Three basic brainstorming tips for effective sessions

The importance of brainstorming in the workplace cannot be underscored enough. It allows participants to discuss current issues in the business environment, throw around fresh ideas on how best to address the issues and set strategic plans for the future.

While the importance of brainstorming in the workplace is not in doubt, however, the most effective way to carry out a group session can pose a bit of a challenge: here are three basic tips:

1. Set the right mood

If you’re the moderator of the brainstorming session, the first thing you need to do when you start is to set the right mood for constructive discussion. Set some ground rules for everyone to follow. The main rule for a brainstorming session should be this: all ideas are good. Make it clear to participants that no one is allowed to castigate another’s ideas. Make this clear from the outset to create the right mood for positive engagement and remove the fear of being ridiculed or reprimanded by peers for airing your views.

Also, define the problem, objectives and goals of the session to establish a clear framework for constructive sharing of ideas. Encourage participants to have their pens and note pads ready to write down the ideas that will be raised in the session. This helps put participants in the right frame of mind and creates a stimulating, unthreatening environment for airing ideas freely.

2. Start general

To set the ball rolling, ask general but relevant questions relating to your overall goals in a fun and friendly manner. Encourage many, widespread initial ideas from participants by suggesting different unrelated topics. The goal initially should be to establish diversity of thought rather than unity of thought. Write down all responses and don’t overlook any ideas, even those ideas that aren’t popular with everyone else, as long as the ideas adhere to the established ground rules.

As the brainstorming session progresses, zero in and refine the best ideas while weeding out those that don’t effectively address the problem or issues at hand. Where applicable, narrow the best ideas down to only three. Identify the nature of the narrowed down ideas and fine tune them as a group. These two brainstorming tips lead up to the satisfactory conclusion of a brainstorming session.

3. End pragmatic

Let’s face it: many ideas raised in any given brainstorming session will be big, life-defining, world-changing suggestions that are unwieldy, cumbersome and impractical to put into immediate effect. End your brainstorming session only after you have pragmatic ideas and solutions. Remember brainstorming is meant to produce ideas that help address immediate issues and attain immediate productive outputs.

Follow these three brainstorming tips and you will have better brainstorming sessions and foster productive thinking in the workplace, which might just end up ingrained in your corporate culture.

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