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5 Ways to Make Your Brainstorming Sessions More Effective

December 5, 2010

Here are 5 of my favorite ways to get the brainstorming juices flowing!

  1. Lay down some ground rules. This might actually be one of the most important ones, it is extremely important that everybody who is brainstorming with you know the rules of the game. For our brainstorming sessions here at ChangeMachine, those rules usually go something like: Don’t interrupt (it kills the thought process), keep the conversation going by positively changing the subject/idea (use YES AND rather than NO), don’t leave until it is over (so it is important to have a time frame) and others.
  2. Entertain any idea, no matter how insane. This is also top priority, especially here at ChangeMachine. Personally I know I will come up with 1 good idea only after bouncing around at least 10 “puppies in space” type of idea. It is important for a team to not go nuts when an idea like that is posited. Remember, it is brainstorming not financial planning. Try to just bounce the ideas around the room, the more you talk the more likely something is to stick.
  3. Have a goal. Now this might seem a little bit contrary to #2, but it isn’t. At the start of every brainstorming session, just say “Ok, lets brainstorm ways to _____ .” In that way, no matter how wierd the ideas that come up seem, they are still generally tied to the first idea. What you don’t want is for the ideas to just pile up in a disorganized way.
  4. Take notes. Ok fine, this is actually just a personal wave to Annina Christensen, founding member of ChangeMachine and insane note-taker. She sits at all of our meetings and manages to actively participate and take minutes for us. This is great because it doesn’t kill the flow of conversation and at the end when we need to think back on what we have come up with, there is a great transcript of most of it (obviously not a transcript of words, rather a transcript of ideas). If you don’t have such a crazy devoted team member, just grab a giant piece of shower board (cheap alternative to white board ) and a couple markers, and just write it all down while you are talking. That way you will have a record of how your conversation progressed, and you can just keep it up there until your next brainstorming session
  5. Consider broadening your brainstorming hours. This is certainly not for everyone, and it really depends on your group dynamic. Here at ChangeMachine, I know that I can text, email, google wave or just shout my idea really loud and I will have one team member around to talk about it. This might have something to do with most of us being roommates, but also with the fact that sometimes my best ideas don’t come during our meeting. Impromptu brainstorming has sometimes been our most productive, because getting rid of all the structure and just fleshing out an idea, whether it is dead of night or early morning, really works with our group dynamic. Consider your brainstorming team, could they be there at a moments notice? What happens to all the ideas you come up with when you are about to fall asleep? Shouldn’t there be a way to capture those too?!

I’ll write about how to brainstorm online (not in person) in a bit, which is also a great topic, but I’ll just leave with these tips now. Hope they are helpful!

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