Breaking Through the B.S. (Brainstorming) – Some Tips for Better Results

Brainstorming is one of those activities that, on the surface, seems pretty simple. In reality, though, effectively using this technique can be challenging, Why? Because we all have a tendency to want to discuss/debate and comment on the brainstorming comments of others — and even our own!The key for an effective brainstorming session is to ensure that a wide range of “top of mind” inputs can be gathered — not to dissect and discuss each point that comes up.

We work with organizations on strategic planning activities regularly. One of the keys to a successful planning effort is ensuring that all inputs are gathered and that good ideas/inputs are not “shot down” or dismissed as part of the brainstorming process.

A couple of things that we have done to help ensure that the brainstorming process works as it should:

  • Establish clear guidelines at the outset and explain to the group why it’s important for all ideas to be heard and recorded without debate during the brainstorming process.
  • Act as the “B.S. (brainstorming) Cop. ” As a facilitator, a major part of your role is to keep the discussion on track. That sometimes means that you have to be the “bad guy” who cuts people off and moves the discussion along when it strays from the general rules of effective brainstorming. That’s true even if the person straying is a senior leader!
  • Engage the group in coming up with a list of “ground rules” that all agree to adhere to. Interestingly, if the rules have been mutually created, clearly conveyed and visibly supported by the facilitator, you’ll find that others in the group will also step in to “correct” their teammates if they begin to explain or critique the brainstormed items.
  • “Silent” brainstorming can be a good tactic to use, especially with groups that simply can’t seem to hold themselves back from debate and discussion (and, yes, there are these types of groups out there)! What I do in these cases is have individuals write down their thoughts, gather them and share them “anonymously” with the rest of the team either during the meeting or through some follow-up prioritization process. This might be done through a tool like SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang, for instance.

Our tendency to edit ourselves, and others, can really hinder the opportunity to generate creative ideas. Try to ensure that your brainstorming efforts are free flowing sources of new ideas and information. Break through the B.S.!

Recommended Reading:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Strategic Planning

Quick Brainstorming Activities for Busy Managers

The Skilled Facilitator




Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Complete the math problem before submitting a comment. * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.