We all know the value of planning and creating clear, actionable, and achievable goals for business. But long before those goals and plans become enshrined in your business plan, they need to be proposed, tested, and prioritised. One of the most powerful tools for this task is brainstorming. So let’s talk a little about ideas generation through brainstorming, and the best ways of translating the random concept into the real plan for business.
As the Australian Institute of Business explains, brainstorming is: “the mulling over of ideas by one or more individuals in an attempt to devise or find a solution to a problem”. And in business it holds incredible value. Effective brainstorming allows a team or individual to think laterally, creatively and quickly, with one idea often leading to another. Not only does brainstorming solve problems or hone concepts, it can also serve to bring a workplace together to take joint responsibility for the future, which in turn has very real benefits for morale.
The rules of brainstorming
Rules, what rules? The beauty of brainstorming is there aren’t any, but there are some useful tools and aids to help the process flow more smoothly…
Set aside sufficient time
Whether you’re brainstorming independently or pulling your team together to discuss a matter, ensure sufficient time is devoted to the task. This should be a block of time without interruption in a space suited to your business environment. Bear in mind ‘sufficient’ isn’t overly lengthy. Ideally a brainstorming session will take about 30 minutes, but could feasibly be as little as 15 or as much as 45. Anywhere beyond that and people start to lose their enthusiasm.
Assign a leader
A brainstorming session is best guided by a group leader, whose role involves keeping the creative juices flowing, while ensuring the team doesn’t get sidetracked.
No idea is off the table
By nature, brainstorming is a process that should encourage lateral thinking. That means the environment should be non-judgmental and ‘safe’. Sometimes the ideas that come from left of field prove to have real merits, so encourage your staff to set aside the egos and self-consciousness, and say exactly what they think.
This is not the time for evaluation
On that note, the brainstorming session is not the time for evaluation. That comes later, so don’t let the group get hijacked by weighing the pros and cons of a concept.
Brainstorming is building
The reason brainstorming works so well is that one idea often forms the foundation for another. That’s why it’s particularly effective in a group situation. Someone might offer a perspective or idea no-one else had thought of and the ideas begin to grow from there.
Write it large
Where to from here?
Once you have completed your brainstorming session, let it sit a little before evaluation. It’s often useful to bring an alternative team in for the evaluation session to offer a fresh set of eyes. Then take the standout ideas and set them as goals or actionable plans. Once those goals have been established, you can begin working back through the steps and timeframe required when it comes to achieving that goal.
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