Encourage Creative Thinking With Structured Brainstorming
Have you ever sat in a brainstorming session where everyone seemed to be all over the place? Random ideas flying around, voices talking over one another, and no particular sense of direction.
Brainstorming sessions can easily get off track without a proper structure. Although some people’s creativity may thrive better without rules to follow, for many brainstormers, set guidelines and group brainstorming techniques are the key to productive brainstorming.
Spontaneous brainstorming can be useful in less formal situations or when done individually.
But, running a group brainstorming meeting without structure is a recipe for an unproductive session and a complete waste of time.
But how do you give a structure to brainstorming? We’ll explain that in this guide.
Structured brainstorming, as the name suggests, is a structured way to brainstorm where participants follow a set of guidelines and implement organized brainstorming techniques like Six Thinking Hats or mind mapping.
In essence, structured brainstorming provides a scaffolding upon which participants can construct their ideas. It aims to provide a clear framework that guides the idea generation process.
Difference Between Structured and Unstructured Brainstorming
Not everyone comes up with ideas in the same way.
Some people need a structure to guide their creative process, which eventually leads to great ideas. Others come up with unique ideas when they least expect it and when no limits are imposed on their creativity and imagination.
While not everyone can work well without guidelines, unstructured brainstorming can be effective for those who prefer a more open and unrestricted approach. Methods like blue sky thinking and idea meritocracy, where the sky is the limit, can lead to out-of-the-box ideas.
The only rule in unstructured brainstorming is that there are no rules - and even the wildest and craziest ideas are encouraged.
Advantages of Structured Brainstorming
Structured brainstorming allows you and your team to prepare for the session in advance. With proper preparation, you can provide participants with the clarity and transparency needed to keep their focus and avoid them veering off topic.
With unstructured brainstorming, things often happen in the spur of the moment without a clear goal in mind.
Structured brainstorming, on the other hand, provides a roadmap for everyone to follow. It ensures everyone has a clear sense of direction and is working towards the same goal. This prevents participants from contributing ideas completely unrelated to the problem at hand - and, therefore, saves you time on going through those ideas later.
What’s more, with a proper structure, you can make sure that no idea falls through the cracks due to brainstorming chaos and that everyone’s voice is heard.
There are many brainstorming techniques you can use to make sure that everyone - even the most introverted participants - contributes their ideas and that the conversation doesn’t get dominated by the most confident voices.
Setting rules and providing structure to your brainstorming sessions also creates a psychologically safe environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their opinions without fear of being instantly criticized.
Since things like social anxiety and fear of judgment are the primary reasons why many people find it hard to share their ideas during group brainstorming sessions, you can also implement techniques that encourage anonymous brainstorming.
How to Do Structured Brainstorming
So, how do you give structure to such a creative process as brainstorming?
Contrary to what you may think, setting guidelines and a clear framework to follow during your brainstorming sessions doesn’t stifle the creative idea generation process. Instead, it helps guide it in the right direction. In fact, this research confirms that constraints are actually good for innovation.
Here’s how to run structured brainstorming sessions the right way.
Structuring Your Brainstorming Sessions
Preparation is the key to structuring your brainstorming sessions.
By preparing in advance, you can take your time to think through the rules and guidelines you’ll need everyone to follow to ensure a productive session. Write those guidelines and send them out to everyone who will be participating in the session beforehand so they can prepare, too.
What’s more, preparing your session in advance also gives you time to write the problem statement, choose the main brainstorming techniques, and select a few alternative ones in case the meeting doesn’t go your way.
To ensure a proper structure for your sessions, you should also think about the right tools. You’ll likely need brainstorming software that facilitates the implementation of the brainstorming techniques you’ve planned on using.
Structuring Your Asynchronous Brainstorming Process
As we’ve already mentioned, some people don’t work well in a group brainstorming setting and may need a different approach to spark their creativity.
For those individuals, asynchronous brainstorming, where they can brainstorm independently without social pressure, might be the best approach.
As the name suggests, asynchronous brainstorming is an individual process, which means it doesn’t follow the same rules or the same structure as group brainstorming. Still, with the right idea management tool (read: Ideanote), you can give structure to your asynchronous brainstorming process.
The most important part of asynchronous brainstorming is being able to capture ideas whenever they appear. For many of us, that can be in the most unexpected moments, like during a walk in nature or an inspiring conversation with a friend.
With a cloud-based tool like Ideanote, your employees can immediately write down their ideas and save them on the platform - from anywhere, anytime.
And once those ideas are collected in the platform, Ideanote facilitates moving them up their idea management workflow. They can be easily sorted and clustered, collectively evaluated and rated, and short-listed for implementation - all in one place.