Gathering your team together for a group discussion and collectively generate new ideas to solve problems that you and your team are currently facing, doesn’t that sounds like a fantastic method to come up with wonderful solutions? The idea of overcoming problems and coming up with ideas together has already existed since the ancient times. Many old wise sayings (e.g. ‘Many hands make light work’ , ”collective wisdom reaps wide benefits”) also stress the importance of discussing opinions and making decisions together. With all of these in mind, brainstorming session seems like the best way to conduct the problem-solving process, and that’s why brainstorming session is the favourite of most of the crowd. However, there’s normally a huge gap between imagination and reality
A picture speaks a thousand words 🙂
The brainstorming session literally turns into a low-efficiency sleeping room whenever it is hosted. Should we just bash brainstorming sessions ever since and think of problems individually rather than collectively? I believe the answer is nope. Although the brainstorming session has many of its shortcomings, I believe it can still remain as a powerful tool for groups to engage problem-solving. Alas! the concept of brainstorming itself is a brilliant and insightful one, no doubts on that. It is the way how typical brainstorming sessions are usually conducted and the details in the entire brainstorming process that makes it horrible. The book Getting To Yes, by Roger Fisher, has given me unique insights on overcoming the brainstorming dilemma and formulating a set of brainstorming procedure and guidelines which can make high output brainstorming possible, as below.
Prior to the brainstorming session:
- Call the group for a short-and-sweet meeting to brief them about the problem that the group is facing and needs to be discussed in the session (brainstorming objective). This meeting should only take about 10 -15 minutes as it is only a summary of the oncoming brainstorming session.
- The meeting is adjourned and everyone in the group is required to come up with at least 3 solutions in respect to the problem in the oncoming brainstorming session.
1. choose a group member as the brainstorming facilitator
— The role of the facilitator is to: host the meeting, clarify the situation when one of the group member is making an unclear statement, jot down important ideas on a whiteboard (if there is one) and control the tempo and rhythm of the session
2. Every group members should then come up with their ideas.
— In the session of the group members listing out their ideas, criticism of ideas are not allowed until all group members finish proposing their ideas. This helps to shape a healthy and creative ambience so that group members will be more open and encouraged to come up with wild ideas (that seems absurd at first thought but actually make sense!).
3. Stimulation of more ideas and criticism of ideas
— After everyone was done proposing their solutions, the process of criticising ideas can then take place. It is advised for the facilitator to remind all group members that criticism of ideas should be expressed in a polite and not-so-aggresive manner to prevent any unwanted conflicts. When things are heating up, the facilitator should also intervene to keep the situation under control.
4. Subtraction of ideas
— The weaker ideas will naturally be ousted following rounds of criticism of ideas and discussion
5. Coming up with the best ideas
The best and preferred solution to address the problem is chosen after listing the pros and cons of each one. One or two best alternatives to the preferred solution will also be taken into consideration.
Ta-da! An efficient brainstorming session should be one that is as simpler as it can be, but no simpler. I still have some thoughts and advice regarding the brainstorming session:
- The brainstorming should be done within a time frame of 90 minutes (according to my experience, long sessions will only make the process duller and productivity will only decrease over time). If the session really can’t be done within 2 hours, try to host another brainstorming session the following day with a refreshed mind
- A semi-circular meeting table is the ideal conference table. Several psychological studies have found that round tables creates an atmosphere of relaxation and add a sense of harmony to the meeting room
- A sensible incentive system can be tailored in a way that rewards the entire group to encourage group members to come up with better ideas and make better, rational decisions. However, it must be noted that one must be very careful in designing such an incentive system as a poorly-designed incentive system can lead to skewed incentives of group members and mess up the brainstorming session. I will not further elaborate on the details of creating an incentive system here.
I hope my insights on brainstorming can help you all who are reading this memo host a much productive brainstorming session and produce high quality works that will benefit the society.
P.S: I will not be posting any content for the next few months probably until December because of my oncoming trial exam and national exam (which is extremely important to me!). Good luck to all of you in your future too.