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How to Ruin a Brainstorm and Kill Potential Innovation

How to Ruin a Brainstorm and Kill Potential Innovation

November 7, 2013

If there were a documented record of how many great concepts and ideas resulted from a brainstorming session, it is likely that more individuals and companies seeking to innovate would schedule more such sessions. A well run brainstorm can in many cases develop into a new product, an improved way of doing something, or at the minimum a concept that can be explored and improved upon. Maybe one reason less brainstorming sessions are conducted is because managers do not know how to conduct such an event successfully. If your business can benefit from an open dialogue on new and innovative ideas make sure you avoid these brainstorm killers, that all too often cause the creative efforts of your employees to go for naught.

The Lack of a Clear Objective

Never start a brainstorm without a defined objective that you hope to accomplish. The objective can be very open and general but your session will be more productive if the purpose of the meeting is focused and defined. Take the time to prepare for the brainstorm by defining what you hope to accomplish as a result of the time spent discussing the ideas presented.

The Lack of Outside Input

Have you ever experienced a group of people all dialed in on solving a problem that each has an intimate familiarity with and no solution can be derived from the group? Yet, someone with a limited understanding of the situation can walk into the room and see the answer clearly just from their different perspective. Look for brainstorm participants that can add fresh ideas to your session; that may include individuals from another department or workgroup. You might possibly consider inviting outsiders like customers or venders into your brainstorming session for a truly independent perspective on the subject matter.

Allowing the Boss to Moderate the Session

Employees are often intimidated by their supervisor in open meeting sessions. Having a skilled facilitator that is not direct management is a far better option for generating original thoughts and concept ideas. If the boss acts as scribe in the meeting this can also tend to dampen enthusiasm, as some might be worried about notations he or she might document.

Allowing Participant Criticism

Make it a point to announce and enforce the rule you mother taught you about interacting with other people: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” For a brainstorming meeting to be truly effective any and all ideas, not matter how far off based they seem to be, need to be written down. How crazy do you suppose is was for the idea to take something that was readily available and free to anyone with running water in their home, bottle it and sell it at premium prices to consumers. The person who first thought to sell bottled water was probably considered insane. Even crazy ideas sometimes develop into golden eggs.

Do Something with the Information Provided

Future participation in a brainstorm is going to be muted if the ideas presented never go anywhere. At the end of the session quickly separate the ideas into those you want to follow and those that may need to be tabled for the present. Using brainstorming software can help to easily organize thoughts presented in the session. Take the most promising concepts and assign responsibilities to investigate the potential for implementing them, schedule another session to return and report the outcome of the feasibility studies. Participants will be much more eager to share if they feel their input is meaningful and actionable by the company.

Brainstorming when done right is a valuable tool that companies can use to innovate, solve problems, improve procedures, and accomplish a number of different tasks as a group. Effective brainstorming sessions can produce significant accomplishments that reward employees, management and the company as a whole.

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