The business world can be a dry and serious place where traditional ways of doing things are often the norm. But the truth is that most businesses can benefit from creative thinking and the generation of fresh, new ideas. One way to unleash the creativity of your staff is to hold a brainstorm meeting.
Instead of giving in to the knee-jerk tendency to immediately analyze and criticize, a brainstorming exercise should be a time when people let their imaginations run free. This is the value of brainstorming in a group — separating creation from evaluation, producing many ideas at once, and building on one another’s inventive ideas and solutions.
Here are some suggestions to help make your next brainstorming session fruitful:
- Get into a creative frame of mind. Whether we realize it or not, we are all creative in some way. All you have to do is watch children drawing a picture or playing a game — they’re not worried about someone judging what color crayons they use or how high they can jump; they just want to have fun. You need to get into that childlike frame of mind when you brainstorm. Relax and let your mind wander so that creative ideas are free to bubble up to the surface.
- Arrange your tools. One person in your brainstorming meeting should be the facilitator — the person who will guide the process, encourage participants to come up with ideas, and write down everything people say. Another vital tool is something the facilitator can write everyone’s ideas on, such as a flip chart or white board.
- Ready, set, go. Once the brainstorming starts, people in the group should spontaneously say whatever comes into their head as a solution to the issue — words or phrases — while the facilitator writes them down. As each flip chart page becomes full, the facilitator should remove it from the pad and tape it to a wall so that it remains visible. This allows the group to see everyone’s ideas as the session goes along, so they may build upon each other’s creativity. There should be no censoring or evaluation during this part of the session. The goal is to open up to many possibilities and tear down preconceptions about the boundaries of the problem. Once the group’s time is up, select the five ideas that everyone present agrees are the most viable.
- Let the judging begin. The next step is to determine about five standards for evaluating which ideas best solve your problem. The key word in these criteria is the word “should,” as in, “it should be realistic,” or “it should be attention-grabbing.” Score each idea 0 to 5 points depending on how well it meets each standard. Once all of the ideas have been scored for each of the five standards, add up the scores. The idea with the highest score is most likely the best solution. But keep a record of the other ideas and their scores in case the one you’ve decided on turns out not to be feasible.
One of the most important concepts to take away from a brainstorming session is that creativity is not a mysterious quality that only certain special people possess. Anyone can tap into their creativity simply by giving their minds free rein, letting go of preconceived judgments about whether new ideas are “good” or “bad.”
By learning how to positively reinforce the creative process in your employees, you’ll be able to increase the effectiveness of those staffers who dream up new ideas for a living. More important, you’ll be able to teach all your employees how to harness their creative abilities, which can have far-reaching positive effects across the entire company.