June 14, 2009
26 Reasons Why Brainstorming Sessions Fail (and what to do about it)

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Whenever I ask Idea Champions clients to tell me about the quality of brainstorming sessions in their company, they usually roll their eyes and grumble.

Bottom line, most brainstorming sessions don't work. Not because brainstorming, as a process, doesn't work -- but because it's usually done poorly.

What follows are the 26 most common reasons why -- and after that, a list of what you can do differently to turn things around:

1. Poor facilitation

2. Wrong (or poorly articulated) topic

3. Unmotivated participants

4. Insufficient diversity of participants

5. No transition from "business as usual"

6. Inadequate orientation

7. Lack of clear ground rules

8. Sterile meeting space

9. Hidden (or competing) agendas

10. Lack of robust participation

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11. Insufficient listening

12. Habitual idea killing behavior

13. Attachment to old ("pet") ideas

14. Discomfort with ambiguity

15. Hyper-seriousness (not enough fun)

16. Endless interruptions

17. PDA addiction (Crackberries)

18. Impatience (premature adoption of the first "right idea")

19. Group think

20. Hierarchy and/or competing sub-groups

21. Imbalance of divergent and convergent thinking

22. No tools and techniques to spark the imagination

23. Inelegant ways of capturing new ideas

24. No time for personal reflection

25. Pre-mature evaluation

26. No follow-up plan


WHAT CAN YOU DO TO TURN THINGS AROUND?

1. Find, train (or hire) a skillful facilitator

2. Make sure you're focusing on the right challenge.

3. Invite people who really care about the topic.

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4. Invite people with diverse points of view.

5. Spend time clarifying the "current reality".

6. Start with a fun icebreaker to help change mindset.

7. Ask participants to establish clear meeting ground rules.

8. Design (or find) a more inspiring meeting space.

9. Establish alignment re: session goals.

10. Find ways to engage the least verbal participants.

11. Establish "deep listening" as a ground rule. Model it.

12. Invite participants to name classic idea killing statements.

13. Elicit the group's pet ideas in the first 30 minutes.

14. Explain how ambiguity is part of the ideation process.

15. Tell stories, play music, invite humor.

16. Go off site. Put a "meeting in progress" sign on the door.

17. Collect all PDAs/cell phones. Establish "no email" ground rule.

18. Go for a quantity of ideas. Let go of perfectionism.

19. Encourage individuality, risk taking, and wild ideas.

20. Ask people to leave their titles at the door.

21. Start with divergent thinking. End with convergent thinking.

22. Use tools and techniques to spark original thinking.

23. Enroll scribes, use post-its, have an idea capture process.

24. Create time for individuals to reflect on new ideas.

25. Explain that evaluation will happen at the end of the session.

26. Identify and enroll "champions". Explain the follow up process.

Illustration

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Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at June 14, 2009 07:45 AM

Comments

Good stuff. I'd love to see an article on effective facilitation. I found your Conducting Genius training and few mentions of "facilitate" via searching your blog and Awake at the Wheel book, but it seems that this key topic is under-represented.

Also, any other facilitation resources that you'd like to recommend?

Posted by: Designsreloaded.blogspot.com [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2010 01:34 PM

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