Four actions you can do to get more value from team Brainstorming Meetings are listed below:
Part One of this Blog will share tips how you can:
1. Do your “homework” ahead of time
2. Use good facilitation techniques throughout the meeting
Part Two of this Blog will discuss how you should:
3. Not settle for just a “list of ideas”
4. Follow through on meeting objectives
Do your homework
Select a meeting location that the team will not expect, i.e. do not select the typical meeting conference room. Examples of non-typical meeting locations include a cafeteria or restaurant (during off-peak hours), a shared lab space, outdoors, a non-sterile production or packaging area, etc. Try to pick a location without distractions.
Arrange seating so that team members may get up quickly and move easily around the meeting area. Assign seating 1) if you know certain team members do not get along or 2) to encourage team members from different functions/departments to work together to come up with new ideas.
Prepare an agenda by:
- Writing a list of open-ended questions so the team’s answers will gradually build upon each other
- Assigning a time limit for team members to record and discuss their ideas for each question
- Including time for idea/output analysis or schedule a follow-up meeting to complete and review this analysis with the team
- Including time at the very end of the brainstorming meeting to discuss next steps and assign actions.
Come to the brainstorming meeting prepared with examples or prior cases, prototypes, models, and/or props if necessary to jumpstart the discussion and promote creative ideation.
Don’t forget to bring materials so that the team can document their ideas, e.g. multi-colored markers and sticky notes, and “flip-chart size” posters (Tip – posters that contain adhesive strips on the back come in handy).
Use good facilitation techniques
As a facilitator, pay attention to the clock and make sure the team is addressing each question or at least the important ones on the agenda.
Do not let your own views influence idea generation or follow-up discussion. Your job is to ask questions, not answer them! Also, you can move around the room as you ask questions to raise the energy level of the discussion and engage with all members of the team. It is okay to single out individuals with questions if their ideas are not being discussed or if they seem distracted.
For each question, ask all team members to document their own ideas on the multi-colored sticky notes prior to discussing with the team. Ensure that each team member uses a different color marker or sticky note so that you can follow-up afterwards with individuals if you have questions about their idea.
It is helpful to designate separate posters to document all ideas or comments for a given question. If there is plenty of room, encourage participants to walk around the meeting area and post their sticky notes on the separate posters which pertain to their answers.
You can utilize a different poster to capture “Parking Lot” ideas or comments; these suggestions answer different questions and should not distract the team. Parking Lot comments can be addressed off-line.
Wrap-up of Part One
Remember, brainstorming meetings should challenge the status quo and promote creativity. As a meeting leader, it is okay to take risks! What ideas or suggestions have worked for your team brainstorming meetings in the past? Please share!
(Click here to read Part Two)