Business often presents you with problems that require creative solutions. Brainstorming can help you overcome those issues and come up with creative solutions if done right. This article will show you techniques for successful brainstorming sessions. You will learn to define the issue clearly, gather the right team, and encourage uninhibited ideas. Brainstorming will let you tap into the innovation within your team. You can gather diverse perspectives and find unexpected answers that move your business past any hurdle.
What is Brainstorming?
Brainstorming is a technique you can use to stimulate creative thinking skills and generate innovative solutions to business problems. It works by bringing together a diverse group of people, encouraging them to come up with lots of ideas, and deferring judgment, allowing for unique solutions to emerge.
Brainstorming is effective because it taps into the knowledge and perspective of multiple people rather than just relying on one or two “experts.” Fresh ideas build on each other as participants piggyback off one another’s suggestions. You end up with a long list of creative solutions tailored to your specific situation.
Types of Business Problems Brainstorming Can Address
Brainstorming sessions can help uncover solutions for all types of business challenges, including:
- Creating new products, services, or processes
- Improving marketing campaigns
- Increasing sales
- Streamlining operations
- Boosting employee engagement
- Defining the root cause of a recurrent issue
- Identifying opportunities for growth
Brainstorming casts a wide net to generate multiple solutions rather than getting stuck on one approach. Your team gets to use creative thinking examples like lateral thinking skills to come up with new ideas that can address complex issues your business may face.
How To Conduct a Productive Brainstorming Session
Follow these key steps to facilitate an effective brainstorming session that generates breakthrough ideas.
#1 Define the Problem
The first step is framing the specific business problem you want to solve. Avoid broad or ambiguous statements of issues. Get granular so your team understands the scope and can ideate within clear boundaries.
Capture the core challenge on a whiteboard for everyone to see. State the issue as a How Might We or How Could We Question? For example:
- How might we improve our customer retention rate?
- How could we streamline our payment approval process?
Then, provide relevant data or background on desired outcomes. But don’t constrain thinking yet on methods. If needed, briefly remind participants what’s out of scope to maintain focus.
Defining the challenge upfront clarifies the focus for the brainstorming session so creative thinking gets correctly channelled from the start.
#2 Gather Relevant Participants
You will want to create a casual, comfortable setting and invite 5–7 participants with diverse roles, departments, backgrounds, and perspectives. Limiting the size fosters more intimate discussions where everyone can contribute instead of a lecture format.
The goal is to assemble people who bring unique knowledge and opinions based on their position in the company, professional expertise, life experience, personality style, etc.
Facilitate open, pressure-free sharing of ideas for a set time period by:
- Conducting the session in a neutral meeting room instead of a manager’s office
- Making it clear there are no bad ideas and creativity is encouraged
- Not allowing immediate evaluation of suggestions
This environment, along with ground rules in place like confidentiality and respect, encourages outside-the-box thinking. Cross-pollination from areas throughout your company often leads to unexpected innovation.
#3 Promote Wild Ideas
Establish at the start that there are “no bad ideas” and no judging suggestions. This allows unconventional, “wild” ideas to emerge. To ensure this, establish some ground rules upfront, like:
- No criticism of ideas
- Think freely – no limits
- Encourage building off one another’s suggestions
- Focus on the quantity, not the quality, of ideas initially
During this ideation phase, creative thinking skills like brainwriting work well to get the juices flowing. Brainwriting facilitates silently generating ideas individually before sharing. Participants write down many solutions, swap papers, and build on others’ concepts.
With judgment set aside, people feel comfortable sharing unconventional ideas. The most innovative solutions seem impractical at first. This stage is about opening up possibilities without restrictions. The analysis of ideas will come later to determine feasibility. The goal now is to promote those aha moments that only come from creative thinking without boundaries.
#4 Identify Tangible Solutions
After promoting freely flowing ideas, the next step is to narrow down the possibilities into a few feasible, impactful solutions. Review each suggestion and discuss what would be required to implement it, along with the potential impact. Useful techniques to help identify tangible solutions include:
- Grouping similar ideas into categories
- Using impact/effort plots to map solutions based on potential business benefits and level of difficulty
- Voting to identify the most promising options based on the session goals
- Setting criteria like cost, time to implement, and alignment with company resources and priorities
While creativity thrived earlier, shift to feasibility as you choose workable ideas worthy of prototyping or testing further. Remind participants of the actual problem statement. Then, identify suggestions that seem capable of driving the desired outcome.
Close the session by designating 3-5 of your team’s top suggestions to develop into action plans. Resist the temptation to latch onto only “safe” ideas. Include one or two bolder solutions with significant upside for your business, even if they involve higher risk or effort.
#5 Plan Pilots
The next phase is to develop action plans for the 3-5 top ideas identified in your session. For each potential solution, outline:
- Who: Assign cross-functional team members to own and spearhead specific ideas
- What: Define the idea, required resources, costs, and projected results
- When: Create a timeline for major milestones like planning, approvals, testing, evaluations, etc.
You’ll want to run pilot programs to try out some or all your suggestions where feasible. Pilots allow real-world testing and input to refine your solutions before broad rollout. Techniques include:
- Mock-ups to experiment with product revisions
- Simulations to envision a new process, like using a prototype app or revised workflow
- Soft launches in a single region before national expansion
Testing can reveal unforeseen challenges and performance gaps that were not predicted during the initial brainstorming stage. It can identify areas that need enhancement while also confirming the overall direction.
Refining the solution using the results from the prototypes allows you to maintain forward momentum rather than getting stuck in hypothetical deliberation. This agile and innovative approach leads to the development of the most competitive solutions.
By following these proven brainstorming steps, you can efficiently solve problems your business faces. Define the issue, gather diverse thinkers, and encourage wild creativity. Then, focus on tangible paths by testing top picks. This collaborative process will energize your team and strengthen your business’s innovation ability.