Group brainstorming sessions can be one of the most powerful ways to work collaboratively. Bringing the right people into a conversation can help your team make the best decisions in a highly efficient manner. However, sometimes it is easy to lose focus in a group setting, and your team can actually hinder progress instead of moving a conversation forward.
The following thoughts are designed to help your team get out of the rut and into the rhythm as team meetings become more productive and inspiring.
Set a Goal
This may be obvious, but if a brainstorming session begins without a clear objective and an agreed upon goal for the time spent, you’ll wind up with an idea salad and no entrée. Make sure your team begins a session bearing in mind the problem you are trying to solve, and strive toward a single solution. Mutually agreeing on this is important to make sure your team is aligned.
GO, SLOW, GROW!
The first practical step your team can take to improve productivity is letting the ideas flow. To play off the power of “stream of consciousness,” try using the GO system. Create a list in a notebook or on a sheet of paper, and give everyone the chance to write down any idea that comes to mind. Often times, a gut feeling or off-the-cuff idea can lead to great conversation as your team brainstorms. Remember, in this section, all ideas are treated as equally viable ideas. Refining these thoughts is the next step.
During the SLOW phase, have your team review the GO list. Eliminate extraneous entries from the list, merge like ideas, and carefully carve out space for the ideas that matter. Drill down which five ideas your team feels most confident moves you towards achieving your goal. You now have your SLOW list.
Finally, in the GROW phase, take your single best idea from your SLOW list, and flesh it out in detail. Here, you can go into depth about the idea that you want to grow, and how it can fit into the ultimate goal of your brainstorming session.
Time It Out
When using the GO, SLOW, GROW system, you may find your team stuck in an “thinkers-block.” Time has passed, and you’re nowhere closer to the goal. An easy way to prevent spending too much time debating a single list of ideas is to pull out the stopwatch. Set a time limit for every phase along the way.
By setting these micro-deadlines, you enable your team to find their best ideas efficiently and with a sense of urgency. Sometimes the best ideas come from pressure, and a gut-reaction to an idea can be equally as valuable as a long, thought out idea.
Separate People and Ideas
Last but not least, remember to give everyone a voice. Make an effort to put aside rank, experience, and differences. The best ideas come from an environment where everyone is on a level playing field and everyone feels heard. Imagine never finding the winning idea because someone on your team is afraid to speak up. Encourage your team, celebrate thoughtfulness, and applaud differences.
Next time you find your team in the think tank, give this approach a shot. Set a goal! Filter down your ideas from broad to specific, making sure to capitalize on quantity. Set timers, and stick to them. And finally, level the playing field so that everyone wants to contribute. Win your next brainstorming session, take your team to the next level, and achieve your goals.