Imagine you’re in a meeting with your colleagues. You are comfortably following the agenda; looking interested. Ticking off line items and taking notes; cleverly disguised doodles. The meeting is almost over, you pat yourself on the back for being a good soldier and not falling asleep or noticeably daydreaming; your mind wanders to after-work activities. Then, you hear uttered, the most dreaded meeting phrase … “brainstorming session” … a barely audible scream echoes in the distance … “noooooo.”
You snap into full consciousness and do your best to avoid eye-contact so you’re not selected as the moderator – you were really hoping not to have to actually talk to anyone. Oh well, here we go …
Brainstorming sessions are great for discovering new ideas and processes. Brainstorming mirrors exactly what creativity is about, the process, not the outcome. While the goal is to come up with new ideas, it’s the process that is truly valuable for the individual and the team. It reveals the power of collaboration, free thinking, and how seemingly unrelated ideas can build upon each other.
So why do we fear them so? Why are we reluctant to dive into the creative process? There are a few reasons. Fear of avoidance and lack of acknowledgment. Throwing an idea out there and getting no response at all. Fear of rejection. Sharing a thought and getting the odd looks or even worse, a negative verbal response. Fear of acceptance. You have a brilliant idea and now you are the new project lead, more work and more responsibility.
The moderator is the key to setting up the environment beforehand. Make it clear who is in charge of the proposed project – no one wants the surprise of new responsibilities. Setup a system so everyone has a clearly designated way to share their ideas. Remember, ideas come to people in different ways and times, so an in-turn method may not be best. You could put someone on the spot or miss an idea that pops in and out of someone’s head who’s not up to bat. Make the process enjoyable (yes, it’s okay to have fun), the environment doesn’t have to be 100% sterile. It’s okay to chuckle and laugh a bit, just not the Nelson, from the Simpsons, point-and-laugh kind.
Know your team and outline the importance they have in the creative process. The goal is not for an individual to come up with a singularly fantastic idea, but to build on each other’s ideas and dive into the creative process. An idea may not come to fruition during the meeting, but, like working out with weights (so I’m told), the burn will continue well after this mental exercise.
So whether you are the participant or the moderator of your next brainstorming session, understand the process, follow these tips and make the choice to BE CREATIVE!