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How to flourish with a brainstorming session: eleven suggestions

Two previous posts outlined five suggestions for how best to conduct brainstorming sessions (See my post of Oct. 30, 2006: rules, facilitator, preparation; and Nov. 25, 2006: private ideas before and mull afterwards.):

  1. Have rules, such as an agenda and guidelines for how to participate
  2. Engage a trained facilitator from outside,
  3. Push participants to read, think, and prepare ahead of time;
  4. Write ideas privately before the meeting
  5. Mull ideas afterwards

Wendy Werner, writing in Law Practice, Vol. 35, April/May 2009 at 48, adds several general guidelines for brainstorming sessions.

  1. Limit the number of participants to 10 or 12.

  2. “Engage a diagonal slice” of employees across units and levels

  3. Preserve the ideas the brainstorm group generates, although without attribution

  4. “Ask for more ideas”. Werner makes the point that people are often shy, wary of rebukes, constrained by what they know or assume; keep urging the brainstorm group to come up with more ideas and give them time.

  5. “Create a parking lot for unrelated concepts.” Not every idea is on target for what the group has been charged with doing. Don’t lose the good ideas, however, by failing to record them in the parking lot.

  6. “Schedule a break between generation and selection.” The second stage, after the group comes up with a flood of ideas, might be a day or two later even. The intervening period gives them time to digest the ideas and improve them.

Brainstorming, done well, can stimulate wonderful ideas (See my post of Dec. 31, 2008: brainstorming with 5 references; Jan. 4, 2009: electronic brainstorming with decision support software; and April 6, 2009: Brain-writing 6-3-5 as a technique.).

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