brainstorming sessions

7 tips for improving your brainstorming sessions

Reading time: about 6 min

Topics:

  • Ideation
  • Organization and evaluation
  • Teamwork and collaboration

Ah, brainstorming sessions. Putting aside the typical workday to find solutions to problems always sounds so promising—even exciting! Who wouldn't want to be a part of a motivated team, exercising creativity in meetings dedicated to generating the next big idea?

Unfortunately, that’s not what most brainstorm meetings are like. Yes, you'll find plenty of ideation—but generally, you won’t find enough focus. And as louder voices prevail, other participants lose interest (so much for teamwork).

That's why we've put together seven brainstorming tips to produce more effective ideation sessions with your team.

7 tips for improving brainstorming sessions

1. Assign the facilitator 

What’s a boat without a rudder? Pretty much the same thing as a group brainstorm without a facilitator: a frustrating situation that lacks any sense of direction. The role of facilitator is critical to conducting effective brainstorming sessions and making sure time is well spent.

When choosing a facilitator, pick someone who is impartial, who isn’t afraid to guide (or redirect) the conversation as needed, and who will strive to ensure everyone gets a chance to contribute.

The facilitator of a brainstorming session is also the one who will outline, clarify, and enforce the rules with the group. The facilitator will help keep track of the best ideas, explain the next steps, and share learnings with the company at the conclusion of the session.

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2. Assemble a diverse team

For effective brainstorm sessions, choose your group wisely. Invite individuals from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines in your organization. Of course, the team members you select should have some connection to the issue you’re trying to resolve in the brainstorm session. If a participant doesn’t find the topic relevant or feels too far removed from the problem, it might be hard for them to contribute to the discussion in a meaningful way. 

Besides bringing together employees with different perspectives on your product, company, and its clients, ensure your group isn't too large or too small. The magic number tends to lie somewhere between six and 10 participants.

3. Outline the team agenda

Like any meeting, a group brainstorm needs an agenda. Everyone should understand the objective of the ideation beforehand so they can be ready to jump in and participate.

Putting together an agenda and outlining objectives will also help you (and your facilitator) stay accountable. Productive brainstorming starts with thoughtful preparation and planning.

The agenda of your brainstorm could include some of the following elements:

  • Describing the problem
  • Asking questions to inspire the team
  • Pitching ideas
  • Planning next steps

Depending on how complex or serious the problem is, the team brainstorm and ideation session may require a few follow-up meetings.

4. Inspire others to ideate 

Brainstorming doesn’t come naturally to everyone. And with the group dynamic at play, there’s added pressure to quickly solve a problem. But the biggest challenge is just getting started. 

That's why it’s helpful to kick things off with an icebreaker to get the creative juices flowing. This can even be a low-stakes activity with no connection or relevance to your actual brainstorm meeting— the intent is to give everyone a moment to relax and to encourage out-of-the-box thinking. Try out some of our favorite team activities. Once the group is warmed up, having fun, and thinking freely, it’s time for the facilitator to get the actual brainstorming meeting underway.

To maintain momentum and enthusiasm, it’s helpful to frame your team’s thinking around one or more “How Might We” questions. HMW questions are worded in a way that suggests a solution is possible while sparking the team’s imagination. For example, if you're brainstorming names for a new smartphone with a powerful camera, ask “How might we describe a phone made for creative and artistic people?” When asking a HMW question, make sure that it’s not too broad (e.g.,“How might we name a new phone?”) and not too narrow (e.g.,“How might we name a phone with 441 pixels-per-inch sharpness combined with 1200 x 2640 pixel resolution on a 6.58-inch OLED-type screen?”).

Used correctly, HMW questions will provoke meaningful, inspired, and nuanced ideation.

5. Try to document everything

Once the ideation session is in progress, you’ll want to record and write down as much as you can. You won’t strike gold with every idea or suggestion, but that’s not the point. Often, it’s the fragment or notion of a concept that will lead you and your organization to the right solution.

A digital whiteboard like Lucidspark is the perfect way to keep track of your ideas. With dynamic features to optimize your documentation, tools to encourage collaboration, and integrations to make the most of your time, Lucidspark will help optimize your brainstorming session. Plus, revisit your material anytime or easily send to stakeholders at the click of a button.

6. Allow for individual ideation

Obviously, not every problem can be solved over the course of one brainstorm meeting. That’s why you need to set aside time for each team member can continue an ideation session of their own, picking up where the group left off.

The reason that individual ideation is often more effective is that, working alone, people are free of judgment and not inhibited by the opinions of others. An idea that someone might feel hesitant to bring up in a group can transform into something amazing if given a chance.

Regardless of how you set up individual ideation sessions, it is important to share ideas when the team regroups. Then, see if the discussion sparks new thoughts.

7. Elaborate on shared ideas

During the initial brainstorming, creativity is welcome. Nothing is too far-fetched. Promote quantity over quality. Spontaneity is key to gather a large list of ideas to choose from. Even if the suggestions seem random at first, you'll start to notice similarities between concepts as the session progresses.

The facilitator should organize and categorize these ideas, using them as the basis for further discussion. When everyone’s had the chance to contribute, it becomes easier to work together toward a solution. People commit more readily to ideas they helped develop. 

Bringing it all together

Remember, running a brainstorming session is meant to help your team come up with the possibilities for a solution. Putting those ideas into action is something that will take place at a later date. To facilitate more successful and effective brainstorming sessions and get to those solutions faster, try these brainstorming tips using Lucidspark.

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About Lucidspark

Lucidspark, a cloud-based virtual whiteboard, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This cutting-edge digital canvas brings teams together to brainstorm, collaborate, and consolidate collective thinking into actionable next steps—all in real time. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucidspark.com.

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