Avoid these three behaviors to improve your next brainstorming session.
We’ve all heard of brainstorming, but what exactly is it? In a business sense, brainstorming is the process of coming up with creative ideas and solutions to problems using rapid freethinking. Brainstorming is critical in problem solving, creativity, ideation, and innovation. While in business, many imagine brainstorming as a group activity; it can be done alone or in a group. There are many tips and tricks that can help you have more effective brainstorms. However, there are three unique counterintuitive tips that many ignore. Following these tips can take your brainstorms to the next level.
The first tip is, “During a brainstorm, do not use cell phones, computers, or tablets.”
This is a tough ask for everyone. We take our laptops and phones with us almost everywhere we go. Many of us are addicted to our devices. You may even be wondering, what if I come up with an idea but need to look something up? Don’t. Write down everything that you want to find out more information on in a list during the brainstorm. Then after, look it up. Staring at a device or looking something up will distract your train of thought. It is better to minimize the distractions and get out all of your ideas before bringing devices into the process.
The second tip is, “Always add to ideas, don’t edit or compare ideas.”
Often when we hear a new idea, our first thought is to analyze whether the idea would work. In brainstorming, that is counterproductive. The goal of brainstorming is to get as many possible ideas out there, not edit and start checking the viability of ideas. When someone pitches an idea, it is not our job to rate, evaluate or edit that idea during a brainstorming session. Additionally, it is essential not to compare two ideas to each other. Remember, brainstorming is for getting ideas out there, not trying and figuring out what idea is best. You can feel free to add to ideas, though! Here is an example of the difference between adding and editing: if someone pitches an idea for a new sneaker, you may think, “Wow, that sneaker would go well with these laces.” That is not editing but instead adding more valuable information to the brainstorm. If you instead said, “Well, this sneaker won’t work with this feature.” That is editing. It is important that you or your team clearly understand the difference as editing will hurt a brainstorm’s effectiveness while adding can help grow ideas.
The third tip is, “Don’t have a rigorous schedule.”
In American culture, this one comes as kind of a shock. Typically meetings are set for a distinct amount of time, whether on the hour or half-hour, lasting an exact amount of minutes. A rigorous agenda or schedule can hinder people’s ability to think creatively. Say you need to brainstorm three topics, and you have one hour. Naturally, you’d think it would make sense to brainstorm each subject for 20 minutes. But to be the most productive, you should brainstorm each topic for as long as it is comfortable. It may take 35 minutes for the first topic, 15 minutes for the second, and 10 minutes for the third. If you run out of time, it is important to schedule another meeting or extend the current session to continue. Often ideas can start flowing near the end of a time limit, and putting a time restriction can add unnecessary pressure. During a brainstorm, you want to make sure your team comes up with as many ideas as possible. That way, when you go to evaluate the results, you have as much information as possible.
Today, brainstorming can feel like a lost practice. We are so busy getting work done that it does not seem fruitful or financially profitable to direct employees to brainstorm. However, the best ideas come from the workers in the trenches. Giving employees time to think over their experiences and ideas for innovation in a brainstorm may lead to high-quality cost cutting or profitability-growing results.
Samuel Sanders is an award-winning entrepreneur who has seen innovation, creativity, problem-solving, and ideation in action at many different levels: a Fortune 500 company, an Inc. 5000 fastest-growing company, as well as incubators. He also co-founded the company Wundershirt, which at its peak, sold athletic training clothing to Olympic athletes preparing for the 2016 Olympics. Currently, he runs Heard, LLC, a software application that helps governments and large companies get targeted and reviewed feedback from their citizens/employees to improve decision making. His award-winning and highly-praised new book, Your Next Big Idea, is available for pre-order at www.yournextbigideabook.com and Amazon. Connect with Sam Sanders at www.samueltsanders.com.
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