Getting the most out of your brainstorm sessions

Benjamin Kluwgant · 16 Dec

Coming up with creative ideas on a regular basis is an important part of keeping a business fresh and on top of its game – and the quality of any idea is very much dependant on how much thought goes into developing it. If you can master the ability to run a killer brainstorming session, you’ll be swimming in good ideas.

A common attribute that all-star team leaders are expected to possess is the ability to problem solve effectively, think on their feet and make quick and accurate decisions on important issues.

Read: Management versus leadership

But, quick thinking aside, a high-quality leader should also be a master in the art of taking time and brainstorming to come up with best ideas that solve the broader and more significant issues – and the ability to run effective brainstorming sessions plays a big role in finding the solutions to such issues.

Brainstorming leads to innovation

In order to stand a chance in today’s workforce, businesses need an endless supply of new and creative ideas. With competition tightening in almost every industry, the more creative a business can be with their strategies and decisions, the greater their chances of setting themselves apart from everyone else.

The best and most innovative ideas are born in environments that allow for people to let their creative juices flow and explore ideas in great length.

Making decisions based on creative ideas and strategies is a lot more than acting on the light bulb moments. If the idea is to grow and develop, the individual needs to flesh it out and work through it in greater detail. For groups in organisations, that’s what brainstorming sessions are for.

Brainstorming drives staff and customer engagement

Engaging the people who are involved with your organisation is a key part of experiencing success in business. They often have first-hand experience or knowledge of things you do not. Things like snippets of feedback from customers, experience when a product or procedure has broken down, and even aspects of their background that gives them a different viewpoint.

Brainstorming is a great way to drive that engagement and tease out ideas.

These brainstorming sessions should inspire and nurture innovative ideas; engage staff, stakeholders, and customers; be based on feedback; and be open environments where there are no bad ideas.

Four characteristics of a solid brainstorm session

Now that we’re done convincing you that brainstorm sessions are great for business, the next step is to know how to go about running them.

The reality is that there are no hard and fast rules on how to run brainstorm sessions and think-tanks. Each manager who runs such a session needs to understand the specific requirements of their team and what type of environment is likely to bring out the most creativity.

However, there are some generic guidelines that help structure those sessions and maximise their potential. Here are four of them:

1.     Hold the sessions in the right space

Physical environments play a big role in releasing creativity. For instance, if you’re holding a brainstorm session in a small room and a space without natural light, the likelihood of coming up with quality ideas is low. When the brain and body feel constricted, creativity seems to disappear, and little can be accomplished.

Using a physical environment where people involved in the session can choose to stand, sit, lounge, stretch and breathe properly is key in inspiring the best ideas.

If your workplace doesn’t have an accommodating room, getting outside works great, too. To keep track of everything, delegate someone to be a notetaker during the session.

2.     Schedule the sessions wisely and stay clear of rushing

Timing is a crucial part of any get together – let alone when trying to come up with high-quality ideas. When planning your brainstorm sessions, try to schedule them during morning hours when concentration is on point and people are feeling energetic. Providing breakfast is another good incentive to attend and participate in the session if you’re looking for a variety of perspectives.

Read: How to make sure your meeting aren’t a waste of time

Session length is important. Brainstorming for too long can temporarily burn people out and cause them to lose their focus on the rest of their daily activities.Running a think-tank for around an hour is a good amount of time to make substantive progress, and if there’s the need to continue, set aside another hour to hold that discussion, instead of extending or cramming.

3.     Quality control the session’s content

Creativity and thinking out of the box are both integral parts of running solid brainstorm sessions, but setting the right boundaries and expectations is important too.

Before you bring people together to brainstorm, make sure to figure out what those boundaries are and articulate them to the session’s participants.

Structuring the quality of the session’s content allows for the outcome to be in line with what the initial intention was, rather than ending up with a whole lot of fluff and nothing practical.

4.     Let the brain actually storm

Ultimately, if a manager really wants to come up with the best and most creative ideas, they need to create an environment where the think-tank attendees’ brains can run wild (within the constraints of the session’s boundaries and guidelines of course).

A great way of achieving this is by offering a wide range of ways for people to express their creativity.

Start off the session with an engaging activity (at Perkbox we play scattegories!) to set the tone right, leave large pieces of paper with pen, pencils and colourful sharpies around for people to write and draw with, and provide endless piles of sticky notes. 

To come up with the best results, the more variety, colour and space – the better the outcome is going to be.

Remember that the purpose of a brainstorm is to get as many ideas as possible, so avoid limiting attendee’s imagination. After the session your follow up task should include whittling ideas down to what’s more realistic and achievable, then set an action plan.

Following up a brainstorm is just as important as the session itself, so don’t wait too long in case you forget how inspiring it was!