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7 Ways to Run an Effective Brainstorming Session

Have an idea and want to make it work? Try getting a diverse set of views in a brainstorming session.

Conducting a brainstorming session is helpful but can also be tricky if you aren’t prepared for the interaction or unsure of how to channelize suggestions that emerge from the discussions.

Consider your goals: Think of what you want out of the session. For example, it is an opportunity to get to know people, understand their point of views, learn more about challenges your idea can run into crowdsource suggestions to make your idea take-off.

Do your homework: Before you get people together it will help to do a pulse check of the key benefits and challenges that they see from the idea. That can form the basis of your discussion rather than start with a clean slate. Starting with a clean slate also helps – just that it takes a lot longer to steer the conversation.

Embrace diversity: Invite people from different teams who have a connection to your topic so as to get the most of the conversations. It is good to have a healthy debate on the pros and cons of the topic. In one such interaction I ensure that teams who had conflicting approaches sent their resources and it helped for both to realize they needed to converge their thinking.

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Prepare a briefing note: The note must spell out the objectives, what people will be expected to contribute to and how it will fuel the next round of interactions or take the idea forward. Be prepared for a mix of people with varied experiences and personalities.  To ensure that introverts, for example, contribute share a printout of this note and give everyone time to reflect on their thoughts before you begin.

All views on board: While staying laser focused on the topic ensure that everyone gets a chance to voice their views and clearly indicate that there are no ‘bad’ or ‘stupid’ ideas. Avoid interrupting during the exchanges. Only intervene if the decorum of the meeting is at stake.

Summarize and follow-up:  Ensure you get the key points shared quickly and assign ownership for next steps so that the conversation moves forward. In essence, people need to see that their ideas and suggestions are taken on board. If you can’t proceed with a suggestion it is important to call that out early.

Recognize their support: It will do wonders if you can drop a note to their managers that their team members contributed over and above with suggestions. If you can create a social media page or group for the conversation to be available online that will help immensely.

Lastly, continue the engagement and keep the group posted on the progress you are making.

Try these and let me know how it goes!

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