Brainstorming effectively with your team members isn’t as easy as one would think. I’ve participated in many brainstorming sessions that really weren’t brainstorming sessions. The sessions ended up being individuals standing at whiteboards writing down their own ideas, disregarding or ignoring the ideas of other team members. They came into the sessions with specifics in mind and weren’t open to the opinions of others. That is not brainstorming. There is a short video from LeaderSkilz called Brainstorm that depicts this exact scenario (when you get to the Leaderskilz Web site, scroll through the list of videos until you find the one called Brainstorm).

Effective Brainstorming Within Your Team
Photo by andymangold

Brainstorming is one of the most difficult collaborative activities to carry out within a team and few people know the basic rules needed to make a brainstorming session effective. With that said though, by following a few guidelines, you and your team can make your brainstorming sessions much more productive.

  • Clarify your focus, problem or challenge at the start of the brainstorming sessions. Participants in the session are more likely to contribute ideas that are useful and relevant if they know what the end result needs to be.
  • Capture ideas on a whiteboard or flip chart paper so everyone can see them. If you’re holding a virtual brainstorming session, use a virtual whiteboard.
  • Write down all ideas. Don’t spend any time debating ideas at this point or criticizing ideas. The purpose of the brainstorming session is to come up with as many ideas as possible so accept all contributions and keep them coming.
  • Set a goal to collect a certain number of ideas during the session. For example, 50 ideas in an hour. Remember, the purpose of a brainstorming session is not to pick the best idea, but to generate as many ideas as possible. Be sure to number the ideas as well for reference.
  • When the energy starts to fade, consider diving deeper into one of the ideas already offered up to come up with some spin-off ideas.
  • Keep the mood light. Encourage people to get up and move around when they need to.