An effective brainstorming session takes a lot more than simply asking your team for their thoughts and writing down the first ideas they say. From shy participants, to repetition of the same ideas, to one team member dominating the brainstorming session, the possibility of roadblocks can be high and once the ideas stop flowing, it can be impossible to get everyone back on track.
There are many simple exercises your team can use to pave the way for the kind of creative, innovative solutions your organization actually needs. Using creative brainstorming techniques, your team can effectively build on each other’s ideas and arrive at ingenious, out-of-the-box solutions.
Here are some of the best-proven brainstorming exercises your team can use to get maximum creativity out of each person during your next brainstorming get-together.
At its most basic form, a mind-map is a simple hierarchy that is drawn in any tree-shaped format. Have your team list as many ideas as possible, then plot them in the tree form with your primary goal at the center. Then, you can begin to add branches and subbranches to visualize associations between different words and see different ideas across different areas as a whole.
2. Six Thinking Hats
This exercise can be used when you want your team to use different types of thinking. Most of us have a preferred way of thinking or communicating and we feel uncomfortable working outside of this style. Using these six hat colors as a metaphor, your team can put one on one of the hats and use it as a way to think differently. For example, one team member can say, “With the white hat, I’d like to ask if anyone else knew about X.” With the white hat on, that person can open up and ask for information from others without feeling like they need to be an expert in all things.
SCAMPER is an acronym for a useful list of words that can also be applied to make your team think differently about a problem.
Substitute — What could you substitute as a solution to the problem? Is there another place, approach or material could you use?
Instead of ____, we can ____
Combine — What could you combine or bring together as a solution? This could be partners, ideas, assets, etc.
We can bring together ____ and _____
Adapt — What could you adapt for use as a solution?
We can adapt ____ in this way ____ to ___
Magnify or Modify — What could you change? What could you add or remove? What could you make stronger or weaker? Higher or shorter? Duplicate or omit?
We can change ___ in this way ___ to ___
Put to other uses — How could you use something in a new way or modify it?
We can re-use ____ in this way ____ by ____
Eliminate — What could you remove? What are you wasting? Can you reduce time spent or cut costs?
We can eliminate ____ by ___
Rearrange — What could be rearranged? Could you use a different pattern, workflow, or schedule?
We can rearrange ____ like this ____ to ____
4. The “Note-and-Vote”
“The Note-and-Vote isn’t perfect, but it is fast. And it’s quite likely better than what you’d get with two hours of the old way.” — Jake Knapp, Google Ventures Team Member
For this exercise, everyone on the team receives a sheet of paper, a pen, and 5-10 minutes to write down as many ideas as they possibly can. Then, the timer is set for two more minutes, and each person chooses 1-2 of their favorite items from his or her list. Next, everyone shares their ideas to be recorded on a whiteboard and everyone on the team votes for their favorite idea. This entire exercise takes only 15 minutes, and each team member gets the opportunity to think as an individual and with the group.
5. Delphi Method
This exercise is best used with a distributed group of people or remote teams. First, send the problem to everyone in the group and ask them to respond with short, bullet-point answers. Then, collect all of the responses into a single, anonymous list (or set of lists) to be sent back out to the team and each team member scores each idea (for example, on a scale of 1-5). When complete, your team will be left with a valuable list of ideas to explore.
What if you were an iconic figure or famous decision-maker, such as Steve Jobs? This exercise encourages each team member to take on another person’s identity while brainstorming and describe how he or she would think about a situation or solve a problem if he or she were that person. This technique can reduce the inhibitions that many people feel when sharing their ideas with a group. It can also help your team come up with ideas that you may not have otherwise considered.
These six simple exercises can help your team overcome any barriers during team brainstorming sessions. Brainstorming can be an excellent way to come up with creative solutions to a problem, but your team must be comfortable sharing their ideas with each other. Using these exercises as an innovative approach to brainstorming, you can help build that confidence allowing each individual on your team to feel empowered and contribute their thoughts.
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