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Energizing Brainstorming Ideas

October 23, 2018 7:15 pm

In our last newsletter (Creating the Right Conditions for Brainstorming) we discussed how to proactively set up the right conditions for dealing with resistance to brainstorming.

Other factors such as boredom, fatigue and/or not seeing the importance of participating may also hinder the group’s desire to brainstorm. Here are some ideas to rekindle an individual or a group’s willingness to participate:

  • Create name cards that identify functions (i.e. Operations, HR, IT, etc.) and/or types of stakeholders (i.e. Customer, Shareholder, Supplier, CEO, etc.) and place them in an envelope. Have participants each take a card and then speak from that perspective
  • If confidentiality is a concern, use Post-It notes or index cards for collecting ideas. Participants write one idea per Post-It/card then pass it to the center of the table where:
    • Post-It/cards are randomly reassigned to participants for reporting out
    • All ideas are scribed on a flipchart for review
  • Have participants engage in “share pairs,” which involves sharing ideas with numerous partners. All participants are asked to stand up and find a partner to share their ideas with. Before transitioning to the next partner, participants can record ideas they liked that their partner said that they can share in the next discussion with a new partner. Timing for each pairing should be no more than 5 minutes (2.5 minutes per partner to share). At the end of the sharing participants split into subgroups and combine their ideas while eliminating any same or similar ideas
  • Have people throw around a ball. Whoever catches it blurts out whatever idea occurs to them
  • Have everyone stand around the flipchart with a marker per person. Going in a circle, each participant scribes an idea
  • Post flipchart paper around the room scribing one issue/idea per sheet as a headline. Participants move around the room with markers, writing any idea that is connected to the scribed headline
  • Use a metaphor to describe an issue. If, for example, the issue is “How could we improve the way we run our meetings?” have the group think of a metaphor that would symbolize an effective meeting (i.e. a basketball game). The group quickly discusses some of the key activities of playing basketball (i.e. passing the ball, different types of play formations, etc.). Then use these activities to generate questions for reflecting on your meetings by asking: “How can we pass the ball more effectively?” “What different types of meetings do we need to have and who needs to be involved?
  • Throw out twenty nouns or verbs, one at a time – anything goes! Then, using the topic you’re working on (i.e. Quality), draw out the relationship between the issue and the words on your list by stating, “Quality is like x in these ways…” Have the group think of all the ways that quality is like that brainstormed word
  • Along the left side of the page, vertically write down a topic (e.g. ‘facilitation’) for brainstorming. Have participants brainstorm as many ideas using each letter of the topic name as cues for other words. For example, in defining ‘facilitation’, people may come up with friendly (f), active listening (a), collaboration (c), etc.
  • Have each person draw a picture of what the topic means to them, without anyone speaking to each other. Set a time limit for this and, upon completion, have participants present their pictures with the others voicing what they see or feel the picture represents
  • Have a participant volunteer an idea. Others then embellish or build on that idea

Creating Closure on the Brainstorm

Quite frequently brainstorming leaves us with lots of great but similar ideas. If the intent is to end up with a ‘unique’ list of ideas to be prioritized, the following process may be helpful:

  1. At the end of the brainstorming session have the group review all the output and open the discussion to any questions for clarification
  2. Then determine where any duplications or similar ideas overlap. Eliminate redundancies by getting the group to merge similar ideas together
  3. You may also want to eliminate any ideas that everyone knows is totally out of their control or ability to follow-through on

From my experience inserting any ‘creative’ technique in a brainstorming discussion will help to  inject some energy back into the discussion! I’d love to have your feedback on which techniques you decided to use and how effective was it?



Michael Goldman President, Facilitation First

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