Brainstorming is simply an activity that stimulates more creativity, greater productivity, and increased effiicency. It clears out the cobwebs, moves us past things holding us back, and enables us to get more done. But if you’re not careful, you can get so caught up in trying to do it right, you never get started.
Two especially creative brainstorming tools I use are Storyboarding and Mind Mapping, but before you start, make sure your guidelines are in place.
So to help you, or your group successfully achieve more, here’s my list of brainstorming guidelines:
  • Print and post guidelines where everyone can see them. Then verbally review each one before starting the process.
  • Nothing is too crazy, silly, or stupid to throw on a page, Post-It, or screen initially.
  • No negative comments about any initial idea allowed.
  • One person speaks at a time.
  • This is the place to allow rabbit trails. Humans feed off each other’s mental energy. So it’s commonplace for one crazy idea to spur a pioneering, yet feasible thought in someone else. Let your minds run wild — as long as the content is not offensive, inappropriate, or in any way hurtful.
  • After you’ve exhausted the free-flow portion of brainstorming, it’s time to clean up and organize your thoughts into workable possibilities.
  • Weed out ideas that truly won’t work, but not until you fully explore them as a group. Sometimes what seems silly at first can offer creative solutions, or will stimulate a totally different possibility that will work. Hear each other out, then move on.
  • Choose one idea that you believe you can or should accomplish first.
  • Prioritize the rest of your list by those you can or should accomplish.
  • Set a specific goal for starting priority one. The difference between a dream and a goal lies in the detail. Date and time are imperative — do not leave your meeting without knowing when you will come back for stage two.
  • Make sure you clarify the next step details. Date, time, location, attendees — the who, what, where, when, how, and why.
  • If there are any interim plans or actions necessary, clearly assign those.
  • Keep your word. If you said you were going to meet at a specific date and time — be there on time and do it. If you were assigned an action, make sure you come prepared, with your project completed.
  • Start meetings on time, and end on time. Nothing thwarts meetings more than internal groaning about going too long, or disorganized processes.