Here are a few reminders of how to invite participation, and let the ideas flow.
Firstly, brainstorming thrives in an atmosphere of trust and safety. Feeling safe allows people to be vulnerable enough to share even the tiniest sprout of an idea. Especially at the beginning of a session, when people are testing the waters, I’ll verbally acknowledge people to “reward” them for contributing. No matter how small an idea they put forth I’ll say – “Oh! Great idea!” – and will encourage others to build on it. If I’m met with cautious silence – I’ll riff on the idea myself!
How else might you get the session cooking?
•Ask questions: “What’s a really outrageous idea? What’s an obvious idea? What’s the opposite of that?”
•Do what you can to encourage people, lighten them up, relax them and welcome laughter. The rules of brainstorming are designed to get the greatest number of new, divergent ideas, but these same guidelines create a mood that opens people up to sharing. Part of asking for wild ideas is because it can spark laughter.
•Set a timer for 30 to 45 minutes to keep focused and build in urgency. Remind people that after the idea generation is complete, you’ll have a process to evaluate the ideas with a critical eye. So the rules of brainstorming are just for those 30 or 45 minutes – the sorting and analysis will come later.
•You can get on a shared whiteboard or use a Google Jamboard to sketch, move sticky notes and link ideas, and know that even your non-perfect drawings might spark new ideas!
Here’s a reminder of the rules of brainstorming: