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Take your brainstorming to the next level with these five steps.

What is your first association when your hear the words “brainstorming session” ?
Most of us think of a meeting in which a group of people bounces assumptions and ideas around — ideas that will never be looked at again right after the meeting ends. Why? Because all too often those ideas are not generated with the goal to actually be implemented or utilized. Moreover, brainstorming suffers from dominant personalities, the fear of contributing and speaking up as well as creative blocks. Here are five ways how to overcome these issues and shake things up in your brainstorming meetings in order to come up with fresh ideas for your next project.

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1.Before you start make sure that everybody who is participating your brainstorming session receives the meeting’s topic and objectives beforehand. Especially for people who come up with ideas best when being by themselves, doing so is key to increase their engagement and reduces dominant behaviour by extroverts as well. When brainstorming with a group it is crucial that every person in the room understands exactly what you would like to achieve during the meeting. Also if you are brainstorming alone, it is necessary to take a short break before starting the brainstorming and think about its purpose. By neglecting this procedure you risk the opportunity to find the best solutions to your problem.

2. Don’t judge the ideas of others. It is important that every idea can be articulated without hesitation. As group leader it is your job to establish a work environment which allows every group member to be heard, to be taken serious and to have the permission to speak up. Be the role model that everybody can copy from. If you don’t do so your brainstorming session will soon end up in hostility and justification while missing out on the opportunity to generate novel ideas in an open and constructive way. Any form of judgement needs to be suppressed, it doesn’t matter if it is stated verbally or nonverbally. Staying positive during your idea development session is the first step of great brainstorming. In order to do so you can write down the ideas and take a neutral and respectful position towards every one of them. In the next step you separate people’s names from their initial ideas. Now your group is set for a productive discussion.

Still having trouble with unconfident and introverted group members. David Kelley shows you in his video how to boost creative confidence:

3. Look for new permutations of ideas and try to combine them into one. Don’t be afraid of losing some fresh thoughts, your goal in this step is to find truly unique ideas and keeping all of them alive just increases the complexity of implementing them afterwards. Next, bring the core elements of the final ideas to surface in order to get everybody on the same page. Having an identical understanding of the ideas enables your group to find precise applications and concrete use cases. If you want to learn more about developing ideas by breaking old thought patterns make sure to read my Medium article “Develop great ideas by breaking routines and patterns with these 4 steps” or here on Facebook.

4. Use a facilitator during your brainstorming session. In their study Dugosh et al. 2000 discover that in addition to attention two other variables also influence the productivity of a group. First, the number of ideas someone is exposed to and second, the amount of talking beyond idea expression (filler) to which a person is exposed. Their experiment reveals that cognitive stimulation is at its highest when a high number of ideas are demonstrated without filler. Consequently they suggest to reduce the amount of filler or task irrelevant debates by the group members in order to increase the productivity of the group brainstorming. During regular brainstorming sessions people like to explain their ideas, elaborate them and throw themselves in off-task discussions instead of just expressing ideas without further illustration. This is why Dugosh et al. 2000 propose to use a facilitator. A facilitator could prevent group members from engaging in above mentioned filler-related activities, which in turn has a positive impact on group productivity. Therefore, it’s crucial that you walk into every single brainstorming session with a precise goal you’re trying to accomplish. The more accurate you can be, the better suggestions you will get.

5. Assign action items before you end the brainstorming session. The reason why people think brainstormings are useless is that brainstormings never actually lead to something tangible. That’s why you should assign action items to your group members before ending the session. Summarize the best ideas with your team and chose collectively the one you would like to further explore. Next, decide who will be responsible for what task and set up according deadlines. Whether it is doing more research, drafting a prototype or sketching a process, your group should always walk out of the brainstorming session with something actionable to do. With this procedure you can be sure to truly pursue what you aimed for at the beginning Moreover, it also proves the group that their aren’t wasting their precious time — the brainstorming was actually useful get started and to keep going.

Implementing these five advices will transform your brainstorming sessions from dreadful to productive. Give them a try and prepare for better results.