Why brainstorms don't work and how to make them successful
Imagine: you’re attending a so-called "brainstorm session".
All participants arrived and are sitting around the tables in the U-Shape. The session can start. Here is the agenda: what kind of new product can you think of? “Come on, let’s be creative”, encourages the brainstorm organiser.
One manager has an idea followed by a silence.
An extravert is paraphrasing the idea but is interrupted by a “we tried it before” and “we have no budget”. It’s raining Idea killers. Only extraverts are expressing their ideas. The good mood you had when you entered the room is starting to leave you, you are looking at your watch and feel like you need another coffee.
The organiser is courageously standing, grabbing a pen and is ready to take notes.
At the end of a painful process, no original ideas have been generated and after a while, they will end-up in the recycle bin.
Everyone will say again “Brainstorms don’t work”.
That’s correct. That way of brainstorming doesn’t work.
Here is what you should keep in mind for successful brainstorms:
1- Define a question zero
Before starting generating new ideas, it’s crucial to define a precise question, to make sure all participants know why they are here and what is expected from them. It sounds obvious, but let’s be honest, the question zero is often too large and too vague.
2- Implicate different perspectives in your organisation
While empowering different part of the organisation, you assure that all perspectives and disciplines are considered. It increases acceptation and participants will be driven to implement it together.
3- The facilitator should stay in the facilitator role
When you facilitate a brainstorm, make sure that you remain in the facilitator role. You cannot make sure that the flow is going and participate to the discussion. The facilitator takes care of the process, the participants of the content.
4- Search for cross pollination
Sectors often look at what is happening in their sector, but disruptive innovation often come by cross pollination. Get inspiration by looking at a completely different area or industry.
5- Be empathic with your customers
Know your customers. I mean really know them: observe them, talk to them, think like them and why not, invite them to brainstorm with you. Only with empathy you will be able to come with the solution that they really need.
6- Work in small groups
You can brainstorm with an important amount of people, but it’s important to create subgroups. It allows everyone to express its ideas. And let’s not forget that some people need from time to time to be alone to be creative.
7- Dare to fight the “creadox”
While choosing the best ideas to keep, dare to fight the paradox of creativity. People always go for the ideas that are the closest of what they used to do. But how do you want to change if you go on doing the same thing?
8- Make your ideas concrete
Being creative has no value if the idea is not implemented. Make your ideas as concrete as possible, use templates, visualise them, draw.
9- Define an action plan
… with a responsible and a due date, to make sure the idea will be implemented.
10- Plan a follow-up
Don’t believe it will work by itself. Plan follow-up meetings to ensure a high level of engagement. Seeing ideas that one generated become real has a positive effect on the motivation and gives energy.
Would you like to know how I can help your organisation generate much more original ideas?
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