The brainstorming session should defer in time the evaluation, or criticism, of the participants contributions, and enhance the amount. For the success of the session, it is necessary to reduce social inhibition and stimulate the production of ideas. The greater the number of ideas contributed, the greater the possibilities of associating and combining contributions that lead us to new formulations of the solution.
The stage of evaluating the ideas will come later. In the brainstorming session we must concentrate on contributing, and absorb any type of contribution without making judgments. Focused on combining divergent lines of thought and generating new approaches.
But this dynamic must be trained. Don’t expect people who are not related to this technique to be able to interact properly right out of the box. If you can, begin by posing a session on simple problems, focused on all participants assimilating the dynamics. And then attack more complicated subjects.
As a guide for the sessions, you should also manage the group dynamics so that there are no people who monopolize the interventions, or who intimidate other people and limit the contribution of ideas. You must also ensure that hierarchies are not established, nor interferences related to the ego of the participants occur. You must keep the team together in an environment of trust and assertiveness, and all its members involved.
Now, let’s focus on the methodology to collect the ideas. I recommend that you divide the group into subgroups of two or three people for a certain time of, for example, 15 minutes. Each subgroup will work separately and collect ideas in writing. You can have everyone working on the general topic or divide it into subtopics and distribute it among the different groups. Each group will give you the ideas they have generated and you will put them together. From here, everyone will participate in expanding, combining ideas or contributing new ones. When this second part of the session is completed, you will have a list of ideas to work on and you can call a second evaluation session.
It is important that the working subgroups are not stable, that they change from one session to another. And also, that the ideas are not identified with a specific person, since the participants will feel more or less predisposed to a contribution depending on who has thought it. Try to avoid that bias.
In addition to all that has been said, as a facilitator of the work group, you should try to ensure that all members pay attention to the ideas of others and not focus on their own. You have to motivate members, correct mistakes, and provide a clear work standard. Combine individual and group approaches. Allow enough time for people to think things through carefully, with whatever silences are necessary. And manage the energy level of the group, adapting the time, the breaks and the different activities depending on the general mood.
The brain is a wonderful and mysterious organ capable of producing the most extraordinary ideas, but it also generates many ideas that are not creative. A creative idea must meet three criteria: it must be new, useful, and surprising. New does not mean that it is totally unknown to the organization, but it does mean that it is new from your perspective. Many times a new approach to an old idea is the typical solution that we had in front of our noses. It must be useful and therefore it must be practicable and it must be beneficial in some way. And it must be surprising. Cause surprise in the sense of the small astonishment that an idea produces when it makes us ask ourselves: why hadn’t this occurred to me before? A simple, obvious and brilliant solution that immediately seems like a good idea, a great idea.
In the creative process, we generate a concept and then explore it. We relate two themes that do not have a clear connection between them and we combine them into a new concept that can sometimes seem totally absurd. And that, in fact, it can be. One hundred percent absurd :-). But when we are able to connect that new concept with the solution of a problem or some kind of benefit, bingo!, eureka! We have an idea that is worth exploring and testing.
How to choose the ideas with the most potential? It is important that, before gathering the ideas, you establish objective criteria. With four or five aspects to score it would be enough, it does not have to be very complex. Fundamentally, you need to assess how the idea fits with the culture of your organization and what impact its application has both at the level of potential benefit and, for example, at the level of application cost or time. Collect all the ideas in standard format: name, description, benefits it brings, target to which it is directed and risks. Allow all group members to individually access all formatted ideas and use defined evaluation criteria to rate ideas anonymously. This will help you close a short list of finalist ideas.
Finally, call a new session to share arguments for and against on the short list of ideas, to help you select the ones to be put into practice.
We have everything ready to start
Establishing techniques, processes and sessions to increase the level of creativity in your organization is a great idea. Innovation is the constant that makes organizations adapt to the times and evolve or, on the contrary, stagnate and lose themselves in irrelevance.
Creative thinking is structured thinking. It is based on models that we apply systematically each time we are faced with a new situation or when solving problems. We must take advantage of the fact that our mind continuously generates lines of thought that explore alternatives until they find one that fits a model, with a deep structure, and that takes us to a new place, to a solution. Divergent thinking occurs fluidly, generates many ideas, and draws unexpected connections in our minds. It is a type of thinking related to a nonconformist, curious, persistent, risky personality. Take advantage of this ability, and put the minds of your work team to work in a synchronized way. It will be an effort that will undoubtedly generate a great return on investment.