Are you planning a brainstorming session at your workplace? It can be an excellent idea to hear everyone’s own ideas and opinions about a specific subject. These sessions ultimately benefit the entire organization at large.
However, newer organizations might be unfamiliar with planning a brainstorming session. So, what to do?
This blog will explain everything you need to know about the brainstorming session.
What Is a Brainstorming Session?
A brainstorming session consists of ideas to solve occurring and recurring issues in the business. It is typically an informal meeting where employees of different departments and levels sit together to discuss their opinions on a specific problem.
Typically, brainstorming sessions are most effective with a group size ranging from 5 to 12 people. Smaller groups tend to foster more active participation from each member, while larger groups might lead to some voices being overshadowed.
The ideal duration typically ranges from 15 to 45 minutes. Thirty minutes is often considered the sweet spot, and people's attention tends to decrease after 45 minutes.
The goal of these gatherings is to maximize organizational efficiency in routine tasks or special projects. It's also a great way to offer a limelight for everyone's creative ideas, if they otherwise find it difficult to get their voices heard.
Here are some examples of a brainstorming meeting:
- Content planning
- Risk analysis
- Marketing strategy
- Product campaign
- Planning new hiring positions
How To Conduct a Brainstorming Session (4 Steps)
Let’s look at how to plan this gathering step-by-step:
(1) Set the Goal
Let’s start with the basics. Every brainstorming session must start with an objective. It should clearly describe the purpose of the meeting.
So, how do we do object identification? The best practice is to factor in some essential questions. That may include:
- What is the meaning of the meeting?
- What’s the problem area to discuss for the session?
- Which ideas are welcomed in the meeting?
- What should be the end result of the meeting?
- Who should participate in the session?
A good practice is to define the objectives a few days before the session. That gives employees a decent time for preparation. This preparation might include researching the problem area, considering potential solutions, and gathering relevant data or insights.
When identifying the objective, it’s crucial to consider the broader context of the problem or opportunity at hand.
For instance, if the session aims to enhance your social media presence, the problem could be the current lack of engagement or visibility on these platforms.
What should a meeting objective look like? Let’s say you will discuss ideas about creating your social media presence.
Your objective can be something like,
- 10 ideas to go viral on social media
- Outline the best time for posting on social media platforms
- Which form of content would be best for your social media (videos, images, etc.)
- Should we buy followers to get a head start?
(2) Agree to Rules
The rules keep you on track, saving time and highlighting the main problems. Without some ground rules, your employees might not stay productive for long.
But don’t worry. These rules don’t mean any strict guidelines that every employee should know. Instead, they can vary depending on the meeting and its severity.
Also, choosing between an informal and formal session is your choice.
That said, let’s look at some examples of session rules:
- No sub-topics or sub-ideas that might stray away from the main subject
- All ideas will be listened to without any interruptions
- Some preparation before the session is mandatory for the set objectives
(3) Discuss Ideas
Now we come to the main phase. It is where different ideas will be tossed around the room. Here are some ideas for both individual and group thinking:
- Written Individual Ideas: Participants individually write down their ideas within a specified time. This method allows for thoughtful, reflective idea generation without the immediate pressure of group dynamics. It's particularly beneficial for introverted team members who might prefer time to formulate their thoughts before sharing.
- Round Robin Approach: Each participant verbally shares their ideas in a sequential order. This ensures equal participation from all team members and can be particularly useful in groups where some members might be less inclined to speak up spontaneously.
- Mind Mapping: A central idea is written down, and participants collaboratively add related ideas branching out from the center. This visual approach is beneficial for organizing thoughts collectively and seeing the connections between different ideas.
- Starbursting: This method involves generating questions rather than answers. A central idea is placed at the center, and participants collaboratively create a star around it with points representing different questions (who, what, when, where, why, and how). It's a useful approach for examining an idea from various perspectives as a group.
- Breakout Groups: Participants divide into smaller groups to discuss and develop ideas, which are then presented to the entire group. This method encourages more in-depth discussion within smaller teams and is particularly effective in larger groups where individual voices might otherwise be lost.
(4) Finalize Ideas
Narrowing Down the Options:
Once all ideas have been discussed, it's crucial to focus on identifying the most viable ones. A democratic and effective approach is to use a voting system.
Each participant gets a limited number of votes (e.g., 3-5 votes) to allocate to the ideas they find most promising. This can be done using stickers in a physical meeting or digital tools in virtual settings. The ideas with the most votes are then shortlisted for further discussion.
Detailed Discussion on Top Ideas:
With the top ideas identified, the next step is to delve deeper into each one. This involves discussing the practicalities of implementation, potential challenges, and improvement possibilities. It's important to encourage open dialogue and constructive criticism during this phase to refine the ideas further.
For each shortlisted idea, develop a basic action plan. This plan should outline the steps needed to turn the idea into reality, assign responsibilities, and set tentative timelines.
Goals should be broken down into small, manageable tasks. Use this phase to assess resources needed, potential obstacles, and any additional research or data required.
Feedback and Final Selection:
After each group presents their action plan, open the floor for feedback from all participants. This feedback should be focused on refining and improving the feasibility of the plans.
Consider conducting a second round of voting post-discussion to see if opinions have shifted based on the action plans.
Documentation and Follow-up:
It's crucial to document the final selected ideas, their action plans, and the assigned responsibilities. Ensure that there is a clear follow-up mechanism in place. Decide who will be responsible for monitoring the progress of these ideas and set a date for the next review meeting.
By incorporating these steps, you ensure that the brainstorming session produces actionable results, with a clear path from idea generation to practical implementation.
