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Effective Brainstorming

Do you use brainstorming sessions at your organization? These tools are highly effective in generating as many ideas or solutions as possible for a problem or issue. It’s important to note that brainstorming sessions are not tools for determining the best solution to a problem or issue. Again, they’re for generating ideas or possible solutions, only. Ideas are good. Explore them later. The brainstorming session is not for weighing pros, cons and forecasting the benefits. Just gather ideas.

Before beginning any effective brainstorming session, ground rules must be set. This doesn’t mean that boundaries are set so tightly that you can’t have fun or be creative, but it does mean a code of conduct for person-to-person interaction has been set. The best way to have meaningful ground rules is to have the team create its own. You could even have a simple, fun, miniature brainstorming session about the ground rules for future such meetings. It should provide a nice opportunity to practice the skills necessary for an effective session. This also allows the team to take ownership of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Once the rules are agreed upon, be sure to gain consensus that the session will be conducted accordingly. Post them in a highly visible location in the room.

Here are four key rules based on Kerri Simon’s recent outline at www.ISixSigma.com that you might consider for your next successful brainstorming session.

  1. There are no dumb ideas, period. It’s a brainstorming session, not a serious matter that requires only serious solutions.
  2. Don’t criticize other ideas. This isn’t a debate, discussion or forum for one person to display superiority over another or to develop an idea into a full plan. Cast out the idea and capture it for exploration later in another setting.
  3. Build on other ideas. Often an idea suggested by one person can trigger a bigger and/or better idea by another person. Catch the spark. Speak openly, freely and encourage one another to do the same.
  4. Reverse the thought of quality over quantity. Here we want quantity; the more creative ideas, the better.

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