Brainstorming is a wide-open, anything goes, type of activity. But even a freewheeling process can benefit from a little structure and strategy. Try our step-by-step process to get the best results by combining individual and employee group efforts.
Define the goal or purpose of your brainstorming session. What’s the problem you want to solve? Frame the goal in terms of its customer impact, rather than its internal, organizational result.
2. Select the team
The best size for a brainstorming team is three to ten people. Scale the team based on the importance of the challenge. Select team members based on a balance of expertise and diversity of perspective.
3. Meet Early
If possible, schedule the brainstorming session in the morning. Most people think more creatively when they’re fresh.
4. First Contact
Invite the team to participate via email, a meeting request or face-to-face. Take time to communicate the goal of the brainstorming clearly. Provide any background material in advance.
5. Begin Individually
Ask each team member to make a list of all the ideas they come up with on their own. Give them a deadline. Email each list to everyone on the team and ask them to review them and add their notes independently.
6. Facilitate Success
When it’s time to meet, create a friendly, welcoming atmosphere that encourages participation from all employees. Light snacks and/or coffee and tea can help create a casual, comfortable setting. Gently guide the conversation. Remind the team that their job is to build on every idea. An idea that seems crazy at first may prompt a chain of spin-off ideas that lead to a breakthrough.
7. Number the Ideas
Ask each person to list the ideas they liked best from the individual brainstorming lists. Use a whiteboard or easel-pad to write them down. Number the ideas so they are easy to reference during the discussion. Add a check mark beside each idea that’s a repeat favorite.
8. Ask For More
When everyone has shared their favorites, ask for any new ideas. Stimulate discussion with questions like “How do customers benefit from this?” or “Why would customers care about this?”
Conclude the meeting by summarizing the top three ideas to refine and next steps. Be sure to thank everyone for their participation.
When the project concludes, conduct a follow-up meeting to discuss what worked well and what areas could be improved. Be sure to include the brainstorming process.
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