What Are Some Tips for Conducting Brainstorming

• Clarify the objective before starting the brainstorming. If the team is not clear on the purpose of the brainstorming session, the outcome is likely to be less productive than desired. It is also helpful to clarify the ground rules about the process, defining what is desired and what behaviors are to be avoided, for example.

• Setting a target that expresses the number of fresh ideas expected (for example, "Let's generate forty ideas in the next ten minutes") can boost the number of ideas produced and encourage creative thinking within a limited time.

• It is usually best to take a few minutes to allow the team members to think quietly about their ideas before engaging in an interactive brainstorming session.

• Set some good practices for team members to follow:

Listen to everyone's ideas and build on them. Listen carefully to what others are saying. This often results in more creative thinking than would otherwise be produced.

Do not judge, criticize, or comment on other people's ideas. Try to verbalize ideas in rapid succession, and attempt to avoid a commentary after each idea—no facial grimaces or groans! (Multiple recorders who record suggestions alternately may increase or at least maintain the speed of the process.)

Do not hold back your ideas, no matter how crazy they seem to you. In fact a far-out idea can open creative thinking in others. Your idea may stimulate someone else to be creative and to come up with a good idea. Feel free to suspend prior assumptions about the topic that you are brain-storming.

• After the ideas have been generated and posted on a flipchart, the leader of the meeting reads each idea out loud, and the team's understanding of the idea is clarified where necessary. The person who contributed an idea is the only person who should clarify that idea.

• Some teams find the use of Post-it Notes helpful in capturing brainstorming ideas. Each idea is written on one Post-it and then placed on a flipchart. The Post-its eliminate the need to erase or cross out ideas. When you review and consolidate similar ideas, you can move the Post-its and group them as needed. Other teams call out their ideas while the recorder for the meeting makes the list. Depending on the size and energy of the team, a second recorder may be helpful during a brainstorming session to keep up with the flow of ideas. It is important for the recorder to write the offered idea using the person's own words, to capture that person's meaning.

• Gathering ideas from the team in a methodical way, going around the team one by one, helps everyone participate. If a member does not have an idea, he or she can simply "pass" to the next person. The rounds continue until all ideas are exhausted.

• Gathering ideas by having all ideas called out, in no particular order, by the session participants has the benefit that ideas are often stimulated by hearing another's ideas. If this approach is used, it may be important for the facilitator to encourage everyone to participate.

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