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Did you know that brainstorming could be hurting your business? That isn’t to say you don’t want your employees contributing new ideas. Quite the opposite, in fact. The issue is how you conduct a round of brainstorming. In the stereotypical session, everyone sits around a table, is presented with a problem, and has to come up with brilliant ideas on the spot; then they shout their ideas to the group, and choose a solution then and there. Great plan, right? Not always.
This can be ineffective for several reasons. For one, not everyone can come up with good ideas in a group setting. Also, in that kind of environment, it’s not always the best idea that wins. Instead, it’s often the most dominant person with the loudest voice who comes out on top. If this is the method you’ve been using, it might be time to switch up your game plan so you get the best ideas from everyone. Here are some strategies to try:
Write first, talk later
Sometimes sitting in a room with your coworkers and talking out a problem and potential solutions together can be productive. But not everyone thrives in that kind of environment. That’s why it can be helpful to give your employees (and yourself) time for some solo reflection and ideation. When you’re not inhibited by concerns about what others might think of your ideas, you have the freedom to go in unexpected directions. Then, once everyone has had time to give it a go on their own, get together and discuss as a group. This should produce more considered, thoughtful ideas in an environment where people are prepared to talk — not just shout.
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Discuss in one-on-one meetings
Ideas can be powerful, but only if they’re actually expressed. Sharing ideas can be intimidating, especially those that are big or outside the box. Try taking the group element out of a brainstorming session, and instead, hold sessions with just one person at a time. Give the person some time to think on their own first (putting them on the spot certainly won’t help your cause), then go through your ideas together. An employee who’s not comfortable with sharing their thoughts in a group setting might thrive in a person-to-person session. When you give your staff different settings for exchanging their ideas, you can end up with a better pool of options.
Expand on the ideas of others
Getting another point of view is a good thing, so share some of the best ideas that your employees submitted. Have everyone weigh in and expand upon these possibilities (again, not while shouting around a table). Task everyone with refining, improving upon, and working through the possibilities without shooting down any ideas. When rejection is taken out of the equation, and every idea is treated as a valid possibility, you challenge everyone to open their minds — and that’s when the best brainstorming happens.