Include a diverse range of participants
Anyone in your organisation could be harbouring a good idea,
so make sure invitations aren’t restricted to executives and decision-makers.
Diverse perspectives breed varied ideas, something that’s crucial when you’re
attempting to innovate. Choose participants across departments and seniority
levels or risk brainstorming sessions going stale.
Give everyone the opportunity to contribute
The trouble with a mixed group is the power dynamics:
members of staff lower in the hierarchy may feel intimidated by the presence of
their superiors. Everyone must have a voice for your session to perform
optimally, so it’s important to create opportunities for individuals to put
their ideas forward.
One of the most effective ways to do this is to have
everyone write their ideas down on Post-it
notes and pool them after a pre-determined period of time. These are then
considered one by one, with the submitter given the floor to explain and
You can combine this with another method, whereby only the
person holding a specific object, such as a ball, is permitted to speak. This
is an excellent way to prevent interruptions and promote civilised discussion.
Make it clear that anything goes
Suggestions that people consider ‘stupid’ are often the ones
that come to fruition or spark other creative ideas, so you must put everyone
at ease and welcome unusual ways of thinking. Use the Post-it note method and
allow anonymous contributions to alleviate the potential for nervousness and
You should also encourage participants to challenge ingrained
notions and suspend assumptions. Remove all boundaries or you’ll stifle
creativity. Ideas that seem infeasible at first – perhaps because of budgetary
restrictions or pre-existing systems – can be shaped into something viable with
the input of the group.
Make sure to prohibit all negative feedback. Forcing
participants to provide suggestions for improvement rather than criticism will
prevent others becoming discouraged, as well as stimulating creative thinking.
Collaborate to develop ideas
indicates that the Post-it note brainstorming method is more effective than
group discussion, as people are better at generating ideas alone. However, it’s
crucial that you take people’s suggestions and build on them with the group. This
will strengthen the ideas, and spark off new suggestions.
To encourage creative thinking, use a large whiteboard
to produce a mind map. Write the goal or central concept in the centre, and
encourage everyone to take ideas off in new directions. At the end of the
session, you should have a diverse range of ideas that have been explored from
different angles – an almost-exhaustive list of all the possible options.
Keep the ideas flowing
Some people need a while to mull over ideas, or may have a
eureka moment days after a brainstorming session. Make sure you don’t miss out
on potentially valuable suggestions by welcoming contributions for around a
week afterwards. Keep the Post-it notes or whiteboard on display so the event
remains at the forefront of people’s minds and continues to inspire.
How do you conduct
brainstorming sessions in your office? What practices do you find most effective?
Share your tips in the comments below!