When was the last time your team or company had a successful brainstorming session? By “successful,” we don’t mean you were able to get side work done while everyone else tossed out a few ideas in hopes that they wouldn’t be loaded down with extra work. Did everyone leave the meeting encouraged and recharged or did they leave feeling like they wasted the last hour or two? Effective brainstorming sessions can help companies innovate. Ineffective brainstorming meetings can be time-wasters and drag down morale.
What’s the secret to brainstorming done right? For starters, don’t keep the brainstorming topic a secret before the meeting. If you want people to contribute ideas, give them time to prepare. Some people are great at coming up with ideas on the spot. But many people need time to process and think through options.
It’s vital to make sure your employees feel safe in the brainstorming sessions. How do other employees or even managers respond to the ideas presented? What happens to those who go against conventional thinking or who question the aspects that have “always been done that way?” Are they made to feel unhelpful or, worse, chastised?The reaction to ideas can have a huge impact on further employee suggestions.
And you might want to reconsider any rewards for those “best” ideas. A reward system may cause others to not even make suggestions if they know their ideas aren’t worthy of such high regard. Each idea contributes in some way to the session.
An idea is only an idea until it is implemented into your business’ practices. Don’t just ask for ideas but ask how they can be implemented and who will handle them. Don’t end the brainstorming session until employees are empowered and ready to implement a plan for further action.