5 Tips to Actually Make Group Brainstorming Effective

Two (or more) heads are better than one, right? Not necessarily. Turns out, when it comes to group brainstorming, there are a lot of factors that contribute to your efforts being a total success — or a complete failure. While it may seem beneficial to generate ideas with a variety of folks, group brainstorming actually could be hindering your creative process, especially if it isn’t managed properly. Read on to see how you can make the most of the process without losing valuable time or ideas!

  • Don’t let distractions overwhelm the discussion. When you get a group of creative-minded folks together, it’s incredibly hard to keep the conversation on task. More people = more opportunities for distractions to present themselves. After all, with a number of coworkers together in one room, this is the perfect time for Joe to show off his daughter’s pageant photos, or for Tina to air some grievances about who has been leaving dishes in the breakroom sink. If you are going to group brainstorm, it’s important to keep the crowd on task.

  • Group brainstorming can cause smart people to clam up. Sometimes the most brilliant of minds aren’t the loudest of voices. A group brainstorming session can be intimidating for more quiet folks, even if they’re the smartest people in the room. If you do hold a group brainstorming session, make sure there’s space for everyone’s voice to be heard. And take note if someone seems unusually quiet; they (and you!) may benefit from a one-on-one idea session later.

  • Don’t play nice. OK, you don’t need to be a complete jerk, but one of the problems with group brainstorming is that no one wants to hurt feelings. This can lead to precious time wasted on — I’ll say it — useless topics. Learn to kindly-but-firmly disagree with ideas you find are nonproductive. The other 99% of the room may agree with you, but not want to be the first to say anything. Additionally, you might be surprised to find out how well your coworkers take constructive criticism… and they could have some for you as well!

  • Give one person the final say. This may seem counterintuitive to the entire idea of group brainstorming. After all, aren’t you supposed to decide on a direction as a group? It’s in the name and everything! However, leaving one decision to several people is never an easy task. Getting to a point where everyone is happy — or at least able to begrudgingly agree — takes a lot of time and effort, and likely more than you want to be spending in your session. Go into your brainstorming with one person who is designated to have the final say, whether it’s a CEO, a department head or just someone you think would be good for the role. Having a facilitator will make the process go much more quickly, so you can move on to important stuff — like implementing the ideas you’ve generated!

  • Break out of the conference room. Let’s face it: conference rooms don’t always inspire the most creativity. Additionally, holding your session in a room that most of your coworkers associate with long meetings doesn’t really set the stage for out-of-the-box thinking. Take your brainstorming out of the conference room, and possibly even out of the office. Check out a local coffee shop, or even head to the park to get the creative juices flowing. It may feel weird at first, but changing up your working environment is great for creativity and inspiration. Just make sure you stick with that whole “don’t get distracted” point I mentioned above!
While bringing folks together to generate ideas may seem easy, group brainstorming can be a surprisingly difficult task. It’s easy for people to get distracted, intimidated or just plain nervous about speaking up. Nonetheless, it’s still possible to make a group brainstorming session a success. Just follow the advice above and you’ll soon be churning out ideas smoothly!

Do you have any advice for group brainstorming? Let us know in the comments!