The idea of brainstorming has been a beloved idea for decades, but in recent years it has been getting a bad wrap. It seems like all sorts of bloggers are trying to discourage brainstorming sessions by citing studies that indicate they aren’t all that conducive to new ideas.
Many of these studies have shown that brainstorming can be more productive as an individual than in a group. But you know what? At The YGS Group, we have found that a combination of the two works wonders. And we have found that, besides good ideas, brainstorming fosters good teamwork, encourages freethinking, opens up the workplace to all sorts of innovations, and increases company-wide enthusiasm.
To get the most out of brainstorming, it is important to encourage staff, and yourself, to take a few minutes everyday to explore—this includes reading newsletters and blogs, sketching out thoughts, even staring out the window just letting your brain do its own magic. This encourages curiosity and exploration without any strings attached.
This unfocused time can be at any time during the day when staff is most comfortable (in fact it works best unscheduled), but often works best when you have hit a wall. Got that late afternoon brain melt? Take a few minutes to relax and open up your mind. It is amazing what our brains think up when we aren’t forcing them to focus on one thing.
Encourage staff to keep track of their ideas, no matter how crazy. Then, when everyone gets together for a group brainstorming session, they already have ideas to go from. It is important to create a safe place in which staff feels comfortable rattling off any thoughts or ideas. And equally important to stress open-minded listening over judgment. The quality of the ideas can be determined at a later time, but what is important during group brainstorming sessions is the flow of ideas.
As business blogger Dan Rockwell said in a recent post, “Brainstorming provides a free and open environment that encourages everyone to participate. Quirky ideas are welcomed and built upon, and all participants are encouraged to contribute fully, helping them develop a rich array of creative solutions.”
Brainstorming does not lend itself to a set schedule, but it is important to do once or twice a week, so try to mix up the times. Make it a fun way for staff to get together, almost as if it were a group break, and let the ideas flow.