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Key Strategies for Conducting Brainstorming Meetings - Part 1

Introductions

Hello everyone! Brad from Adigo here again. I hope everyone is having a good day. We're going to roll through a bunch of stuff. I think it should be very interesting. We're going to talk a little bit about some of the typical challenges with brainstorming sessions. They definitely are different. Some of the things we'll talk about in terms of improvements are mixing it up and warming it up, having a warm-up sessions. We'll talk about what may be a new concept for some of you, which is individual brain storming. I think most of us, when we think about brainstorming, we think of big groups and large group sessions. But there is some interesting research on individual brainstorming as well. Then we'll talk a little about some virtual ideas fro brainstorming sessions. We'll wrap up with questions.

First of all, just who I am. I'm the President of Adigo. We do provide all kinds of different conference services. Before that, I was Director of Products for Voyant Technologies and that was one of the initial companies that developed conference technology. I have been in the industry over a decade and have also started 3 businesses. As you can probably imagine, especially with starting businesses, I have been a part of lots of brainstorming sessions. I find them just a really fun thing to do.

Why Brainstorm?

First of all why do we brainstorm? Clearly the need is to identify something new. That could be some radical transformation, something very disruptive as opposed to taking an existing concept and tweaking it or evolving it over time. Really brainstorming would be about totally disruptive technology, or differentiation. Oftentimes, in marketing groups you're brainstorming to identify more differentiation.

It could be to change the culture a little bit. Oftentimes, companies find that they make it into a little bit of a rut and brainstorming can really bring in a lot of enthusiasm and improve morale. It gives people the empowerment to be more involved and really add their voice. You find it really in all different functional areas within the company, maybe not. Maybe all is a little broad, but certainly people think of it in the product area, but it's definitely in marketing as well, any kind of process. Orientation can benefit tremendously from brainstorming. It's done a lot in leadership roles and operations. If you're in any kind of manufacturing or operations transactional type of environment, oftentimes it’s a great thing to do there.

What does it mean though in terms of a meeting? First of all to accomplish the things that we've just talked about above, you need a lot of interaction, it could be a much louder meeting. It's definitely going to be much less structured and faster paced.

Challenges

Let's talk about what may be a typical scenario. People may think it's a little kumbaya, or all kinds of people getting around a table, but often times there may not be much structure too it, or it could be the opposite where someone kind of stands up and gives a little lecture. This is what we're going to do. The only tools may be perhaps a speakerphone for one person that couldn't make the meeting in person.

You get the sense that maybe there is some consensus, but it's really a phantom or illusionary consensus and often people may feel they get alienated actually from the process. So we are doing these brainstorming meetings to improve moral and unfortunately in some cases it may do the exact opposite.

Mix It Up

So, let's talk about some of the initial things that we want to think about in terms of brainstorming meetings. We want to really mix things up to get that engagement and to get energy that is going to really generate a diversity of ideas. A lot of times people may think of diversity just on one component. Getting some different age people from your team, or a broader team, but think more broadly. Definitely have both genders involved significantly and make sure there's also a broad range of roles represented, both higher level roles and lower level roles.

Another thing to think about is personalities. Bring in a diverse group of people, not just louder people that may be comfortable but maybe even soft spoken people. And think about geography. Bring in people from different parts of the company, geographically, different offices.

Another thing to think about is time of day for your meeting. The mid-morning meeting is typically the very best because people are awake and they're energized. If you do things in the afternoon you've got post lunch blues, or people are too preoccupied with other things.

Also, one of the things we'll talk about a little bit more is loud voices. In this diverse group that you have, you want to be aware that not any one group or particular people have too much of a loud voice and occupy the conversation too much.

So how do you do that? My first suggestion is to really think about a brainstorming session as analogous to a workout. What do you do with a workout? Because it's new and different, you want to warm up first, get the blood flowing. The same thing applies to a brainstorming meeting, so have a lot of people think about ice breakers, but depending on your culture that may work very well. You may want to consider going around the room sharing a story or perhaps, what we'll talk about at the end, having an initial seeded list of ideas. If you've done that ahead of time then that might be a way to get the juices going as well.

Certainly incorporate movement. I can not stress enough that when people are physically moving, and I do mean up out of the chair and walking around, regardless of whether it's in person or not, even if it's virtual, encourage people to be standing. There's a lot of research that shows people are more creative and have better attention when they're physically moving. So, if you've got people in person definitely have just the old school concept of the big paper tablets on an easel or up against a wall. They do work well. And think about also dividing people into smaller teams because that encourages movement as well.

You want to definitely make it fun. So think about that. How can you do that? Whether it's cartoons, or showing a video at the beginning, just to kind of loosen people up.  Try to get them to laugh, seriously. There is research that shows when people laugh it changes the hormones and activity in the brain and people are going to be more conducive to being receptive to new ideas.

So we'll talk about this a little bit more, the seeded ideas, but that's a great way also to have that session of warm up period work well.

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