To run an effective brainstorming session, take care of a few preparations and follow a few rules:
- The right people: Good “brainstormers” can be experts in their field or not. More importantly brainstorm participants should be open to and interested in other perspectives. Furthermore, they are ideally communicative and feel at ease in groups. Pay attention to the right mix.
- Group size: Each brainstorm group should not contain more than 6 – 7 people and not less than 4.
- Place: Brainstorms can be run at any time and everywhere. To run a serious series of brainstorm sessions though, look for spaces that have plenty of light, plenty of free space on the walls and room to move. Ideas need space. A creative, playful environment, in the building or outside helps.
- Tools: The usual suspects to capture what’s going on – Lots of Post-its (square or rectangular) and pens (Sharpie size). Flipcharts or walls to collect the ideas are also needed in order to spread the ideas, get an overview and to make a selection.
- Never forget to provide your brainstorm participants with something to eat and drink. Drinks – and above all chocolate – help them to remain active (due to the intake of sugar).
- Moderator: Fairly critical for a good brainstorm is the moderator role. The moderator is in charge to steer the brainstorm in the desired direction and to to assess the energy flow of a brainstorm session.
- This person should not act as “the boss”. Brainstorms thrive on participation, on exchange, on enthusing one another and on combined energy.
The main tasks for the moderator are:
Do not allow vagueness or ambiguity
Encourage participants to formulate their ideas in a very concrete manner. Because the more concrete the results are, the easier it is subsequently to evaluate them. Therefore, if an idea is put forward which is very broad and vague, the moderator should ask: “What form might that take in concrete terms?”.
Stopping in time or starting again: If the flood of ideas for a specific brainstorm topic dries up completely, the moderator has to decide whether a final challenge should be presented (for example: “We can manage another 10 …”), open a new brainstorm topic, introduce new momentum and inspiration with sprinkling in some ideas on his own, or whether the participants are exhausted and the session should be brought to an end.