When you’re faced with the task of coming up with the next big idea at work, it may seem like the logical next step to organize a brainstorm meeting to get some help from your colleagues.
However, brainstorm meetings can sometimes be stressful because a lot of different ideas get thrown around, someone ends up dominating the conversation, while others just remain silent. But if done properly, brainstorm meetings can be an effective way of gathering input from lots of people from varying perspectives.
But brainstorm meetings don’t have to be stressful! Follow our tried and tested tips to hosting a successful brainstorm meeting that is sure to bring you effective results.
1) Come Prepared
Like any successful meeting, your brainstorm meeting should start with an agenda. Participants should be able to understand the purpose of the meeting and what they’re aiming to accomplish so they can come prepared and be ready to jump in when the time comes.
Before bringing everyone together, send out an agenda ahead of time so that people can get familiar with the topic and definitions, and have some time to think before the brainstorm meeting starts.
Additionally, having an agenda will allow the meeting facilitator to make sure you are staying on track and that all topics and discussion points are getting covered. We will talk more about facilitators later!
Check out our previous blog post that outlines the many benefits to having an agenda, and how you can create a meeting agenda that you will actually stick to!
2) Define the Problem
At times, we go into problem solving mode without fully understanding what the problem actually is. The first step in an effective brainstorm meeting is to outline the problem you are trying to overcome. The question should be clear and easy to understand. Lay out the context and any definitions that may come up. The more information you can give about the problem, the more likely you are to come up with a great solution.
Like we mentioned in the first point, sending out contextual information and reading materials ahead of time will allow participants to have a better understanding of the problem before the meeting even begins.
3) Have a Facilitator
In a room full of people throwing around ideas, it is important to have someone in charge to maintain order and make sure conversations don’t get sidetracked. The role of a facilitator is to keep everyone on topic and make sure that time is being spent productively in the meeting.
When picking a moderator, pick someone who is impartial and will not be afraid to redirect the conversation if needed. They should also make sure everyone has had the chance to speak their mind and that no single person is dominating the conversation as this can be both distracting and discouraging to others.
In the brainstorming session, there will definitely be a lot of innovative suggestions that may not be related to the topic. The arbiter may acknowledge these ideas but put them aside for future consideration so as not to stray from the main agenda. There’s no need to forget about them entirely, but rather, set them aside to come back to at a later date.
The facilitator should be encouraged to keep track of the conversation and take notes of all the points being discussed. Without a record, it’s easy for the ideas to get lost and forgotten. What’s the best way to do this? By using Notiv, of course!
Use Notiv’s AI Notetaker to record, transcribe and summarize your brainstorm meeting in just minutes!
Notiv will take down everything that was said, word for word, so there is no room for confusion about outcomes and deadlines after the meeting. To learn more about how you can convert your conversations into meaningful outcomes, click here.
4) Encourage Participation
It can be intimidating to let go of your worries and come up with ideas in front of a group of people, at the risk of saying the wrong thing or your idea not being well received.
It is important to remember that everyone who is at the brainstorm meeting is there for a reason, and so they should all have a chance to voice their opinions and ideas. Encourage participants to speak up by letting them know that all ideas are welcome.
People come from different backgrounds and have different experiences so they will all have different solutions to the same problem, which is why it is important that everyone has had the chance to speak their mind. This is why a diverse group of participants is key!
In our opinion, the best combination is a group of people with different perspectives and skills – big picture, details, process, etc to be able to get the most varied set of ideas in your brainstorm meeting.
5) Quantity over Quality
Yes, you read that right! It may seem like you should be zooming in on a couple of great ideas instead of spending time coming up with loads of different ones, but this is actually not the case.
We recommend setting a 5-10 minute timer and having each participant write down as many ideas as possible, to then discuss afterwards. Note down your suggestions, no matter how crazy or out of the box they sound. You’d be surprised but there will most likely be someone at your brainstorm meeting who has thought of the same crazy idea as you.
After that’s done, you can focus on the best ideas and build on them. Most likely you will find that patterns begin to merge and there will be similarities between ideas.
This is why teamwork is important in brainstorm meetings – it allows us to take ideas and make them stronger. When everyone has the opportunity to contribute, it is easier to work together to find a solution. Additionally, people are more receptive to the ideas they helped develop.
