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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Learning from the Comedy Value of Bad Meetings

I am the kind of person that gets inspiration from all over the place. I get flashes of ideas and I seem to get them from everywhere; eating food, walking to the corner shop, talking to people, listening to music. I’d like to say that ideas come to me on my morning jog, but they don’t. I don’t embrace the world of jogging. I do love swimming but I rather like the meditative counting of lengths and the slight brain switch off that it provides. It wouldn’t be the ideal time for ideas to arrive anyway, not without some kind of waterproof notebook. Anyway, I digress……

flashes of ideas

My latest inspiration has come from watching TV. Which is interesting since I do so little of it (watch TV I mean). Have you ever seen W1A? I have to say, it’s brilliant. But it’s also painful to watch. It’s painful because it takes the extremes of reality, situations that we are all familiar with and pokes fun of them. In case you haven’t seen this slice of (fictional) satirical hilarity, it’s set in the offices of the management team in the BBC. Very funny.

And the meetings they have are what I want to have a little chat about………Continue reading

So why is communication so important anyway?

We sort of take it for granted that communicating well is something good and we intrinsically know that we need to communicate to the best of our abilities. Extraordinary communication skills are a spectacularly brilliant thing to have and there’s often that part of the job advert that asks for “good communication skills”. But why is it so important? After all, surely if you an ideas person, a thinker, a self starter who just gets on with things, a doer and not a talker you don’t want to be made to discuss things all the time you just want to be left alone to get on with it.

Well on the one hand yes, and of course no one wants to be talking about things so much that there is no action. But the truth is that no one lives in a vacuum and on some level we all need to communicate. It’s true. Whether we like it or not and whatever form it takes, we need to do it.

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And here are some reasons why everyone keeps going on about it. Good communication means:Continue reading

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.

Continue reading