Brainstorming is often unproductive but changing the way you do it can trigger a flow of strong ideas.
The unwritten rules of a brainstorming session are that all ideas are valid and everyone should feel supported and safe from criticism, no matter how weak or unworkable their suggestions.
However, writing for Entrepreneur, Michael DiBenedetto, CEO of Chicago-based food-delivery search engine, Bootler, says it’s no wonder that such an unnaturally soft atmosphere tends to create few groundbreaking solutions.
Studies suggest that gathering a group together to birth new ideas is less consistently productive than if we think alone and share later.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH BRAINSTORMING?
Brainstorming rarely leads to innovation because of its tendency to encourage groupthink: “The ‘free association’ done in brainstorming sessions is often shackled by peer pressure and as a result generates obvious responses. In fact, psychologists have documented the predictability of free association.”
Nevertheless, brainstorming continues to be an accepted part of business culture, albeit frequently accompanied by exasperated eye-rolling.
HOW TO DO IT DIFFERENTLY
Here are five key behaviours that will modify your brainstorming mindset and get honest opinion flowing:
1) Concentrate on outcomes. There is usually a single problem or challenge that’s the focus of the session. Resist diversions and keep talks on track to achieve best progress.
2) Remember it’s a team effort. Brainstorming is not the time for your personal star to shine. If you’re trying to score points, you’re not focusing on the problem.
3) Challenge constructively. It’s fine to challenge other people’s ideas as long as you’re constructive. Questioning is a healthy part of the process, but antagonism isn’t.
4) Be prepared to ditch your own ideas. You might be convinced you’ve come up with the next big thing, but others will want to test your concept. Be ready to fight your corner if you know it’s worth it, but don’t waste time on a non-starter.
5) Don’t judge people by their ideas. Good people can have bad ideas and vice versa.
Apply these principles to transform your next brainstorming session into an opportunity for real innovation.