THE DNA OF BRAINSTORMING and The Power of Three
Every brainstorm session you will ever facilitate or attend, like any good movie you will ever see, can be divided into three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the end. No matter what the topic, who's in the room, or how stale the muffins, you will cycle through the same three phases again and again. How well you will cycle through these phases is another story.
Three. Not two. Not four. Not one. Three. The more attuned you are to threeness, the more likely it will be that the sessions you facilitate will be successful. Here's a quickie overview:
1. THE BEGINNING: This is the "foreplay" stage of brainstorming -- the mood and context setting effort that will either make or break the session.
While the specific "look and feel" to the beginning may vary from session to session, the outcomes you are aiming for will not: 1) Establishing a sense of relaxation and rapport; 2) Agreeing on ground rules for participation; 3) Clarifying the history and current reality of the topic to be brainstormed; 4) Framing the challenge in the most powerful way; 5) Establishing yourself as the facilitator of the creative thinking process.
2. THE MIDDLE ("Divergence"): This is the heart of the matter -- why people were invited to the session in the first place -- to think outside the box and generate compelling ideas.
What you actually do in the middle phase of your brainstorming session is up to you. I recommend the right mix of "group geometry" (solo, dyad, triad, or full group), creative thinking triggers, and the skillful application of facilitation savvy.
Remember, the goal of this phase is an abundance of ideas -- not just discussion, debate, philosophizing, or long-form storytelling.
3. THE END ("Convergence"): Just like most people would prefer to plant a garden than weed it, the end game of a brainstorm session requires more "roll-up-the-sleeves" effort than most facilitators want to deal with -- the application of some left-brain mojo after the right brain has had its say.
The end game of creative thinking is all about jump starting the process of making order out of chaos and clearing the way forward.
Depending on the amount of time you have, this order making stage might include: idea review, idea evaluation, idea selection, identifying idea champions, clarifying next steps, and deciding who's going to generate a brainstorm report -- and by when.
There's no need to make people cranky by trying to do too much convergence during this closure phase, but it's definitely good to get things grounded as a prelude to whatever follow up effort will be made.
Three phases to a brainstorming session. Three.
Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at March 18, 2017 10:49 PM
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