Are you getting enough from your brainstorm?

Do you love a good brainstorm?

I do.

It’s a great way to collect a plethora of ideas together in one place, whether thoughts from a super creative and overflowing mind or the result of collective input from a group. It’s a common enough technique, and simple to do.

Idea

 

But there are most definitely things that you can do to make sure you get the most out of your brainstorm, and to make it more effective, at least in the group sense. Let’s leave aside for a moment the lone brainstorm. I am partial to “brainstorming myself”, and use it to:

  • Offload a myriad of thoughts floating around my head that need to be captured and contained somewhere, usually on a piece of flipchart paper.
  • Organise that information in a way that I might be able to make use of it effectively. Once it’s recorded then I can start to reflect and decide how to act upon the content.
  • Perhaps generate some more ideas to clarify, modify or add to the ones that I have just “stormed”.

That’s more or less what a brainstorm is – eliciting information from inside the complex systems that are our minds. Doing it alone can be tricky. Doing it in a group is far more effective, but not without its pitfalls.

So how can we make a group brainstorm work well?

Brain

The first thing to pay attention to is WHY you are doing the brainstorm in the first place.

Obviously you are asking people for ideas, thoughts and suggestions, but sometimes a brainstorm is used primarily as a discussion starter. In this sense you might be less worried about the answers people give, and more interested in the discussion itself. A brainstorm used in this way may be most effective at the start of a workshop where you are teaching people something new; a training session. Before giving your participants the “right answers” you are opening up, stimulating ideas and helping people engage with the topic.

You may however really need to find out and gather particular knowledge from the people in the room. For example if you are looking for ideas to save costs on a project, or answers to a specific problem, you are looking to the participants for some answers. While the brainstorm has the same function of stimulating discussion and engaging people, its main aim is to elicit the ideas from the people in the room. The ideas, knowledge and experience held by the participants are what you are really after. They can provide information on a certain topic which may then be built upon and investigated in more depth later on in the session. This is more common in a meeting or facilitated workshop where the main purpose is not to teach people new things, but to help them to share what they know.

Whatever the main thrust of your brainstorm, it is important to make sure you know exactly what you are asking of people and make your questions clear.

If you manage your brainstorm well, then you will get all sorts of ideas flowing. A good brainstorm will not only help people to share their insights and knowledge, but help ignite the sparks of new ideas and produce fantastic gems of information. This is when a brainstorm can become truly valuable. It moves beyond simply asking people to offer up an answer, or even stimulating a discussion. It is about really enriching that discussion, broadening it out and creating a result that is so much bigger that the individual ideas on their own.

WHAT you do with the information elicited very much depends on the aim of your brainstorm in the first place. But, the more in depth and targeted the process, the greater the flow of ideas and the more extensive the possibilities will be for your next steps.

A brainstorm is far more that a brain dump. It is far more than collecting and recording information. It is far more than finding out what people think. It can be the start of something quite exciting, a voyage of discovery. But as with many of the simplest things; the devil is in the detail, so make sure you think about what you need!

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Bold steps workshop

Boldly Stepping Forwards

Last week as many of you will know was International Women’s Day #IWD16. A great day for women all around the globe to focus on ourselves as women, our achievements, our accomplishments and on the way still to go. On this day I was lucky enough to be working with an amazing group of women considering our bold steps…….

I was tasked by the fabulous Faye Dicker to do a workshop as part of her special IWD Brave, Bold and Bonkers FreelanceMum networking day. The workshop needed to be 20 minutes (in truth the shortest workshop I have ever done) and needed to be delivered to 40 women. Ha, what could be easier? I do like a challenge……

The numbers of people didn’t bother me, I love groups, it’s where I feel comfortable, the more the merrier as they say. It was the 20 minutes that I was a bit more unsure about – 3 hours no problem, a day or two much better, but 20 minutes? Added to which we were going to be doing this in a church (seat layout, acoustics etc all very much not my idea of a perfect venue) and there would most definitely be children! The “take your children” ethos is what makes this networking group special and different. And it works, I’m a regular, although have to confess I left my son at nursery on this particular day.

So before the day had even begun I was feeling a bit bonkers, rather brave and decided to boldly grab the challenge and see what happened.

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Are you a groupie?

I spend a lot of my time planning, preparing, organising and generally trying to work through the processes that I need to, to get things done. I can frequently be found surrounded by pieces of paper and pens, scribbling down ideas, drawing up lists or tables, and creating templates and plans.

On the one hand I like the mental space of me and my pen, sometimes flip chart and often my keyboard, writing down ideas, considering, cogitating, reflecting and polishing, untangling my thoughts so that they look the way that I want. I like to get my ideas down and to lay them out in a way that enables me to think, to create solutions and concrete plans. It’s important to have this time, and I enjoy the introspection. There is no one to tell me I am wrong, disturb my patterns of thought or tell me which direction I need to go in. I am guided, moderated and powered by myself.

I can in this way do what I want to do.

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Feeling part of a virtual group – the webinar experience.

For today’s slice of blog activity I thought I’d share my recent experience of attending a webinar. When I say attending, what I mean of course is dialing in, or more precisely, logging on.

In case you are not up to speed with the whole webinar phenomenon this is a seminar or workshop that you do on line with other people. So you have to imagine that there are a whole load of other people around the country (or in this particular case, the world) sat in front of their computers with headphones on listening to Bob (let’s call him Bob, I’ve forgotten his actual name) talking.Continue reading

Using an elephant to get the whole picture

elephant with quote

I have just been thinking about a project review that I did a little while ago, and somehow this lead me onto thinking about the story of the blind men and the elephant! I have in fact just been to a presentation on an engineering project that I did a project close out review workshop for. I though that perhaps I would write something interesting about it, the presentation I mean. But instead I found myself thinking about why the review worked. The people that I talked to asked me about why the review included people from different disciplines, and actually different companies (client, contractor and designer were all present in the workshop that I facilitated). Continue reading