1. Gather 4 to 10 people (split larger groups into several smaller groups; if a group is too large, people may be less willing to contribute). And don’t just gather like-minded people together, include people that don’t know anything about the topic or even bring in clients who can offer a totally different perspective.
2. Meet in a relaxed, preferably fun location. In a Training Magazine survey, 90% of respondents reported that location had a significant impact on their creativity and 40% said their own workspace was the least conducive location for creativity. So remove any unwanted distractions, such as cell phones or computers, and replace them with fun distractions that might spark the group’s creative energy, like props, toys or music. The best choice for music, according to creativity experts, has no lyrics and limited mental demands on the listeners, such as classical, light jazz, or new age music.
3. Start with a fun icebreaker to loosen folks up. Brainstorming a few silly topics (uses for a paper clip or alternative titles to Gilligan’s Island) or playing a theater improvisational game can help people get into the groove of the session and reduce inhibitions.
4. Assign a recorder or use a tape recorder to capture everyone’s ideas. It’s sometimes advantageous if the recorder does not participate in the brainstorm, so that the way ideas are captured isn’t biased.
5. Write the issue or problem at the top of a flip chart or white board. Your issue or problem statement should be worded in a way that is not going to limit ideas or solutions. Make sure you’re solving the right problem! Creative people often spend more time defining the problem clearly than they do looking for solutions.
6. Set a time limit. Time pressure can force more spontaneity, a key ingredient in the formulation of truly innovative ideas. Anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes may be appropriate, depending on the scope of the issue. Remember, great ideas often come towards the end of a session.
7. Remind participants that there is no blocking of ideas, no judgments, no criticisms, no “buts” and no “that’s the stupidest idea I ever heard.”
8. Quantity rules—try to get as many ideas as you can.
9. Encourage participants to listen to each other’s ideas, make new connections and leapfrog wildly off into uncharted waters.
10. Have fun! Use toys, noisemakers or goofy hats to instil a sense of play, enthusiasm and discovery in all of your brainstorming sessions. Get out of your seats and use your body to more fully engage your brain!
Copyright Michael Kerr, 2014.
Michael Kerr is an international speaker, trainer and author of “The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank! ,” “You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work” and “Inspiring Workplaces.” You can reach Michael at 1-(866)-609-2640 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more humor at work articles, DVDs and other humor at work resources, surf on over to www.mikekerr.com. Michael helps workplaces reduce stress, boost morale, spark creativity and increase productivity by putting humor to work.
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