Unstructured Brainstorming is an Offense to Creativity

Meetings that neglect results and don’t impact behaviors are a colossal waste of time. Poorly run brainstorming sessions are the biggest waste of all.

An invitation to an unstructured brainstorming meeting is an offense to creativity.

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The next time someone invites you to toss some ideas around, tell them you’re busy, unless three things are present.

  1. Guidelines for the conversation.
  2. Limitations that enable focus.
  3. Commitment to actionable outcomes.

5 guidelines for brainstorming sessions:

#1. Begin with a question.

Craft an interesting question that sparks an open conversation.

  1. Outcomes establish focus. What do you want to accomplish?
  2. Focus requires limitation. Explain what you aren’t trying to accomplish.
  3. Use values and feelings to introduce the question. What’s important and why does it matter?
  4. Explore how the question meets a challenge or seizes an opportunity.

#2. Determine who should attend.

Don’t invite anyone to a brainstorming meeting until you craft a powerful question.

The question you craft points to the participants you should invite.

  1. Diverse perspectives. Include agitators and mischief-makers.
  2. Creatives.
  3. Customers.
  4. Front-line employees.
  5. Diverse ages.
  6. Diverse gender.
  7. Diverse backgrounds.

Above all, invite people who trust each other.

Distrustful relationships limit creativity.

#3. Record and build on responses. Go with, not against.

#4. Monitor and follow energy during the conversation. Lean toward high energy topics.

Avoid rushing to action items. Include, but delay, doers. Identify action-items only after exploring ideas.

Ideas inspire action – action clarifies ideas.

#5. Focus on imperfect steps forward.

  1. Choose ideas worthy of execution.
  2. Perfection is fear’s justification for staying the same.
  3. Use current resources, not wished for.
  4. Short-term goals work better than long. What’s going to be done in the next two weeks?
  5. Choose a path with obvious milestones so you can track progress.
  6. Identify champions who shepherd ideas forward.
  7. Set a follow-up meeting.

Meetings have value in proportion to the follow-through you create.

What suggestions might you offer for useful brainstorming sessions?

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