Brainstorming is something everyone does, right? It's a part of working in any organization, health care or otherwise. It's a part of working in any organization, health care or otherwise. Since everyone does it, then it must be valuable, right? Yet, we have all been in brainstorming sessions that lacked enthusiasm and energy, and left the sessions feeling they did not generate anything new or impactful. So let's disrupt the standard brainstorming session with these five rules!
A picture often tells the story better than words alone. We navigate the spatial world using our senses, particularly vision; so we have a built-in ability to connect with visual ideas.
The wilder the better. Conservatives in the crowd will worry that ideas that get too wild will waste time and encourage silliness. But an interesting thing happens when someone presents a wild idea. It immediately expands the scope of possibilities, breaks the ice, and diffuses the fear among some participants about saying something ridiculous. The facilitator can even start by offering some contrarian guidance.
Innovation is a numbers game. you have to have a lot of ideas that don't work out to have one great one that does; so you increase your odds by generating lots of ideas. The brainstorm facilitator can do this by putting time limits on the topic, so there is a pressure to produce. You still have to maintain only one conversation at a time.
The aim is not to have every idea be a different idea, but to build and develop ideas. It's not only about quantity. It's about linkage of ideas and how one idea can generate variations. In facilitating brainstorming sessions build ideas by nudging the group to think of these variations: "That's one way of doing it; what are some others ways we might do the same thing?"
Nothing shuts down creative brainstorming like judging ideas during generation. The facilitator has to set up all of the rules beforehand and needs to be quick to point out when the conversation starts to turn in this direction. There will be a time later on where the practical realities of getting the task done will be considered; but now the point is to engage collective creativity.
There are a number of alternatives to traditional brainstorming, or ways of framing a session that can be really powerful. Here at the Center for Innovation, we treat brainstorming as a discipline. We use focused brainstorming to develop ideas and solutions to design challenges. We utilize these five rules for facilitating our brainstorming sessions, and they work for our team. Try them out in your next brainstorming session, and see what works for you and your team!