Brainstorming sessions are a crucial part of idea exploration within businesses. Not only can you generate fresh ideas using current trending topics but also adapt existing or previous ideas that may not have received the predicted results. 

With many teams flexibly working from home and conflicts with calendars throwing a spanner in the works when planning a brainstorm, it’s vital to ensure that your sessions are used to their full potential.

In honour of National Swap Ideas Day on September 10th, Our PR Executive, Brianna Allsopp, has gathered some key considerations to keep in mind when preparing for your next brainstorm, as well as some techniques to engage your team to the fullest.

How can social influences affect creativity within a team?

When under pressure or having a lot on our minds, we can find it challenging to think of unique ideas. According to a recent article with Forbes, stress can be one of the most damaging factors on an individual’s creativity: “Chronic stress degrades a long list of capabilities with regard to creativity and innovation. It’s harder to think outside the box, nimbleness and dexterity take a hit, and the response to sudden change is more difficult to manage.”

These factors should be taken into account before a meeting is arranged. Realistically, you cannot protect your team members from all stress factors; however, arranging a meeting towards the beginning of the week will allow them to concentrate on brainstorming activities before other tasks avert their attention. 

Also, although it may be tricky, removing any meetings before and after the brainstorm session can help lower the team’s stress levels and allow them to focus solely on their creativity.

Mix up meeting formats

Testing different meeting formats can help enhance creativity to see what works best for your team and what format will produce your expected outcomes more efficiently.

For example, having an extended meeting with a large team of people can be helpful as more opinions are likely to be shared, and you can get a broader range of thoughts on the idea. However, in a smaller team where the members are all directly involved with the project, they are more likely to go in-depth with their ideas, and feedback is easier to share. 

It can also be very beneficial to occasionally bring in new team members who may not know a client in-depth to get a fresh perspective and hear an outsider’s thoughts. A change of environment can also help boost creativity. This could mean having a meeting outside, over a coffee or whilst out for a bite to eat.

Online vs Face to Face

With the rise in home working over the past year leading many people to keep the setup permanently, there is much debate across the creative industry about how this change will affect the productivity levels of businesses.

Although brainstorms may seem trickier with participants in different locations at initial thought, pre-pandemic studies found that when physical and virtual brainstorm sessions were compared, the latter generated higher quality ideas and resulted in a higher level of idea satisfaction.

This was mainly because participants felt they had more chances to share ideas and did not worry about people interrupting them. However, many teams still prefer having in-person meetings as it removes apparent issues such as wifi problems or accidental muting. It can help groups bounce ideas off one another and be more confident when sharing thoughts on an idea.

There is a wide range of online tools that can help make virtual idea generation and sharing easier., for example, allows users to create collaborative mind maps and use virtual post-it notes to share ideas with the team. These websites are also beneficial as, unlike a physical whiteboard, they can be revisited, and ideas can be adapted or added at any time. 

Understand peoples strengths

Each person within your team will have unique strengths and talents, and these should be used to their absolute advantage during a brainstorming session.

For example, you may have some highly creative individuals who can generate really imaginative ideas or some members who are particularly good at problem-solving who can find any potential issues that may come from an idea. Understanding these strengths can help you better plan brainstorms and decide who is best to be a part of the meeting, especially if the number of attendees is limited.

Understanding different learning styles can also be beneficial when preparing for a session. If a large majority of your team are visual learners, then bringing visual prompts such as graphs or images may help boost their creativity and idea generation process.

Six Thinking Hats

The six thinking hats is a method developed by Dr Edward de Bono and is used to amplify creative conversations by designating each team member a unique viewpoint to maintain throughout the brainstorming.
The six hats are:
White hat – Facts
All about data and information that is currently available and identify where further information will be needed.
Red hat – Emotion
Associated with feelings, emotions and intuition. Allows people to put forward their feelings without justification, including likes, dislikes, fears, loves and hates.
Yellow hat – Benefits
Symbolises brightness and optimism. Used for the positive view of ideas and looks for the benefit of the situation. Encourages a positive view even in critical people.
Green hat – Creativity
Used for creative thinking and generating new ideas without the possibility of criticism from others. An opportunity to express new and imaginative concepts and ideas.
Blue hat – Process
When ‘wearing’ the blue hat, you should focus on managing the thinking process. You are the control mechanism that ensures the six hat rules are being followed.
Black hat – Cautions
The risk management hat can be easily overused. This hat will spot areas where things might go wrong or why some ideas may not work.

By implementing this method into your brainstorming sessions, you may find that some individuals tend to fall into some of these roles naturally. You can either pick roles randomly during each meeting or designate each member a different role depending on their usual input to discussions to ensure everyone is being taken out of their comfort zone and can bring new and valuable insight to the meeting.

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