The thing I hate about brainstorming is the lack of follow through. Brainstorming, without follow through, is an irritating brain drizzle.
Nothing kills a what-might-we-do conversation more than adding how-might-we-do-it? Brainstorming begins with a commitment to inaction.
Divide and Conquer:
Successful brainstorming requires two meetings. The first meeting is a what-might-we-do meeting. The second is a how-might-we-do-it meeting. Separate the what from the how to maximize creativity and follow through.
- Limit the focus of your first session to one important question.
- Explain what you aren’t doing.
- Focus on “what” not “how.” Let your team know that the “How” conversation is next week.
- Form small groups, but stay in the same room so people can hear each other. Set a limit of five people for each group. Small groups create environments of participation and ownership.
- Give each group seven minutes to brainstorm around the question.
- When the seven minutes are up, have each group report their results.
- Send everyone back to their small group for another short brainstorming session. Give them six minutes to extend their list of ideas. Have them report and record results. A feeling of competition between groups keeps creative juices flowing.
- Include everyone in a ten minute brainstorming session.
- Don’t defend any ideas.
- Steer conversation away from the how.
- Celebrate wacky ideas.
Several short bursts of creativity are better than one long.
Assignment: Send everyone away with the simple assignment to choose five ideas and write out three ways they might work.
- Record the ideas that each person chose to expand.
- Make note of over-lap.
- Choose the top three ideas and ask, “what’s the next step?”
- Look for someone to champion each idea.
- Define what follow-through looks like.