7 Ways to Make Brainstorming Meetings More Productive

Today’s complex business world can create some equally complex problems—problems that shouldn’t be solved by one mind alone. Holding brainstorming meetings with select teams (including coworkers, partners, vendors and even clients) might be the solution you’re looking for.

What makes brainstorming meetings successful? In short, it comes down to a willing collaboration between the people involved—in an environment where all ideas are welcomed and can build off of each other. It’s a very effective practice if conducted right.

Here are seven smart tips to make your brainstorming meetings as productive as possible:

1. Select a cross-functional team

Good collaboration requires bringing together a diverse group of people to get the best opinions, views and experiences. Be sure to include a range of men, women, ethnic groups and ages. For example, Millennials can bring a very different perspective than senior managers who have been in business for quite some time.

2. Choose the right setting—consider virtual options, too

If you want your team to be creative, then be sure to hold brainstorming sessions in a creative space—and have white boards up so people can showcase their ideas. But brainstorming meetings don’t have to be totally in-person gatherings. Today’s conferencing and collaboration tools makes virtual meetings easy, and highly effective.

Virtual meetings allow people to participate who otherwise may not have been able to join because of their location, including vendors and partners. Plus, virtual meetings allow for anonymity so even shy participants might offer ideas better than in person.

3. Clearly define the issue to be “brainstormed”

The clearer you are about the topic, the more effective the brainstorming. You’re looking for solutions, so be sure to frame the challenge in a positive light. Don’t ask people to only identify problems, but to find creative solutions to any problem they discover.

4. Plan some warm-up exercises to get the brainstorming going

Begin by sharing information about the brainstorming session in advance of the actual meeting. Asking them to generate several ideas beforehand can help get everyone’s creative juices flowing, and gives them a chance to begin the incubation process.

Then, when it’s time to get the meeting started, begin with an ice-breaker or a fun activity to get everyone relaxed and in the proper frame of mind.

5. Encourage all to participate

Be alert to strong-willed and loud-voiced team members pushing their views on others. Having a warm-up period as noted above can help mitigate against this problem.

Additionally, create different structures involving small groups, teams or an environment which encourages open participation to occur. You may even want to allow people to mingle and move around the room from tablet to tablet as they discuss and provide input.

6. Do not judge      

Brainstorming meetings are all about letting the creative juices flow, so there should be no judgments made when ideas are offered. There are no bad ideas in brainstorming meetings, and you never know when one person’s suggestion might inspire brilliance in someone else. Throw it all up on the wall and see what sticks. The more ideas that come out of your brainstorming meetings, the higher the likelihood the right solution will be found.

7. Document results for objective ranking

End the session by capturing EVERY idea that was presented. Again, the purpose of brainstorming meetings is to get as many ideas as possible. So make a complete list and then have an objective party handle the ranking of ideas and make the final decisions.

In the end, multiple heads are better than one when it comes to solving big challenges. Even the most complex problems can be solved with good group sessions.

What’s a technique that’s helped increase the effectiveness of your brainstorming meetings?

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