Life At Work

How to Have a Good Brainstorming Session

When did you last sit down with your team for a good, old fashioned brainstorming session? I am going to bet that, for some of you, it’s been awhile.

For some people, these events inspire dread. What if someone says your idea sounds stupid? Won’t Sally, as always, just hijack the discussion?
Brainstorming sessions can certainly seem like a waste of time.

However, if conducted properly, brainstorming sessions can be invaluable exercises for any business.

To have an effective session, we need to take a look at the various players of the brainstorming process.

To start, we have the facilitator. In most cases this would be the owner or manager. The role of the facilitator is to maintain a level playing field so everyone involved feels acknowledged in a fair, respectful manner.

The facilitator has a lot to juggle. If you happen to find yourself in this role for your own brainstorming session, here are some tips to keep the ideas flowing freely.

Lay Down the Ground Rules:

Before you start, make it known upfront to your team what will not be tolerated throughout the session. For example: no putting down others’ ideas and no interrupting.

Style and Comfort:

If you want the creative juices to flow, you are not going to have much luck brainstorming in a drab room, so make sure your brainstorming environment is inviting, stimulating, and comfortable.

If you don’t have room in your shop to properly hold a brainstorming session, you could always move the session to a park, a cozy coffee shop, or maybe your place for dinner.

Encourage All Ideas:

Remember, no idea is stupid in a brainstorming session, yet some members of your team may be hesitant to contribute to the process for fear their idea will be rejected and shut down. Make note of the personality types sitting around you.

Some will be headstrong and vocal; others will be shy and quiet, so it is imperative that you allow the more passive members of your group a chance to speak up. Try to bounce ideas back and forth between your passive and aggressive types, so no one personality type gets too much focus during the exchange of ideas.

So what about the other side of the brainstorming process? Are you the one sitting around a table of your peers drawing a blank as the boss calls on you for an idea? If so, here are some tips to stay on your A game during a brainstorming session.

Build Off Your Peers’ Ideas:

If you’re finding it hard to come up with ideas during the brainstorming process, set that aside for a moment and instead take a moment to encourage the people around you as they give ideas. This creates positive energy for the group, which helps with the flow of ideas.

If You Don’t Have Something Nice to Say:

Don’t say anything at all. I know. It can be very painful at times to stay quiet, especially when someone suggests something that makes no sense in your mind. Instead of blurting out something that will only hurt your colleague’s feelings (and your reputation) , ask him or her to clarify their point. Maybe the idea they have presented is brilliant, but just not well communicated. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to explain their idea and avoid being condescending about it.

There is No Right or Wrong:

Remember, the whole point of brainstorming is to throw out ideas no matter how “out there” they may seem. Ideas generate discussion and discussion generates more ideas. It’s only a matter of time before the “aha” moment sticks to the whiteboard.

Give yourself credit. No idea is stupid; therefore, your ideas are not stupid. By withholding your ideas, you miss out on a chance to grow and enlighten others.

When you have your next brainstorming session, remember the most important thing of all. Have fun! If you are bored during your session, you are not doing it right. The exchange of ideas should be high energy, positive, and motivating.

I hope you find these brainstorming tips useful. Remember: no idea is too big or too small. You did not become successful without ideas. Keep brainstorming and who knows where your ideas will take you!

Cavelle Martin
Cavelle Martin is a former CSR in the wholesale floral industry who once helped renowned designer Kristine Kratt, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, during a design show. Cavelle is the creator of “Mental Break - In Progress,” a blog she started in 2014, after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, to help fight the stigma against mental illness.
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