Brainstorming is considered one of the tools of prototyping and innovation however it needs to be done carefully. Earlier in the semester, I posted a blog about key elements that Tom Kelley found to be part of a perfect brainstorm such as sharpening the focus to remember what you’re trying to achieve, write things down because you are mentally able to return to that thought once you see it again and create playful rules. (Check out http://leadershipssuccess.blogspot.com/2012/10/six-elements-of-perfect-brainstorm.html) On that note, there are five rules of brainstorming that were discussed in the recent lecture that I will breakdown.
First, you need to “defer judgment” and set aside a time for constructive criticism later in the game. During a brainstorming session it is important to acknowledge everyone’s ideas and respectful to keep the ideas flowing. By putting down an idea, it can kill the motivation buzz and limit the amount of ideas you receive.
Second, know how to “build upon the idea of others” and learn not to hold on to personal ownership. When a team member suggests a new idea or solution, it can trigger other ideas you had in mind that you may not have been able to convey. In a recent facilitator course I took, we had to right down at least 10 (I think) uses for a paperclip in a span of 8 minutes or so. It felt like time flew by. Then the instructor said to share your inputs with the person next to you and come up with an additional 5 in two minutes. Surprisingly enough, we came up with more than double that because each use gave us another idea for what the paperclip can be used for.
The third rule of brainstorming is to keep one conversation going at a time. As the concept of “build and jump” where you gradually move from one concept to another is helpful to expanding the session, ensure that everyone is aligned to where the conversation is going and keeping one. It can be distracting and momentum can be lost as you break up in smaller groups.
With that, the fourth rule is to stay focused on the topic. By getting off course, you can find yourself analyzing too much on other ideas that may be non-value added to your overall solution.
Finally, the fifth rule that connects with the first is to encourage wild ideas. It’s amazing when you remove all barriers (especially cost) when trying to come up with solution. The intent is find the solution and later we can bring it back to reality with what we have practically to design a new service or product.
For example, on the manufacturing floor, my area leader keeps suggesting that all area leaders get roller blades to be able to respond more quickly to issues and be everywhere at once. As roller blades are not cleanroom safe and not a practical solution, I asked her to tell me why she was suggesting that and how can bring that idea to a more practical resolution. She then came up with a way for her team to keep tabs on her and ensured there were multiple copies of the contact numbers, out of control procedures and escalation flow handy at each process. Although she was still responding to the problem at the same walking rate, the communication to and from her, was done more effectively.