Tired of deciding who takes notes or sorting out messy meeting summaries? Wudpecker's AI tool simplifies this. It provides clear summaries, audio recordings, and full transcripts for any meeting.
3 Bonus Tips to Make an Effective Brainstorming Meeting
Now you know the basics of conducting a brainstorming meeting. But that might not be it.
Here's some more practical tips to make your gathering even better and go through as many ideas as possible.
Make an Agenda
A meeting agenda reminds participants exactly what the meeting is about and how long it should last. It hopefully helps the conversations will stay on track better.
If you send the brainstorming session agenda to participants beforehand, they can start their preparations beforehand.
Feel free to use and customize the brainstorming meeting agenda template below!
Avoid Being Too Formal
Remember that a brainstorming session is not as formal as a traditional office meeting. You might be unable to initiate conversations in a strict environment.
Regardless of your set rules, it is basically a discussion of ideas between various participants. The key is to encourage participation and accept all the ideas with an open mind.
A good practice is setting rules, like no interruptions when one is talking. This way, everyone gets to give their input.
Don't immediately discard anyone's opinion or idea, even if they sound unrealistic. Instead, have a discussion on why some ideas work better than others.
Also, make sure to consider everyone’s vote when finalizing an idea.
If you conduct brainstorming meetings more frequently, employees will probably get more familiar and comfortable sharing ideas.
Utilize Visual Aids
Enhance your brainstorming sessions with visual aids, which can make complex ideas easier to understand and organize. Here are some effective tools with brief descriptions:
- Whiteboards: Ideal for real-time idea mapping and drawing connections. They offer a large, visible canvas for everyone to contribute and track the flow of the session.
- Sticky Notes: Perfect for capturing individual ideas and then grouping them into themes. They allow for easy rearrangement and can be used for voting on preferred ideas.
- Digital Mind Mapping Tools (e.g., MindMeister, Lucidchart): These tools enable remote or in-person teams to create and collaborate on digital mind maps, providing a dynamic way to visualize and connect ideas.
- Project Management Boards (e.g., Asana, Trello): Useful for categorizing and prioritizing ideas. Their visual layout helps in tracking the progress of different concepts through various stages of brainstorming and implementation.
- Collaborative Document Platforms (e.g., Notion, Google Docs): Allow multiple users to contribute simultaneously, ideal for compiling notes, listing ideas, or collectively drafting structured outcomes.
Benefits Of a Brainstorming Meeting
A brainstorming meeting can lead to solving problems and developing unique ideas. Ultimately, it has many benefits for a business. Let’s look at some of them:
A business thrives on its employee coordination. This single factor can lead to better communications and streamline organizational operations efficiently.
A session agenda helps employees unite on particular subjects. Regardless of their opinions, the individuals develop a better relationship amongst themselves.
A formal meeting discussing various subjects can take a significant chunk of work time. However, an informal session is helpful in this regard. It ensures everyone stays on track, saving time for the employees to continue their routine tasks after the session.
Remember that not every employee might engage with the higher-ups unless necessary.
A brainstorming meeting can provide a highlighted area to be discussed, enabling them to present their valuable opinions.
That also includes new hires who might be nervous to discuss their unique ideas on how to make the workplace better and solve recurring problems.
Every company can benefit from having their employees brainstorm together. Here are the main takeaways to remember for these meetings to be successful:
- Set a clear goal and ground rules. A meeting agenda doesn't hurt, either.
- Make everyone feel like their input matters
- Keep tabs on what was discussed and agreed upon
Good luck to your next creative process with brainstorming!
What should be the agenda for brainstorming session?
Here's a good example brainstorming meeting agenda template:
- Opening Discussion (5 Minutes): A brief welcome, introduction to the session's topic, objectives, and rules.
- Brainstorming Ideas (20 Minutes): Active idea generation, using techniques such as mind mapping or round robin.
- Voting and Discussion (10 Minutes): Quickly vote on the ideas and then discuss the top choices to narrow them down.
- Action Plan Outline (5-10 Minutes): Conclude by outlining the next steps for the most promising ideas, including assigning tasks or setting a timeline for follow-up.
How do you structure a brainstorm session?
- Begin with a clear statement of the problem or objective.
- Lay down simple ground rules to foster a productive and respectful environment.
- Choose from a variety of techniques to generate ideas, accommodating both individual thinking and group collaboration.
- Engage in democratic decision-making to narrow down and select the best ideas.
- Conclude with a concrete plan of action for the chosen ideas, assigning responsibilities and deadlines.
What are the four stages of brainstorming?
The four stages of brainstorming sessions are:
- Preparation: Define the topic, set the objectives, and prepare the participants.
- Idea Generation: Use various techniques to brainstorm ideas, encouraging creativity and free flow of thoughts.
- Convergence: Narrow down the ideas through voting or consensus, focusing on the most feasible and impactful ones.
- Action Planning: Develop actionable steps for the chosen ideas, assign responsibilities, and set a timeline for implementation.
Date: [Insert Date]
Time: [Insert Time]
Location: [Insert Location or Virtual Meeting Link]
Duration: [Insert Expected Duration]
Opening Discussion (5 Minutes)
- Welcoming participants.
- Briefly outlining the session's objectives and ground rules.
Brainstorming Ideas (20 Minutes)
- Choosing which brainstorming method best suits the topic and attendees' comfort level.
- Could include individual written ideas, round robin sharing, mind mapping, starbursting, or breakout group.
Voting on Ideas (5 Minutes)
- Quickly conducting a vote to identify the most popular or feasible ideas.
Discussion and Action Plan (10 Minutes)
- Discussing the top ideas for refinement and feasibility.
- Drafting a preliminary action plan, including assigning initial tasks or responsibilities.