If a brainstorming session falls short of its participants’ goals, “most often it is because someone hijacks the topic at hand, tries to prove everyone else wrong, works to impress the superiors who are present, or just plain blathers for his own enjoyment,” according to the Wall St.J., June 13, 2006 at B1.
If your law department chooses to conduct a brainstorming session, apply these four lessons. Require the participants to write down their ideas privately and bring them to the session. Have someone collect the ideas and read them without attribution, so that evaluations of the ideas are not influenced by the idea person’s rank. Research referred to in the article found that group brainstormers perform at about half the level of the same people who brainstorm alone. as measured by the number and quality of ideas generated.
Third, hire an outside facilitator (See my post of Oct. 30, 2006 for this suggestion and two other points: have rules and push participants to prepare ahead of time.). A fourth step asks the participants to mull over afterwards what they learned during the brainstorming session and share their thoughts (See my posts of Nov. 28, 2005 on the advantages of mind-mapping software during brainstorming sessions; and Dec. 9, 2005 on the related Delphi technique.).