How to use brainstorming to generate positive problem-solving results

Creativity and problem solving are two areas where most people think are good and then, when they face a problem,  those same people find it hard to solve it. The reason why we rarely succeed in solving problems from first time is we do not have enough options we can analyze to get to the best decision and path in each situation. Instead of using the variety of options we can generate most of us start solving problems by using a probe and mistake method.

To change that we must open our brains and consciousness for different approaches and use tools that allow us to get to the most winning leadership decision from the first time.

One of the tools most managers and leaders talk about is Brainstorming.  Almost every person in modern society has heard the word. Most people can give you an elementary explanation what Brainstorming really is. But results from Brainstorming are not part of the definition. What most people who want to use it miss is that if you want to get the best results from a Brainstorming session you will need to follow rules and models,  as by the other tools widely used in problem-solving initiatives. 

Leaders at different layers in organizations often organize brainstorming sessions just to see at the end that the ideas generated at the end are weak and will not answer the problem needs.

But the purpose of the brainstorming is not to replace individual work,  or to b used as a replacement of other methods for creative problem-solving. Its purpose is to be an additional tool, implemented in the working process and to be used by the workgroups. To conduct a successful  brainstorming session with  a team of problem solvers,  you as a leader must follow several  simple rules:

Get facilitator
This person must be someone with experience, on how to conduct a brainstorming session. The role of the facilitator includes several main points, you must not overlook. He/she is responsible for preparing the brainstorming case,  to inform the participants about the case and to communicate the rules they will need to follow while participating in the brainstorming process. Its main responsibility is during the session to ensure that rules are followed and that there is no judgemental thinking about the ideas generated.  Successful facilitaro must be familiar with the problem that has to be solved and with the characteristics of the group he/she will work with.

Preliminary preparation
It is important for all participants to get to know the problem before the brainstorming session. That will allow them to generate individual list of ideas. An often-made mistake is to include brainstorming as a part of an event program for people who don’t know each other and are not familiar with the results.  If you make this you won’t get the results you want. That can lead people to the position where they are most likely to start a discussion or just be passive during the process, while not having time to prepare themselves.

Avoid judgment
If allowing judgemental thinking during a brainstorming session you are planning to fail with idea generation.  This type of thinking sows or completely stops the process of generating ideas. It also has a negative impact on the participants by causing demotivation.  People start comparing their ideas with the ideas coming from others, they are worried to voice them, because of being judged negatively.  At this moment the facilitator you have chosen has to play his/her role by pointing on the rules established and supporting ideas sharing. 

Quantity  before quality
The purpose of the brainstorming method is to generate as much as possible ideas.  The process of selecting the best  ideas comes as anext step. At this time the group must focus only on quantity  of ideas generated.  The stimulus must be as much as possible.  Without any limitations. No matter how crazy the ideas look. You need quantity to chose the best quality. The role of the facilitator here must be to stimulate idea generations, following the rules established,  without limiting them.

Ideas upgrade
One of the best wins to conduct a group brainstorming is the opportunity members of the group to upgrade other ideas. During ideas generation process the experience and different points of view and positions of the participants create the opportunity to develop an idea and look to this idea from different perspectives.  This is often helping the process by pointing on meaningful ideas that the facilitator and you as a leader must look on.

Ensure fun and joy
You want the best  in class ideas. Then make the work fun. In research ,  conducted by  Prinston university in 2017 people tend to be 38% more productive if the work they do is more like a game to them. That will not only grow the quantity, but also the quality of ideas generated.

Still,  the above-mentioned tips can help you generate great ideas. There are also some stoppers you must learn to avoid or minimize to ensure that the brainstorming process I going smoothly and will generate positive results.Except the two main mistakes you can see: Judgemental  thinking and предварителна preparation, to ensure results you will need to look for other mistakes or deviations in the process of brainstorming:

Too many  participants
If you have a very large group you will experience difficulties managing that group.  The optimum number of people is 5 to 8. If you still have a larger group and don’t want to divide it, then hire addition facilitator.

Weak  activity
When you have a larger group that often causes some of the participants “to hide” from the brainstorming. Some people just want others to finish the job, without bothering them too much. This often happens while people accept that the end result is what counts more than participation. Another reason that can cause that is when people start comparing each other’s activity in the group.  When they see someone who is more active than them they just step back while feeling embarrassed or demotivated. Another reason why people demonstrate weak activity during a brainstorming session can be weak communication, group dynamics and group specifics, etc. At this point the facilitator experience and approach are crucial to ensure smooth and productive results.

Setting wrong or limiting goals
One often seen mistake is when you set a direction or limit of generated ideas.  I once participated in a brainstorming session where the facilitator,  following the leader instruction limited the number of ideas to up to 30 and the topic to only a specific area. A big mistake. Most of the ideas where weak didn’t add any value and didn’t even reach a discussion stage.  The right approach here is to limit only the time for the brainstorming session while stimulating generation of as many ideas as possible for the time dedicated.

Unnecessary  discussions
The idea of brainstorming is not describe or analyze ideas in deep, but to generate as many ideas as possible.  It is important to write the generated ideas clearly, with a short explanation if needed,  but to avoid discussion at any cost.  Here is where the facilitator must communicate again the rules of the brainstorming session and stop unnecessary discussions at the time of generating ideas.

Group work  limitation
Some of the ideas generated during the brainstorming session can be lost.  This is often caused by different reasons like – too many ideas generated at once, the inability of the facilitator to document all ideas at the speed they are generated, several people speak at one time. To avoid this mistake, you and the facilitator must set rules for talking in the group. Ideas sharing must be on the basis of appreciation of others,  on the basis of internal equity and minimization of the opportunity for prioritization of single participant or small  number of participants while laying others in the back. To avoid that mistake you must ensure that there are enough people available to document all ideas at the time they are generated,  or you can use video or audio recording tools to speed up the process of idea documentation.

Brainstorming is one of the easiest looking, but hardest to understand and implement tools. While it looks easy and practicaly oriented many of the people who want to use it, impellent it wrongly, causing no or dmall effect to the environment change opportunities. Implemented right and structured well it is a powerful tool that can help each leader and team to plan changes in the status quo.  If you  are a leader,  considering to use brainstorming as a tool for creating change than ensure that  you  will be able to  manage the process so  that  you can get best  results from it and so  to ensure next  steps in the change or transformation you are planning while reacting positively  to the people involved in  the process and ensuring high  internal  motivation and commitment from them.


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