How to Run a Successful Brainstorm Session

Designing conditions to foster great ideas.

There’s no perfect recipe for brainstorming as each team and each project is different. But after reviewing some of the ideas we’ve gathered below, you can adapt the ingredients that work for your team and hopefully whip up a bunch of promising ideas.

1. Diversity is Key

Getting the same people together, who work together day in and day out, and who sit together at lunch, is not conducive to coming up with great, distinctive ideas. Consider getting outside of your comfortable team and bringing together a more diverse group of people with different strengths.

2. Good Leadership

A skilled organizer knows when to ask the right questions, how to get conversations moving and keeps everyone involved. Facilitators should know when to change course and when to do a deep dive. When choosing a leader, make sure they can navigate the conversation while inspiring ideas.

3. Define your Purpose

The first item on the agenda should be to set the tone with the reason why you’re all there. This way, every member of the group knows exactly what ‘good looks like’ at the end of the meeting. A brainstorm that isn’t focused will frustrate your team and yield little results.

4. Location, Location, Location

If possible, host the brainstorm outside of your normal meeting spots. A change in scenery is favorable for sparking ideas and will help get creative juices flowing. Don’t forget to keep water, coffee, tea, and snacks nearby to stoke the energy fires.

5. Capture Every Idea

Some people like to speak up in a group and some people like to write things down. Some people love to draw out an idea while others can imagine it more clearly in their mind. In order to respect everyone and not discriminate between personalities, give people a variety of ways to provide feedback. Provide ample paper, sticky notes, markers, and whiteboard space, and at the end of the session, capture everything.

6. Follow Up

Lastly, keep the momentum going by following up with your brainstormers via email. Not only is it a good idea to thank the participants so they feel appreciated for their time, but often a great idea will hit after the session has ended. So, check-in with your team a day or so after the session to capture those rogue ideas.

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