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We not me: 5 Important things to remember so your brainstorming works!

By Karla Schlaepfer
brainstorming, creativity, working together

It’s true that brain storming has a bad reputation. Sometimes the group dynamic erupts in something called Group Speak and this blocks or hems the individual creative performance. Sure, there are times it might be better to work on your problem alone, with no one interrupting your train of thought. Yet, there is no denying that collaboration yields far greater results than individual thinking.

This kind of collaboration is the result of co-creation – where we engage, interact, and build on each other ideas. New ideas spark off of the original ones and things start to grow and take off. Many minds are smarter than the few and when using brain storming systematically, you will leverage a collective set of opinions, thoughts, ideas and potential solutions. A tremendous resource!

There are several things to remember to deliver inspiring and productive brain storming sessions:

  1. Be prepared. Use a meeting place that will stimulate people’s minds. Prepare for the session with enough materials. Sticky notes, pens, objects, magazines can be used to trigger associations and ideas.
  2. Define the roles, set the time period – who is going to record or visualize the ideas? Who will keep track of the time?
  3. Define a clear question or challenge. Make sure that everyone understands and communicate the task beforehand. Absolutely essential to allow for members to think individually before the actual session takes place and to start with a warm up where these ideas are first expressed.
  4. Pick your team, between 5-10 people, 7 is the best. Combine the right mix of diverse members. Who is “right”? Those who are not afraid to make mistakes, respect the rules and understand that in brainstorming, ideas come before individuals.
  5. Respect and follow the brain storming rules. These should be printed out on poster card so are clearly visible and can be referred to. Here are the best basics: - One conversation at a time. - Go for quantity – the more ideas, the better - Build on the ideas of others - Fail early and often - No killer phrases, defer judgement - Encourage wild ideas – have fun!

If you want a good idea, you have to come up with many ideas, paraphrasing the well-known quote by Linus Pauling. Quality at this stage in the game is not nearly as important as the quantity. Why? Out of this divergence richness, these many ideas, you can then converge, combine and focus on the ideas with the most potential.

At the end of the session, you scale for feasibility. There are no bad ideas; save all ideas in a “fridge” for another time. A wacky idea just might trigger a spin-off in another direction and later be linked up to another to form a feasible answer. According to Alex Osborn, the inventor of brain storming:

„It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one!”