top of page
Search

Brainstorming in projects: How to utilize the maximum benefit of a team’s diversity?


Team members involved in a Brainstorming session
Source: Created on Copilot

How often do we find ourselves sitting in a meeting room wondering what’s happening, why is everyone fighting with one another, or why are we even present in this meeting. We leave those meetings with a feeling that our time was totally wasted and try to avoid such meetings in future. Especially those meetings that are designed for Brainstorming and idea or solving a problem.

 

It may happen because the meeting agenda was not clearly called out or the facilitation of the meeting was not effective enough to involve and engage every participant.

 

On a flip side, it is also important to notice that we must ensure that it doesn’t happen for the meetings that we facilitate. We should not make the same mistakes that other facilitators might have made. A good starting point to ensure that is to learn about the brainstorming session in depth and to apply those learnings to host meetings that people would want to attend.


In this article, we

-          Define brainstorming,

-          Discuss applications of brainstorming,

-          Suggest a few do’s and don’ts, and

-          Provide solutions to overcome a difficult brainstorming session.

 

We will also provide some food for thoughts on the way through intriguing questions/queries to help you think further than what’s mentioned in this article. Do participate.

 

Let’s begin:

 

Definition- Brainstorming is a meeting technique that involves a group of individuals generating multiple ideas or solutions for a specific problem or challenge in an open and non-critical environment.

 

Notice the words open and non-critical, these are the most essential aspects of any brainstorming meeting because the primary objective is to foster creativity, encourage free flow of ideas, and explore multiple possibilities to the same situation/problem.


Applications of Brainstorming


Brainstorming can be very effective, especially while managing projects that demand diverse viewpoints to generate ideas or solve problems. Let’s discuss a few of those applications:



Application of Brainstorming
Applications of Brainstorming

Idea Generation: Brainstorming is commonly used to generate ideas and concepts during the project planning phase. Project teams can brainstorm to identify potential project objectives, strategies, or innovative solutions to project-related challenges.


Requirements Gathering: When gathering project requirements, project managers and team members can use brainstorming sessions to collect a wide range of stakeholder needs and expectations. This can lead to a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of project requirements.


Risk Identification: Identifying potential risks in a project is a critical part of managing uncertainties in projects. Brainstorming sessions can help project teams identify various risks that might affect the project's success, even those that may not be immediately obvious.


Problem Solving: When issues or obstacles arise during project execution, brainstorming can be employed to come up with creative solutions. Project teams can brainstorm to find ways to overcome project-related challenges or to address unexpected roadblocks. 


Team Building: Brainstorming can be used as a team-building exercise to enhance team collaboration and creativity. When team members engage in planning, creative problem-solving, and idea generation together, it can strengthen their working relationships and boost team morale.


Decision-Making: When project managers need to make important decisions, they can conduct brainstorming sessions to explore different options and evaluate potential pros and cons of each option. This can help in informed decision-making.

In these and other project management contexts, brainstorming sessions are typically conducted in a structured manner, with a facilitator guiding the process and a set of guidelines to ensure that ideas are generated freely without criticism.


Food for thought- Which other areas of your work do you think Brainstorming can be helpful?


Do's and Don'ts of Brainstorming


Now that we have seen the applications of brainstorming, let’s discuss a few do’s and don'ts to keep in mind to ensure a productive and creative session:

Do's and Don'ts of Brainstorming


Do's and Don'ts of Brainstorming
Do's and Don'ts of Brainstorming

Do's:

Encourage Creativity: Foster an environment where all ideas are welcome, no matter how unconventional they may seem.

Build on Ideas: Encourage participants to build on each other's ideas rather than criticize or dismiss them outright.

Set Clear Goals: Define the problem or topic you're brainstorming about and set clear objectives for the session.

Time Management: Set a time limit for the brainstorming session to keep it focused and prevent it from dragging on.

Diverse Group: Include people from diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and expertise to bring a variety of ideas to the table.

Use Visual Aids: Incorporate visual aids like whiteboards, sticky notes, or mind maps to help organize and visualize ideas.

Record Everything: Document all ideas, even those that seem insignificant at the time. They might spark new ideas later on.

Encourage Quantity: Aim for a large quantity of ideas rather than focusing on quality initially. Quantity can lead to unexpected insights.


Don'ts:

Criticism: Avoid criticizing or judging ideas during the brainstorming session. Save evaluations for a later stage.

Dominance: Prevent any individual from dominating the discussion. Encourage equal participation from all team members.

Overthinking: Discourage overanalyzing or critiquing ideas too early in the process. Let creativity flow freely without inhibition.

Negativity: Avoid negative comments or attitudes that can stifle creativity and discourage participation.

Limitations: Don't impose limitations or constraints too early in the process. Allow for wild and unconventional ideas to emerge.

Technology Distractions: Minimize distractions from smartphones or laptops that might take participants' focus away from the brainstorming session.

Groupthink: Guard against groupthink by encouraging independent thinking and diverse viewpoints.

Ignoring Ideas: Avoid dismissing or ignoring ideas outright, even if they seem unrealistic at first glance. They might spark new, more feasible ideas when combined or refined.


Following these guidelines can help ensure that your brainstorming sessions are productive, creative, and conducive to innovation.


Food for thought- Have you noticed these practices being followed in the brainstorming sessions you attend, which of the above points do you think is the most positive or negative in a meeting.


Towards the end of our discussion, now we will discuss the types of problems you might face while facilitating a meeting and how to overcome those.


Dominant Participants: Some individuals may dominate the discussion, inhibiting others from sharing their ideas. Solution: Encourage equal participation by setting ground rules at the beginning of the meeting, such as limiting speaking time per person, using techniques like round-robin brainstorming, brain-writing, or directly inviting quieter members to contribute.


Groupthink: Group members may conform to popular opinions, suppressing unique or controversial ideas. Especially when the opinion is from a senior member of the organization. Solution: Foster an environment of psychological safety where all ideas are welcomed without judgment. Encourage diverse perspectives and provide prompts to stimulate unconventional thinking.


Lack of Focus: Participants may stray from the topic, leading to unproductive discussions. Solution: Clearly define the session's objectives and keep the conversation focused by gently steering it back on track when necessary. Use techniques like mind mapping, context diagram to visually organize ideas and maintain clarity.


Negative Criticism: Harsh criticism can discourage participants from sharing their ideas freely. Solution: Emphasize the importance of constructive feedback and establish a culture of positivity. Encourage participants to build on each other's ideas rather than dismissing them outright. Rather than “No, but…” Consider implementing the "Yes, and..." rule from improvisational theater to promote idea elaboration.


Over-Editing: Some participants may prematurely evaluate and edit ideas, hindering the generation of creative solutions. Solution: Encourage a phase of free ideation without judgment or analysis. