Tips and tricks for a great brainstorming session

When was the last time you and few others were summoned into a meeting room and asked to come up with good ideas?

Unsurprisingly, many people sigh when they hear the word brainstorming. Still, it stays a popular method for generating ideas. And while good ideas might hide in dark places, here are a few tips and tricks on how to lure them out with a great brainstorming session.

1. People

If you want diverse and creative ideas, then bring together people with different profiles and ways of thinking.

2. Timing

We are generally more creative before the daily routine takes over, so morning is the ideal time for your brainstorm. Later in the day people will need more time to switch from daily routine to creative mode, so make sure you include a longer warming up period. Avoid evening brainstorming altogether.

3. Space

Space can help inspire great ideas. As a rule meeting rooms are not the most exciting place, but luckily you can change this. Choose some topic-related images and put them on the wall. Ambient background music during the brainstorm is generally more inspiring than the silence. Make sure to provide a poster with basic information such as goals and tasks – this way they won’t get lost in translation.

4. Facilitation

Every brainstorm needs a facilitator who takes care of the process. He/she introduces the activity and prepares the space and materials. The facilitator leads the process but doesn’t take part in generating ideas.

5. Warming up

What is true for sports is also true for creativity – we perform better when properly warmed up. Ideally, you will want short and fun activities that wake up the brain, like two or three of Edward de Bono’s exercises (check out his book: How to have creative ideas). My favorite de Bono exercise is composing a story out of random words: choose four random words out of the table and use them in a story.

My second favorite is not de Bono’s: It’s the birthday of a good friend of yours and you forgot to get a present. You’re on your way to his/her house, all the shops are closed, and all, you find in your pocket, is a paperclip. You have 5 minutes to turn it into a present.If your brainstorming session is in the afternoon, you might want to do an energizer: a short game that involves some physical exercise.

6. First create, then evaluate

A human brain is an amazing tool with few limitations. One of them is that it can’t switch between creative to evaluative mode. This means you will end up with less or worse ideas if you judge how good/bad they are. A general rule for brainstorming is: every idea is a good idea. The facilitator should always remind people of this before they start – to make sure everything is put on the table. There will be enough time to sort and evaluate the ideas after you’ve collected them.

And the last but not the least – take your brainstorming seriously but don’t make it serious. Humor inspires creativity, so have some fun while you’re at it!

I originally wrote and published this blog post on ZN blog.