6) Get Out the Bad Ideas First
As mentioned earlier, people often feel afraid to say the wrong thing in front of a group of people but it is important that they feel comfortable enough to speak their mind openly and really say what they’re thinking.
At some point during the brainstorm session, participants will look to each other for approval. This is only natural. However, you should put an end to this as soon as possible. If participants feel they are being judged, they will stop sharing their best and most unusual ideas. A word of caution: there’s a very fine line between saying “no” to bad ideas and making people feel discouraged from contributing, so be cautious!
By getting out the bad ideas first, you’re encouraging people to get creative and to think outside the box. This creates a more comfortable environment where people feel more relaxed and willing to participate.
7) Keep an Open Mind
This ties in to our previous point about bad ideas. Keep an open mind to other people’s ideas, even if they sound unusual at first.
Be receptive to other participants’ thoughts and try to build on them. Not only is this good manners, it is also going to make you look like a team player. Many good ideas are inspired by other people, so let your teammates draw suggestions from one another to bring more ideas to the table.
Remember, brainstorming is not a time to get into specific and “ideal” solutions. If you try to perfect ideas prematurely, you may turn the brainstorming meeting into a meeting focused on a specific idea. Instead, encourage everyone to continue to come up with their strange and creative ideas.
8) Follow Up
Usually, brainstorm meetings don’t just end there, there is a process that comes afterwards on how to implement the ideas that were discussed. You will most likely need to meet again at some point to talk about the details of putting one or more ideas into action, and to review the ideas that are not high on the priority list.
Make a habit of following up after all of your meetings, not just brainstorm ones specifically. Send an email after your gathering to share the documents you discussed, agree on action items and outline each participant’s responsibilities.
One way to do this effectively is to use Notiv. Remember we mentioned earlier that Notiv can record and transcribe your meetings? Share the recording with your team members so they can refer back to what was discussed at the meeting in detail – from action points, to highlights, to deliverables. To learn more about how Notiv can help you, click here.
Types of Brainstorming Tactics
Now that we’ve covered our main tips for a successful brainstorm meeting, it’s time to outline specific techniques that will allow you to conduct a productive brainstorming session. There are many methods out there, but we will focus on the ones we think produce the most effective results.
1) Brain Writing
Brain writing is simple – it’s when participants take a few minutes to write down ideas that come to their head about a specific problem or topic. After a few minutes, you pass the piece of paper to the person next to you and they add on to it. This process repeats several times.
Brain writing is particularly great when there are people in the group who might be too anxious for traditional brainstorming and would find it more comfortable to work together in a group.
2) Rapid Ideation
We briefly touched on this already. When using this technique, the meeting leader provides information on topics, budgets, deadlines, etc. or the context of the problem in advance. Then a time limit is set and the individuals have to write down as many thoughts or ideas as possible on the topic. This is not the time to narrow in on specific ideas, this is the time to get creative and let your mind roam free.
3) The Stepladder Technique
This type of brainstorming encourages team members to contribute individually before sharing their ideas. The session begins when the host shares the topic or question with the entire team. Once the topic is shared, everyone leaves the room, except two team members. Then the two colleagues will discuss the topic and their thoughts on it. After that, an additional team member is added to the group. This new member will contribute their ideas before the other two discuss their ideas. This process is repeated until everyone from the original group is back in the room again.
This technique is useful because it allows participants to share their thoughts without being influenced by others’ opinions. This technique should ideally be used by groups of 15 people or less, as when the group gets too big, the process can take a lot longer and be less productive.
Brainstorm meetings don’t have to be a painful experience if they’re done properly. You shouldn’t expect to make any big decisions during your meeting, but rather see it as the first step to an ongoing process.
Give your colleagues some time to let their ideas and meeting discussions settle for a few days before moving onto the next steps. Putting the ideas into action will come at a later time, which is why it is important to draw a series of conclusions that are clear to all participants at the end of the brainstorming session. Make sure everyone is in line for the next steps and add some milestones to the development of ideas that arise during the problem-solving process.
Don’t forget this helpful tip – keep your brainstorm meetings organized by having an agenda and a facilitator to keep everyone on track and let the ideas flow!
Are you planning on hosting a brainstorm meeting soon? Why not sign up for our 14 day free trial and let Notiv take your meeting notes for you!