper afterward to store or compile the information as needed.

Avoid judgment

There’s no better way to quash creativity and deter participation than to react negatively to a group member’s suggestion or idea. This changes the atmosphere of the session and makes it harder for people to want to speak up and put forth ideas.

To avoid this, try to set a positive, open environment right away. That will signal to the members of the group that everyone’s ideas are welcome and wanted.

Start broad, end specific

At the beginning of the meeting, it’s a good idea to welcome a broad spectrum of ideas. Don’t eliminate any right away, as doing so may roadblock creativity and eliminate an avenue that could lead to quality thoughts. Instead, as the meeting goes on, start to hone in on the most effective ideas that your group is putting forth. Pick a handful that seem most likely to work, and then ask the group to develop those. Or, if your group is big enough, split into smaller groups and assign one of the ideas to each group to work on.

Include someone from outside the group

While it may sound counterintuitive to invite an outsider into your group brainstorming session, sometimes it can be very effective. If you have one person in a group that thinks differently than all of the others (like, for example, one copywriter in a room full of engineers), they may present totally outside of the box ideas. Those ideas have a couple of potential upsides: first, they may be so out of left field that they actually allow your group to hone in on more appropriate, effective ideas. Or two, they may be great ideas that will work for the problem you’re trying to solve that your like-minded group would have a hard time coming up with themselves.