10 tips for effective creative brainstorming
The article introduces 10 tips for brainstormings to improve productivity and quality.
Source: 10 tips for effective creative brainstorming, Joshua Johnson (2010)
1. Assign a moderator.
Assign a person to lead the discussion can restrain the conversation from getting side-tracked. The person in charge should not try to dominate the conversation but should hold back conversation it if becomes unproductive or hostile, preventing successful teamwork. The moderator should also be outgoing, and able to make discussion comfortable, encouraging everyone to speak out freely.
2. Identify goals.
To begin a brainstorming session, it is of great help to briefly give an overview of the project. The goals should be set with rules that are SMART, a mnemonic for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
3. Set a time limit.
Announcing the time limit at the beginning of brainstorming will make sure everyone knows that the goal should be reached at a given moment. Setting a limit can also stimulate the group to spout as many ideas as possible while they can. The time limit depends on the scope of the project.
4. Write down and/or sketch everything.
Prepare a sketchpad or a large whiteboard for everyone involved. The things you’ve drawn/written become the visual version of brainstorming. This step not only helps to clarify the concept in your mind and others’, but also helps to gather ideas. For example, if your idea was misinterpreted by four other people, it would lead to four new ideas.
5. Don’t judge.
The ideal environment for brainstorming maximizes the quantity of ideas. Removing peer pressure is a good way to build the preferred environment. If someone just can’t stop making harsh judgements, he may be excluded from this part of the process and return when the time comes to sort through the ideas.
6. Embrace the ridiculous.
It is not enough to merely withhold judgement; the most valuable ideas come from having ideas encouraged ideas, no matter how unrealistic they are. By admitting the most over-the-top ideas and transforming them into achievable but still attractive ones, brainstorming shows its effect on developing creativity.
7. Start general, end specific.
Here are two tips for holding a brainstorming meeting. First, distract members from developing ideas that are too similar. There’s another time for fleshing out specific ideas. The value of brainstorming is to let up as many different ideas as possible pop up. Second, pick the effective ideas that can achieve your goal. The best number of ideas to focus on is three or four. Divide the original brainstorming group into smaller groups to develop the ideas separately and combine everyone later to evaluate the progress of each team.
8. Look for synergy potential.
Try to create synergy among the three or four ideas chosen from brainstorming. Try to see the big picture of the goal and discuss together with the team members whether to integrate the ideas or select two or more ideas and mix them to form a whole. If necessary, use anonymous voting to avoid quarrel and come to a conclusion democratically.
9. Avoid group think.
Group think happens in decision making process. It refers to the fact that every group member wants to eliminate conflict altogether. To do this, individuals try not to promote ideas and challenge the mainstream voice. One outcome is that group members may agree with an influential group leader. Group think discourages impressive ideas. In this case, the group should play devil’s advocate. The moderator in devil’s advocate can ask tough questions to challenge the mainstream ideas, or praise someone who challenges them.
10. Include an outsider.
The last tip is to include someone who knows nothing about the topic that the group is discussing. This action can bring the discussion back to earth, because the outsider’s thought presents the end users’ opinion. However, the candidate to be included in discussion should be wisely chosen, bearing in mind her/his personality, whether s/he can more or less understand the topic, and whether one or more outsiders should be included.
© National Chiao Tung University