Better Brainstorming

June 30, 2015 | by BatesMeron

AIGA recently released some tips to help improve brainstorming sessions—and while reading the piece, I found myself agreeing with many of the points. I’ve always enjoyed the process of a good group brainstorm, but this article helped open my eyes to ways that the creative process of collaboration can be made better. The article starts by identifying several faults in the average brainstorming process, many of which I can personally identify with in my creative past. Tendencies such as over-niceness, “group thinking” and gravitating towards easy ideas are listed as prime offenders, but as the article goes on to prove, there are always remedies to get your group back on track.

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Often times, meetings begin with someone stating the more obvious ideas, or the “low hanging fruit”. We’ve all witnessed this at one time, and I’ve personally seen how these initial, easier ideas can consume much of the meeting. Before you realize it, an hour has passed and you’re still discussing the basics, having yet to reach the homeruns.

Solution—AIGA offers the idea of “brainwriting” prior to a meeting. When participants take the time to write down and think through their own ideas outside of the group setting, your team will begin with even better information and eliminate the initial time spent trudging through the easy-out options.

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Group settings can cause people to shy away from being critical in fear of making others feel embarrassed about their ideas. I’m definitely a people pleaser, and am guilty of this common brainstorming mistake. It’s hard for me to separate work and emotion and I tend to be overly nice to avoid tension or bad feelings.

Solution—Choose the right words. Criticism can be delivered in a way that is positive and constructive. While it might feel like you’re being cruel or dismissive, criticism is actually healthy and even necessary to push everyone towards better results. This is your job, and at the end of the day, your team needs to present great ideas. Playing too nice might not get you far enough outside the box.

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When more dominant personalities drive the direction of a meeting, mass agreement can take place—this is known as “group thinking”. Quieter participants like me tend to conform to the majority flow, their ideas often going unsaid.

Solution—Speak up! All ideas, both good and bad need to be heard. Practice taking turns, designating time for everyone to provide input. Whether you’re on the sales team or filling in as the summer intern, your thoughts are valuable.

By taking a little individual time to gather our thoughts, we spark a better kick-off to the creative process. Combine that with speaking up and some healthy, respectful criticism and you may end up reaching that one golden solution. May these tips be helpful to you and your team—here at BatesMeron, we may adopt them ourselves!

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