Brainstorming is a necessity — and a reality — for many businesses. Each brainstorming session holds an opportunity, has a unique goal and is driven by an intrinsic purpose.
Effective brainstorming is key to solving a problem. It is a great way to encourage lateral thinking and generate new ideas.
The objective is to use a platform of people to tap their latent talent to arrive at a unique source of ideas. However, most often the brainstorming sessions are steered by one or two people, who dominate the conversation and others are mere listeners.
Research indicates that in a typical six-person meeting, two people do more than 60% of the talking. Increase the size of the group, and the problem only gets worse.
This not only becomes a big source of frustration but it also stops the idea generation your team needs in order to succeed.
None can ignore hybrid working now and organisations have adjusted and transitioned into this new way of working. Thanks to the ever-evolving technology, brainstorming sessions are no exception to this new reality, they continue as effectively as before, just that the conference rooms have been replaced by virtual rooms, face-to-face meetings with videos, and whiteboard/flip charts with multiple new tools that are available.
Having said that, there are some new and effective brainstorming methods that can work better virtually and in hybrid settings.
Many leaders feel that creativity and innovation suffers when working in remote settings.
Nimisha Dua, VP- HR at Grip, a digital platform for new-age investments, says with hybrid and remote work being here to stay the traditional brainstorming method of synchronous brainstorming (where a group gathers together in a room and ideates), cannot be effectively applied to virtual settings.
An effective way of brainstorming virtually, as per Dua, is asynchronous brainstorming. This involves using shared collaborative tools (like google sheets/ forms, virtual white boards etc.) to capture peoples’ ideas on a topic anonymously and individually.
“These ideas can then be cleaned up by removing duplicates and evaluated by a facilitator on novelty, relevance etc. before coming up with a final list of ideas to brainstorm together on -whether virtually / in a physical setting,” says Dua.
Dua adds that this method of brainstorming not only generates more ideas per person, but also alleviates some of the drawbacks of synchronous brainstorming method like production blocking (where individuals ideas get lost /aren’t stated , because 1-2 ideas dominate a conversation) and evaluation apprehension (people not speaking up because they feel their ideas will be judged / criticised by the group present).
Brainwriting is a new concept that is gaining popularity. This is being used to generate new ideas, encourage creative problem-solving, and develop innovative solutions. Instead of getting people to discuss ideas out loud, brainwriting gets people to write them down and share them anonymously.
Akanksha Tripathi, general manager of human resources at Xapads Media , an adtech platform, says this is where the importance of writing down ideas and using journaling to develop new thoughts and ideas can help overcome the limitations of oral (and even digital) brainstorming sessions.
“An individual’s mind is more transparent and can contribute more to the entire conversation or analysis. The underlying thoughts and emotions are clarified, and people in a group gain a sense of fulfillment. The main strength lies in the fact that participants are presented with a problem statement so that they can think about this at any location and at any time,” she says.
Secondly, she adds, that it also works with groups that do not necessarily have to meet and even helps introverts and people who are not very confident about speaking in public to present their ideas better.
Upasana Raina director of human resources & marketing GI Group India suggests sticking to the following basics for an effective brainstorming session:
Small group: Choose a small but effective group of people with diverse backgrounds and experience ideally no more than 10.
Before the session: Ensure the topic, background and agenda is shared beforehand, calendars are blocked and the logistics are taken care of. If the session is supposed to be virtual, the details of the platform/application should be shared beforehand.
Efficient facilitator: A good facilitator is able to keep the session on track, ensure everyone’s participation, and is unbiased. Having a good facilitator is key to effective Brainstorming. Encourage ideas and lateral thinking-during brainstorming sessions, people should avoid criticising ideas. Everyone should be encouraged to share ideas without being criticised or judged.
Technology: Using technology effectively is very important, especially during Hybrid working. There are many tools available to facilitate and ensure participation, example , jamboard, miro and stormboard .
Techniques: There are multiple techniques that can be used to brainstorm, using the right technique or a combination of techniques is key to an effective session. Some of the popular techniques are- Round Robin, Starbusting, Rapid Ideation, Stepladder Technique, and Brain Netting.
After the session, important points/ideas discussed should be shared with all the participants with action points and follow up meetings if needed.
However, Ameya Sane, HR Director, Cimpress India, feels it is not just one action or practice that you can do to magically get your team to brainstorm and work together, just by setting up a common call.
“It is the everyday investment to create the culture of togetherness, the sense of community and the quality of working relationships that gets the team to produce their best,” he says.
He adds that it is more important than ever for leaders to create more trust within their teams by focussing on more autonomy and accountability and hence ownership; walking the talk by showing empathy in times of need and emulating desired behaviours to finally have a culture of open conversations and productive brainstorming sessions.
Keeping that as the foundation, Sane says, their organisation been promoting to set out best practices for a remote-first working environment such as asynchronous working, extensive documentation and recording, elaborate use of technology and tools for collaboration and project management which doesn’t just make the process of decision making transparent but also much more inclusive.