Practical Brainstorming

Previously we looked at the rules for setting up a brainstorming meeting. Useful if you don’t want your meetings to descend into a embarrassing waste of time for some and an ego-boosting time for others that leave you with less ideas than when you started with. If you missed the rules look here. So what do we do now?

1. Choose a recorder: Someone must be put in charge of writing down all the ideas. The ideas should be written on a large board or somewhere where the whole group can see them. Big is beautiful here. In an ideal session, the recorder should be a non participant in the brainstorming session so they don’t edit or influence what they write down. They write down everything. Most especially the bad ideas which are the most important. If this person knows how to Mind-Map, all the better. If they don’t know what a Mind-Map is, send them on an Ideas Workshop course.

2. Organise the chaos: For groups of more than three or four, have a chairperson to choose who will offer an idea next, so that several people don’t speak at once. If necessary the chairperson will also remind members of the group not to inject evaluation into the session, to encourage and to stop nay-sayers (repeat offenders should be ejected from the meeting). Imagine the meeting as one brain that has one gestalt consciousness which flits easily from one spokesperson at the meeting to another like an ethereal beach ball. A person only talks when the ‘ball’ touches their head.

3. Keep the session relaxed and playful: Creative juices flow best when participants are relaxed and enjoying themselves and feeling free to be silly or playful. Bring snacks and drinks into the session. Seriousness is not permitted, no matter how serious the issues facing the group are.

4. Creativity games: Start with some irrelevant problems that bare no relation to the problem at hand. How could you light a house with a single light bulb? Name ten alternative uses for a brick. How could you improve a common object, such as a coffee cup. The idea is to open your mind to un-thought of possibilities. We’re interested in making connections that haven’t been made before. Get random.

5. Break through blocks: We all get blocks. The most common is the fixation block. This is where a person can’t see past the obvious and the mundane. They may even be pre-judging. Get them to think of 25 uses of the tooth brush and 25 non-uses for a paper clip. You may be blocked by ‘reality’. Reality plays no part in the session. Remember you don’t want to just come up with the same old rubbish so you need to think in a different way. Reality will stop you doing that. Ask ‘what if?’. Do not place reality blocks. What if we could see smells? What if all the iron in the world vanished? Think the ‘what if’ through to conclusion.

6. Limit the session: A typical session should be limited to about fifteen to thirty minutes. The idea is not to exhaust yourselves.

7. Make copies: After the session, neaten up the ideas papers and make copies for each member of the session. No attempt should be made to put the list in any particular order.

8. Add and evaluate: The group should meet again on a subsequent day. First,
ideas thought of since the previous session should be shared.

Then evaluation begins.

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