When trying to come up with new ideas, either with a team or on your own, it’s never a good thing to do so without preparation. So here are some tips on how to make your Brainstorming session a success.
1. Define the Objective
There are usually four reasons why you need a brainstorming:
1.You need new ideas;
2.You need to solve a problem;
3.You want to improve your creative processes;
4.You want to improve teamwork.
You can see that the first two reasons are the core values of brainstorming, while the last two are more add-ons benefits. However, all four reasons are important. So, you have better practice brainstorming with the last two reasons, for a more effective session later to achieve the first two.
2. Techniques for personal brainstorming
Brainstorming on your own can be challenging, you only have one brain after all. The biggest challenge of brainstorming alone is to overcome creative blocks that are in your way.
These techniques below can help you generate more ideas and get past your creative blocks:
2.1. Mind Mapping
Figure 1. Example of a Mind Map
Above is an example of a mind map, which depicts how, like a tree, different branches emerge from the central ‘Main Idea or Concept’. A mind map is a great tool to both visualize and organize your ideas surrounding one central one, with each branch as different topics and visualization.
Utilizing colors can prove to be helpful when visualizing each topic. A mind map is also easy to start, you can just bring out your pen and paper, or you can use different types of tools available online, from simple drawing tools to professional ones.
2.2. Ishikawa diagram
Ishikawa diagram, or Fishbone diagram, is an effective tool to try and find the root cause of the problem, which is essential to problem-solving.
For this tool, you will need to: first, define the central problem you need to solve; then, brainstorm the major root causes for that problem as different ‘bone’ branches; next, brainstorm the minor root causes that are causing the major ones in smaller ‘bone’ branches. Like the example below:
Figure 2. Example of a Fishbone Diagram
This technique of thinking is best to visualize the root causes of the problem, so you may know where you would need to tackle first and define a strategy for the solution.
3. Techniques for team brainstorming
One problem with team brainstorming is that not everyone contributes equally, and the team may fixate on the few ideas that came first or only a few people contributing most of the discussion, leading to a fail session. The name of this problem is “Anchoring”, which often prevents new ideas to come up in a brainstorming session.
Another problem is that people tend to only contribute what they think are the best ideas, which goes against the whole point of brainstorming. For brainstorming sessions, “Quantity before Quality” is the way to go, as this is the first step to everything so all ideas and possibilities should be considered.
The solution to these problems is to get more people to contribute to the discussion. Here are some techniques to encourage more people to contribute their ideas:
The essential of Starbursting technique is to ask questions. The major ones are Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. Centralizing one main idea, each person on the team will pose one question about the topic of their choosing, while the leader will note down all these questions.
Figure 3. Example of a Starbursting Brainstorm
This technique is sure to cover all the aspects of the ideas, and also touches on frequently overlooked aspects before your team started to work on the idea. One added bonus for this technique is once you’ve done it you will have an already-made FAQs list to be used at any time.
3.2. Round Robin Brainstorming
Figure 4. Example of a Round Robin Brainstorm
To begin the session, the moderator will explain to everyone the main idea/topic for the brainstorm, then one by one in a circle each team member will present their ideas, all of which the moderator will take note for further discussion. The main point of this technique is for everyone to contribute their ideas, or if one idea is repeated we can skip that one member to give them more time to think and get back to them later.
The moderator job is to make sure that everyone has an idea presented and to treat all ideas as equal to encourage everyone to contribute. At the end of the sessions, the moderator can go through all the ideas and ask everyone to contribute one opinion, also round-robin style. This technique is more helpful if some of your teammates are quiet and tend to not contribute in meetings.
4. Final tips
Each brainstorming session is different from one another, so to get the best results mix and match all the techniques above for the best results. Some personal techniques are more beneficial to your team brainstorming, and vice versa. Experiment with these techniques, or try to come up with your own brainstorming technique that best fits your team in one of your future brainstorming session.
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