Throwing your employees in a conference room and announcing “Let’s brainstorm!” is a good way to encourage collaboration and innovation.
But, in order to manage an effective brainstorming session, you’ll need to be mindful of a few rules — most of which involve you not managing anything at all.
Josh Linkner lays out the 10 commandments of brainstorming in a recent article for Forbes. The main theme: don’t judge, don’t analyse, don’t criticise. Just let the ideas flow.
The one thing you should control: If anyone strays off-track. Make sure the session stays on topic!
…Thou shalt not comment. Even if the person next to you throws out the stupidest idea you’ve ever heard, let the process continue. The slightest comment or criticism will change the mood in the room, and the group will start to clam up. The objective is to bring ideas to the surface, not to discuss them. The only acceptable comment is a very short “wow,” “cool,” or “sweeeeeet.”
…Thou shalt not execute. The second an idea hits the whiteboard, you can easily become distracted by thinking about execution. You’ll wonder how the idea would come to life. What would it cost? Who would run it? … As important as that kind of thinking may be, it will quickly crush your creativity. Keep it out of the room.
…Thou shalt not lose focus. Idea sessions can easily dissolve into wandering and woolgathering. Don’t let it happen. … To solve this, keep what I call a parking lot list. When unrelated topics come up, put them on the parking lot list to be discussed another time. This will keep the group focused on the task at hand while still making sure that important concepts are remembered and can get attention later.
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