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Give Yourself an Edge: Strategize Before Brainstorming

Give Yourself an Edge: Strategize Before Brainstorming

The term “brainstorming” likely makes you picture a group sitting around a table spouting random ideas. 

And if you were chosen to conduct a brainstorming session at your company, you may find the task quite challenging - because how do you even lead a session that seems so chaotic? 

Initially, the term brainstorming was coined by Alex Osborn in 1953 to improve the creative thinking process at his company, BBDO. Over the years, new and improved brainstorming techniques started to appear, and it evolved into what it is now: an organized method for idea generation and problem-solving. 

The keyword here is “organized.” In fact, the more prepared and organized you are, the better the chances of running a brainstorming session that produces great ideas. If you want your brainstorming sessions to be productive, you need to come prepared. 

But how do you prepare for a brainstorming session? We’ll walk you through the process of preparing for a brainstorming session in this article. 

slide: set your goals

Set your goals

The fact that a brainstorming session aims to generate as many ideas as possible doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have a structure.

The first step in preparing for a brainstorming session is defining its goal. What are you looking to achieve during your session? Are you looking for a solution to an existing problem or ideas to improve something in your company? 

Setting up your goals and expectations in advance will give your team a sense of direction so they can stay focused. 

Still, don’t forget that freethinking is in the nature of brainstorming sessions. Your goals and boundaries shouldn’t be too limiting. You should still allow some room for going outside the box.

 

slide: prepare a problem statement

Prepare a problem statement

What problem will you address during the session? Writing a problem statement is a great way to make it clear to your team what problem you’re looking to solve.

A problem statement gives your team important background information for the session. It helps them think about different parts and angles of the problem more effectively now that they understand its context. 

When you clearly explain the problem in a written statement, everyone in the session has a shared direction to follow when coming up with ideas.

slide: set up idea management

Set up an idea management process 

A well-led brainstorming session will lead to tons of ideas, and you want to gather all of them.

To ensure no idea gets lost, set up an idea management process before the session begins. Using an idea management software will enable you to instantly add all ideas into the system so you can evaluate them later. 

For instance, Ideanote allows you to manage ideas directly within the platform, making the entire idea collection and management process much more efficient.  

slide: choose a brainstorming method

Choose a brainstorming method 

When you’re wondering how to prepare for a brainstorming session, you’re likely thinking about the different brainstorming techniques to choose from. 

You can approach your brainstorming session in many ways. Some great brainstorming methods include: 

The good news is that you don't have to restrict yourself to a single method. You can combine different techniques to enhance the creative process. This allows for a more diverse and comprehensive exploration of ideas. 

slide: set guidelines

Set guidelines and communicate them in advance 

To make your brainstorming sessions productive, a set of guidelines should be communicated to everyone on the team. Having a clear framework is key for two reasons. 

Firstly, it keeps things organized and helps everyone stay on track. And secondly, it ensures that everyone feels safe sharing their ideas. 

One of the critical rules to establish for your brainstorming sessions is that all ideas are welcome - even the seemingly “bad ones.” Doing so will give you a bigger pool of ideas to pull from (even those “bad ideas” can transform into great ones!) and create an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable speaking up.  

In fact, a lack of psychological safety is one of the main reasons brainstorming sessions don’t reach their full potential. 

In a study of team effectiveness, Google found that psychological safety was the main differentiator between teams that are truly innovative and those that aren’t… Because when people feel safe within a group, they’re more likely to share their ideas and opinions. 

When ideas get shot down with comments like “That won’t work!” or “It’s not practical,” it not only stifles the creative thinking process but also causes the more introverted team members to refuse to speak up due to social anxiety

slide: choose the right location

Choose the right location 

Choosing the location for your session can significantly impact its outcome. You want to hold your brainstorming session in a place that inspires the creative thinking process. 

A conference room with a round table (it’s proven that round tables stimulate conversation better than squared ones) is the most common place for holding company brainstorming sessions. 

However, you don’t always have to hold your sessions inside conference rooms. Going outside the office can be a great alternative, as changing the environment can stimulate out-of-the-box thinking.   

You can also run your brainstorming sessions online thanks to idea management tools like Ideanote. 

slide: invite a diverse group of participants

Invite a diverse group of participants

The goal behind brainstorming sessions is to come up with innovative ideas. But you can’t get out-of-the-box ideas if everyone on the team has a similar perspective on the problem they’re looking to solve. 

To come up with more diverse ideas, you need a more diverse group of participants, both intellectually and culturally. So, when creating your team, invite people with the freshest perspectives and from different backgrounds. 

However, brainstorming sessions with cross-cultural groups are only productive when everyone listens and acknowledges each other’s ideas. 

With so many varying points of view, the session leader should establish an atmosphere where negative feedback is always backed by reasonable arguments and openness for discussion.   

Finally, when leading a brainstorming session, make sure to share its agenda with all the participants in advance - including the session’s goals, expectations, problem statement, and guidelines to follow. This will ensure everyone’s on the same page and working collectively towards the same purpose. 

How to Prepare for a Brainstorming Session: the Cheat Sheet 

cheat sheet innovation infographic: how to prepare for a brainstorming session

Also read:

The 10 Best Brainstorming Tools for Innovative Companies

Help Your Team Brainstorm Bold & Creative Ideas

How to Run Your First Brainstorming Session [Guide]

How to Do Structured Brainstorming the Right Way

Give Yourself an Edge: Strategize Before Brainstorming

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AUTHOR
Jakob Storjohann

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