Wednesday, 27 January 2016

8 Rules of Brainstorming

2016 has arrived .  New resolutions, new goals , renewed enthusiasm. 

This is the time of the year when we make resolutions .  This is the time of the year when we look back to learn from our mistakes and look ahead with a wider vision.  

In most of the organizations, this is the time when strategies are made and yearly goals are set.  And the first step towards goal making are the brainstorming sessions. 

Now, the brainstorming sessions can be tricky. Sometimes they are very effective where the collective ideas and energy of the team can go into a frenzy, unleashing brilliant, innovative,  out of the world ideas . And sometimes it can be boring and drag, people bickering, mocking each other or discussions  going into tangents and lengthy arguments. 

The foremost condition for conducting good brainstorming session is to have a facilitator.  The main role of the facilitator is to see that the participants remain focused, the time is maintained and the rules of the brainstorming session are followed.  

Following are the  8 rules , which , if followed will ensure very effective brainstorming sessions.

1. No Distractions, stay focused

No laptops, cell phones please. Distractions can hamper free flow of ideas. Give 5 min breaks at the appropriate frequency.  If some high level organizational goals have been provided, these should be put up on the whiteboard so that people are focused. 

2.  No Judgement 

All ideas are valid at this stage.  As ideas begin to flow, you must do everything in your power to let them flow. Every idea is welcome, even dumb or crazy onesNo one should be allowed to offer any judgment of any idea. The idea generation phase is about generating ideas, not ranking them. Think about what’s good or bad later.

3. Give chance to All

Take turns talking. Listen when you’re not talking. To be an effective brainstorming leader, you must see that all the participants get equal chance to speak.  If someone is too quiet, encourage her to speak and if someone is hogging the full limelight, put him off for a while. 

4. Do not discourage

No negativity. No analysis or criticism or comparing or editing of other people’s ideas. Be positive about every contribution. Even if the person next to you throws out the stupidest idea (according to you), , let the process continue. Any criticism will change the atmosphere of the  group and the people will clam up. Every person and every idea are of equal worth.

5. Resist tangents 

Resist tangents like storytelling and joking. Brainstorming can become quite a party sometimes, and the temptation to start joking about what comes up can be hard to resist. Nevertheless, resist it. Check the group if they start going off into tangents - like a side discussion , talking about something which is not in the agenda or any other day to day matters. The facilitator should quickly bring the group back on track.

6. Do not flog a dead horse

During the brainstorming or  during prioritization/ selection of ideas, people tend to become sentimental or attached to their own ideas. They keep on harping about or sulking if their ideas are not voted for.  As a result, the discussion about one single idea becomes too lengthy without any conclusion and valuable time is lost. The facilitator should set this ground rule about limiting the argument and move on.

7. Build on others ideas

You may combine ideas during the brainstorm, or save idea combinations for a second brainstorming session. We should be able to adapt and improve other people's ideas as it is to generate the initial idea that sets off new trains of thought. Tell your colleagues that every idea matters and that the whole point of the exercise is to get a lot of ideas on the board. Together. Everybody should feel comfortable taking risks and has no fear of embarrassment or negative consequences.  Remind them that this is team work.  The ideas are not of any individual , but have emanated from the team.

8. Punctuality, logistics , agenda etc.

Last, but not at all the least, being on time , having a clearly drawn agenda with time boxes,  logistical arrangements like projector, white boards, markers , tea , coffee etc will boost the productivity and efficiency of the brainstorming.  And again , the most important part ... have fun ... enjoy!

So folks , forget the past and think about the future. Figure out if ideas fit with your corporate values and traditions .  Remember, while brainstorming, you’re not making a commitment to the ideas yet – you’re just sharing them. 

After brainstorming, there are a couple of steps . In the context of creation of function/department level goals , they are :

1. Selection of the ideas
2. Prioritization of the ideas
3. Assigning owners
4. Schedule of completion
5. Measurement criteria. 

But these are fodder for my next future posts !

Hope you find the brainstorming tips useful.  

Would love to hear from you any other points on this . Do use the remarks section to comment !

Cheers !


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    Motivation Tips

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