March 09, 2016
How to Keep Small Group Brainstorming On Track

2626051(1).jpg

If you are planning to lead any kind of ideation or brainstorming session in the near future and will be dividing the group into sub-groups, here's one thing to keep in mind:

No matter how clear the instructions you give or how much you reinforce the ground rules of brainstorming, there is a 95% chance that the small groups will default to any of the following instead of brainstorming: conversation, debate, storytelling, schmoozing, philosophizing, venting, and question-asking. Bet on it.

WHY does this happen? Because there is precious little time, in most organizations, for people to simply get together and TALK about their issues, problems, and concerns in a meaningful way. Too many people work alone and don't have enough opportunities to get input, information, non-threatening feedback, and the perspective of others.

3046926.jpg

Bottom line, most people are subject to their own version of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (i.e. physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, self-actualization).

In other words, before diving into the "higher octave stuff" (i.e. creative thinking), people need to deal with the basics of their business life -- the stuff that is "on their minds."

If you only have a little while for a brainstorming session, you, as facilitator, of course, want to "cut to the chase" and get people ideating, but THEIR need usually involves something else, something more immediate that needs expression and an audience.

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT THIS?

1. Create more opportunities, on the job, for people to share their experiences, information, and perspectives with each other.

2. Schedule longer brainstorming sessions, so people have the time to "stretch out."

3. Include some "hierarchy of needs" time early in your session (i.e. small group sharing that had nothing to do with ideation).

4. Before dividing into small groups, be very upfront about this non-ideation phenomenon. Let people know their deliverable is ideas, not conversation, venting, or storytelling.

5. Ask each group to identify a "brainstorm facilitator" to keep things on track. Explain that role clearly.

6. State the brainstorming ground rules very clearly and project them onto a big screen for all people to see.

7. Create a "venting wall" where people can post their gripes and complaints on post-it notes before the brainstorming groups begin.

8. Give people a measurable goal for their small group brainstorming sessions (i.e. each person needs to jot down at least 10 new ideas).

9. After the brainstorming begins, wander around the room and observe the groups. If they are getting off track, remind them of the goal. (PS: Before the brainstorming begins, alert people people to the fact that you will be doing this, so they don't feel "singled out.")

10. Train a select group of in-house change agents how to facilitate effective brainstorming sessions.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at March 9, 2016 08:49 AM

Comments

Hi Mitch,

Great post. I love the way your blogs always focus on practical tools and tips and not just theoretical guesses at what works in real life. These ten tips are a great supplement to a number of other "best practice" brainstorming tips. Another bunch of similar great brainstorming rules was put together by Harvard Researcher Robert Epstein (e.g. Shifting) which have been shown in a number of studies to be very effective.

Cheers,
Evan Shellshear

Posted by: Evan Shellshear [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 12, 2016 05:05 AM

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)


Remember me?


Who Are We?

Idea Champions is a consulting and training company dedicated to awakening and nurturing the spirit of innovation. We help individuals, teams and entire organizations tap into their innate ability to create, develop and implement ideas that make a difference.

MitchDitkoff.com
Click here for the simplest, most direct way, to learn more about Idea Champions' semi-fearless leader, Mitch Ditkoff. Info on his keynotes, workshops, conferences, and more.
Storytelling at Work
Storytelling at Work is Mitch Ditkoff's newly published book about the power of personal storytelling in business – why it matters and what you and your organization can do to leverage the impact of storytelling in the workplace.
Top 5 Speaker
Mitch Ditkoff, the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, has recently been voted a top 5 speaker in the field of innovation and creativity by Speakers Platform, a leading speaker's bureau.
Authorized Reseller Logo – GoLeanSixSigma.com
Workshops & Trainings
Highly engaging learning experiences that increase each participant's ability to become a creative force for positive change
Brainstorm Facilitation
High impact certification training that teaches committed change agents how to lead groundbreaking ideation sessions
Cultivating Innovation
Your "best and brightest" are the future leaders of your company, but unless they know how to foster a culture of innovation, their impact will be limited. A one-day workshop with us is all they need to begin this journey.
Our Blog Cabin
Our Heart of Innovation blog is a daily destination for movers and shakers everywhere — gleefully produced by our President, Mitch Ditkoff, voted "best innovation blogger in the world" two years running.
Team Innovation
Innovation is a team sport. Brilliant ideas go nowhere unless your people are aligned, collaborative, and team-oriented. That doesn't happen automatically, however. It takes intention, clarity, selflessness, and a new way of operating.
Webinars Powered by
Idea Champions University
Webinars for online training If you enjoy our blog, you will love our newly launched webinars! Our training is now accessible online to the whole world.
Awake at the Wheel, Book about big ideas If you're looking for a powerful way to jump start innovation and get your creative juices flowing, Awake at the Wheel is for you. Written by Mitch Ditkoff, Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions.
Featured in Alltop Guy Kawasaki's Alltop "online magazine rack" has recognized Idea Champions' blog as one of the leading innovation blogs on the web. Check out The Heart of Innovation, and subscribe!
Face the Music Blues Band The world's first interactive business blues band. A great way to help your workforce go beyond complaint.

"In tune with corporate America." — CNN
© IDEA CHAMPIONS