Written By
Max Brown

10.19.16

What is the most productive brainstorming method?

Often the best ideas can be forged in a collaborative team brainstorming session. We are frequently asked for advice on how to facilitate collaboration among teams, especially how to create a productive environment for solving problems or creating new ideas via brainstorming.

If you want to coax people to talk without fear of being judged, I am a fan of the lean coffee format. This is a decentralized meeting about topics that are set by those in attendance, rather than a firm agenda dictated by the boss who called the meeting. Participants begin by writing their ideas on a post-it and sticking them on a board in the conference room. It’s free form for the initial ideas, so nobody has to raise their hand to say their crazy idea and get judged for it. Teammates will evaluate each idea without knowing who came up with them.

Role play is a great way to reframe the conversation. Specifically, ask each member of your brainstorming team to try to think like somebody else (a specific type of customer, a professional reviewer, average Joe on the street, a celebrity endorser, an engineer interested in working for your company, etc).  Getting people out of their own heads is key, and asking them to think like somebody else engages their creative brain immediately and keeps it engaged through the whole process, as opposed to most brainstorming sessions where you have to turn it on and off.  Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

In some situations, it’s really useful to do a reverse brainstorm first.  So if your topic was something like customer engagement, you start the brainstorm with ideas of how you can push customers away faster.  The idea is that the reverse brainstorm is fun and humorous, but also provides an opportunity to say “ok, so now what is the opposite of all these points” and brainstorm on that. Finally, it can be useful to have a visualization or meditation prior to a brainstorming session to help everyone begin the session with an open mind.