The dos and don'ts of successful brainstorming

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Paul Sloane explains how to get the most out of your innovation meetings.

Holding brainstorming sessions is a great way to get your staff sharing ideas about how to drive the business forward, but there is a right way and a wrong way to run this kind of meeting.

It is very important to separate the two phases of the meeting. The first part of the meeting is Idea generation when you use divergent thinking. The second part is Idea selection when you use convergent thinking. Here are my top tips for a meeting that will produce great ideas.

Before the meeting

  1. Choose a diverse group. Six to ten people is ideal. If at all possible bring in some provocative outsiders to challenge the conventional thinking in your team.
  2. Appoint a facilitator. Ideally the facilitator should be external to the group. They can use different techniques to manage the process. The manager is often a poor choice for this role as they cannot stop themselves shaping the content.
  3. Meet offsite. Getting away from the office somehow helps to break conventional thinking. Unusual locations are good. I have run ideation meetings in a zoo, a museum, an art gallery and a castle.

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By scohen
08th Jul 2010 15:54


I would definitely use an external facilitator where possible although it could just be someone from a different team or department, provided they can do the facilitation without getting involved in the discussion or evaluating the responses.

However, if you have a skilled group of people who do this often, then encouraging them to rotate the facilitation role can be great for their own development as they build their own ways of working together.


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09th Jul 2010 05:48

Tips for Successful Brainstorming

I have in various occassionas tried to run brainstorming sessions with external facilitators and also with Internal faciliatators and in both cases, i find that the internal faciliator tends to perform better  as he/she understands the ropes of the business better. He can know which direction to take the discussion and he can tell when the discussion is getting off the mark. Internal facailitaors also perform better in technical meetings and  where confidentility is key.

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