July 11, 2016
ENERGY and FOCUS: Two Keys to Great Brainstorming Sessions


A brainstorm session is a lot like trying to get from one place to another in a lighter-than-air balloon. With both of them, you have a destination, a vehicle, and the need to continuously make course corrections.

Fortunately, brainstorm facilitators have two dependable resources at their disposal to keep their "ideation balloon" aloft: Energy and focus.

Focus is the balloon itself. Energy is the helium that gets pumped into the balloon to provide it's lighter-than-air capability -- the element that gets it off the ground.

These two resources should be zealously maintained throughout any brainstorm session you facilitate. Any leak of energy or focus sets you on a course for premature grounding. In other words, you won't reach your destination if you've got energy or focus leaks.

In order to monitor the energy of any session you facilitate, you will need to pay close attention to three main phenomena: body language, engagement, and interaction. You want positivity. You want active participation. And want inter-connectedness.

Here's 8 ways to ensure that participants stay focused.


1. Ensure that participants know what the brainstorm is going to be about before the session begins. Communicate the specific challenge to be addressed and your hoped-for outcomes of the session.

2. Frame the topic to be brainstormed in the form of a "How can we?" question.

3. Write the question to be brainstormed in big letters on a flip chart so it is always visible to participants.

4. Repeat the "How can we?" question whenever the flow of ideas slows down. In other words, restate the problem being addressed at varying intervals throughout the session

5. Reinforce the ground rules established at the beginning of the session.

6. Make sure participants know what the agenda is and what process you will be using to ensure results. This will decrease doubt, increase trust, and keep minds from wandering.

7. Remind participants, from time to time, where they are in the process. Reaffirm that the group is on their way to resolution.

8. Use some simple, structured ideation techniques that allow everyone to participate.

Big thanks to Val Vadeboncoeur, Idea Champions' Director of Training for this timely piece of writing. Up, up, and away!

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at July 11, 2016 08:21 AM

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