“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still have one apple each. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas,” said Irish playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw, who believed that putting ideas together gives you more food for thought.
Exchange of ideas or brainstorming is a powerful technique used by organizations, groups and individuals to create new and meaningful ideas by sharing and discussing them. It can also be used to refine existing ideas, solve problems and encourage collaboration within teams.
Brainstorming sessions are common in organizations that have an informal organizational structure. Traditional organizations with a hierarchical structure prefer a top-down approach when it comes to generating ideas. But organizations that prefer to get everyone on the same page enjoy the benefits of brainstorming sessions.
You can deploy multiple brainstorming methods to achieve your goals. Find out more about brainstorming and learn about its various examples and strategies.
What Is Brainstorming?
Brainstorming is a group activity where everyone comes together to discuss strategies for growth and improvement. You can exchange ideas, share important information and use these meetings as informal catch-up sessions with your co-workers.
Here’s an example:
Say, you work in the design team of a consumer goods company. Your organization is launching a new product and your team is responsible for packaging. Now, your manager will most likely schedule a brainstorming session where you can play around with potential designs. You come up with a sustainable way to package your products but aren’t sure about the cost.
So, the research and development head informs you of the budget and possible strategies for implementation. By the end of the meeting, everyone’s up to speed about their tasks with respect to packaging, budget and rollout.
You may find several examples of brainstorming in your organization. These sessions are usually lively because each member wants to contribute to the discussion. But this could also be one of the reasons why some members don’t get a chance to share their ideas.
Drawbacks Of Brainstorming In Groups
Brainstorming is not without its set of problems. As is the case with group activities, there’s a chance that someone might get overlooked during the meeting or discussion. Here are some of the drawbacks of brainstorming:
Some members may never get a chance to speak up and put their ideas on the table
The session can get too chaotic, leading to inconclusive results
Group sessions can be intimidating for those who work better alone
There’s a chance that you stray off the topic, wasting both time and effort
These sessions are informal—usually without an agenda—which can be detrimental as members may not know what’s expected of them
Group Brainstorming Vs Individual Brainstorming
Brainstorming is customarily a group activity, but individuals can also brainstorm ideas. If you are someone who gets their best ideas in a quiet place, individual brainstorming may be ideal for you. This way, you can do your research, prepare a solid plan and share it when the time comes. You will have more room to think and time to cover all your bases.
Group brainstorming sessions often inevitably focus on a few condensed ideas, overlooking contributions by individual members. This can lead your team to miss out on key ideas and solutions.
You can use your time efficiently to come up with great ideas and effective strategies that you can then convey to your team.
Different Brainstorming Methods
There are several ways to bring the team together and bounce ideas off each other. You can use this time wisely to come up with creative solutions to complex problems or develop new strategies for brand promotion. Depending on your team, organization and industry, you can implement different brainstorming methods to get the best results.
Here are effective ways to brainstorm for groups and individuals:
Brainwriting is an upgraded technique to share ideas and come up with solutions. This is an even more productive way to generate ideas where each person writes down what they think before sharing it with the team. Brainwriting is an effective method because no one gets interrupted. You don’t get cut off by someone else shouting their views at you. You can take your time to jot down your ideas without the pressure to satisfy others. Brainwriting is especially ideal for brainstorming sessions to encourage creativity in groups.
The children’s vocabulary game ‘pass the story’ starts with “Once upon a time…”. Then, each child builds on this phrase by adding lines. Mind mapping is a similar strategy where one member throws in a general idea, which leads to connecting sub-ideas. The first idea may not be the perfect one but it still ignites a row of potential ideas. It’s effective because it jolts your creativity by giving you a certain direction. Visual representations of a mind map are often used when you are dealing with extensive research. It helps to filter information and categorize it.
The stepladder technique is an effective decision-making strategy that was developed in 1992. It’s suited for smaller groups of five or six members. Here, two members are invited to a room to brainstorm, with a facilitator present. Then, a third member enters and shares his or her ideas before being introduced to the ideas shared by the other two members. Brainstorming continues this way until everyone is in the room. This technique promotes new and fresh ideas that aren’t influenced by others.
Visualization is a strategy where each member is asked to picture their ideas. It gives everyone a starting point to build upon. Visualization can be a stepping stone to successful ideas, especially in product design. It’s also helpful when you are trying to improve existing strategies. You can also turn it into an activity. For instance, the first person can be asked to draw an outline. Each subsequent member then adds something to it. By the time it reaches the last person, you will likely have a working model.
This method is ideal for organizations that work with remote employees located in different cities or even countries or if team members are working from home. You can either work on a Google doc or pick a virtual communication tool like Microsoft Teams to start an idea chain. This way everyone can stay connected. Changes can be seen in real-time so there’s no question of delay. Following up with meetings for ideation and implementation completes the process.
How To Brainstorm
Now that you are familiar with effective brainstorming strategies, let’s explore a few ways to improve your brainstorming sessions.
Remember to set the timer right at the beginning because brainstorming sessions tend to run for hours. If everyone talks for more than 30 minutes, you may be looking at day-long brainstorming sessions.
Encourage everyone to take the floor so that no one feels left out. Give everyone a chance to put their ideas on the table before focusing on a select few. You may find real gems among generic ideas.
Supplement your ideas with visual aids like images, videos and prototypes. In informal sessions like brainstorming, visuals can help you get your point across more effectively. It’s also a respite from the textual information overload.
Don’t discredit ideas because they seem expensive, complex or too eccentric. A brainstorming session is the first stage in ideation. Take everything you can get from these meetings before filtering anything out.
Keep track of everything that’s being said, so you don’t miss out on key ideas or information. Ask one person to take down the minutes or record the session and transcribe it later. Sometimes, great ideas get lost in conversation.
The more ideas everyone shares, the better your chances of finding something that works. Brainstorming is the perfect way to promote team creativity and build team dynamics. It gives everyone a chance to share their thoughts and opinions. You can use this opportunity to put your best foot forward and work wonders with your team.
Learn more about strategies for brainstorming in groups—and individually—with Harappa Education’s Unleashing Creativity course. Our high-impact online course is designed to encourage creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. You will learn about creativity in groups with important concepts like brainwriting. Being creative will help you develop diverse thinking and come up with effective solutions for problem-solving.
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