How to lead better brainstorming sessions
When you’re working within a fast-paced team, your day is full of problems to solve and decisions to be made:
- Your customers keep telling you that their problem is XYZ, and you’ve tried solutions A through D to fix that problem, but so far those solutions aren’t completely solving their problems.
- You need to figure out the best way to architect your app to give your customers the smoothest experience possible, while using the least resources possible.
- You have to get that new feature out the door in the next four weeks, with very limited resources.
- And so on…
This is where brainstorming comes in.
The purpose of brainstorming is to create as many useful ideas in the shortest period of time possible. It’s not just useful when you’re trying to figure out what kind of product to create — it can be useful in all of the above scenarios and continue to be useful as your app takes off and your business grows.
So how can you run the most effective brainstorming sessions possible?
Brainstorming with your team: A checklist
First, identify the problem(s) you’re trying to solve, as specifically and concretely as possible.
Instead of starting with something like “how can we make people happier?,” start with “what experience can we give people, via a mobile app, that will improve their day?”
Giving your team a framework for the kind of ideas you’re looking for will help them come up with more useful ideas in the long run. It sounds counterintuitive, but research has shown more than once that constraints can be helpful when it comes to creativity and idea generation.
Making people happier is so broad that your mind scrambles to come up with anything useful, but improving someone’s day via an app immediately starts the creative juices flowing.
Next, decide what technique your team is going to use.
There’s the standard “put ideas on a white board and then sort through the ideas later” method, which is what most people think of when they think of brainstorming.
There’s very little structure to this method, and the idea is generally to come up with as many ideas as possible, then sort through them later.
Another option is “brainswarming,” which involves writing the problem at the top of the whiteboard and potential resources to create solutions with at the bottom for the whiteboard. After doing that together as a group, your team splits up and works individually on solutions that involve the resources listed, then convene again to get feedback, discuss, and prioritize the potential solutions.
Aside from those two techniques, you can try something like having your team write down their ideas first, then bring the ideas to a structured meeting where the merits of each idea are discussed. Or you can try virtual brainstorming — using similar rules as “traditional” brainstorming, but conducting the idea generation session via a tool like Slack, which often performs better than in-person brainstorming.
Finally, as the leader, it’s your job to get out of the way.
If you can’t guide the brainstorming session without inserting too many of your own opinions or your team members seem intimidated by your presence, you’re better off leaving the room and coming back later.
You want your team to feel completely free to throw out ideas and solutions without worrying about impressing (or disappointing) their team lead.
Once you have ideas from your brainstorming session, you need to evaluate them. You can head here to read more about that:
How Do You Brainstorm And Collaborate?
Let us know @Shortcut on Twitter to give us some tips that we can write about in a future post, we’d love to hear how some of the best and brightest are innovating.