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Leading Brainstorming in the Workplace: Your Free How-to Guide

May 7, 2018
By Lee Morrison


Are you reading this on a PC or an Apple device? Did you search Google for info on something (or a lot of somethings) today? Did you drive to work in a car this morning? Pick up a tasty new breakfast sandwich on your way? Then you’ve enjoyed the results of brainstorming.

Ever seen the Tom Hanks movie Apollo 13? Remember the room full of guys at NASA who had to figure out how to keep their stranded astronauts alive by rigging a critical repair using a notebook cover, duct tape, plastic bags, hoses, and other odds and ends? A right-before-your-eyes example of collaboration and innovation in action. But you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to reap the benefits of brainstorming.

Fact is, if you look around your office, your house, or most anywhere you happen to be right now, you’ll see plenty of innovative, can’t-do-without-’em products that trace their existence to brainstorming.

With stiff competition and rapid—often unpredictable—change disrupting our business world, companies need to kpmg quotebe more creative and innovative than ever. As individuals, we need those same capabilities to compete for jobs, to advance at work, or to lead teams of employees in developing new products, services, and solutions to business challenges.

Senior executives increasingly look to learning and development professionals to empower employees, leaders, and teams to be more creative and innovative problem-solvers and decision-makers. One of the most valuable and collaborative skills L&D can teach people is how to brainstorm effectively.

Beyond Innovation, Brainstorming Has Multiple Uses

At its simplest, brainstorming is a creative technique that aims to generate as many ideas as possible, which makes it a powerful tool for driving creativity and innovation. But brainstorming in the workplace isn’t only about innovation. It’s a great way to support better outcomes in other areas, too:

  • Collaboration. Research reported by Queens University of Charlotte (NC) notes that about 75% of employers rate collaboration and teamwork as “very important,” but that nearly 4 in 10 employees say that collaboration isn’t happening enough in their organizations. Brainstorming offers a constructive (and low cost) mechanism for fostering collaboration. In fact, when offering advice on creating a collaborative culture,  Salesforce advocates the use of brainstorming as a supportive strategy.
  • Team-building. Further, Salesforce reported that 97% of surveyed businesspeople and educators blame lack of alignment within teams for adversely affecting project results. When done correctly, brainstorming provides a framework that establishes common goals and encourages teams to work together, which creates a sense of synergy as members join forces to share and build on ideas.
  • Decision-making. Brainstorming is an activity that can be done successfully by individuals as well as groups. Still, research suggests that the group setting can be a particularly powerful scenario, especially when decisions need to be made. Harvard Business Review noted that “involving others with the relevant knowledge, experience, and expertise [as opposed to considering issues in isolation] improves the quality” of decisions

Whether you’ve been charged with driving innovation, encouraging collaboration, building stronger teams, or making better decisions, brainstorming can be a powerful multipurpose business (and personal) tool. A figurative Swiss Army knife for team leaders. But whatever the objectives, it’s crucial that we learn how to use brainstorming’s power for good.

Separating the Brain from the Storm

dont sidebar v3When the conversation here at Media Partners turned to the topic of brainstorming, there was enthusiastic agreement on the value the technique contributes – a number of our video training programs underscore that. But several of us shared the flip side of our experiences—the frustrations we felt when brainstorming at previous jobs ran off the rails. It was a primer in how not to brainstorm.

“A group I was in made the mistake of loading everyone up on caffeine and sugar at the outset,” one colleague recounted. “The whole team hit a brick wall at the same time. We completely ran out of steam and failed to accomplish our goals.” 

Another brainstorming horror story unfolded shortly after someone in a co-worker’s group uttered the fateful words: “Hey, the weather is so nice today. Wouldn’t it be great to do this session outdoors where we can enjoy it?” Not so much, as it turned out. The day heated up, sunburn suddenly became an occupational hazard, and a freak breeze laid claim to the few pages of good ideas that had been developed before things turned ugly.

There were other tales of brainstorming woe, but you get the idea. Take a look at the sidebar to see a few of the most commonly encountered what nots (what not to do) when brainstorming … and don’t do them.

How to Lead Brainstorming Effectively

Now that you know what not to do when leading or participating in a brainstorming session, the three guides below walk you through a before-during-and-after-the-session approach you can apply to set your team up for success.

Most brainstorming is done in person to capitalize on collaboration and group synergy. Certainly, virtual teams can, and increasingly do, brainstorm, too. However, the approach must be modified to the virtual setting, the technologies used, and other relevant factors. That calls for a different version of what Liam Neeson might describe as a “very particular set of skills.” Today, our focus is on leading in-person brainstorming meetings capably and confidently.

Your  "How-To" Guide
Download, save or print the guides that follow
to use as your personal brainstorming leadership tools when facilitating face-to-face sessions.

How to Lead Brainstorming Sessions Effectively:

Take Brainstorming and Team Leadership to the Next Level

When you’re on point for developing innovative new products, seeking strategies to enhance collaboration and teamwork, or searching for solutions to baffling business problems, brainstorming can be a valuable tool. And when you know how to conduct a brainstorming session effectively, you’ll empower your team to produce the best possible results.

Download the free guides above and practice the effective brainstorming techniques they describe. We also invite you to share the blog and tools with your team members and colleagues to help drive greater collaboration and brainstorming success throughout the organization.

Ready to take your skills to the next level? Whether it’s time to train the trainer or help your team members and others build new capabilities, Media Partners has your back with award-winning, content-rich videos. Take a deeper dive into brainstorming, collaboration, and high performance team leadership with these engaging titles available for full-length preview now on the Media Partners website:

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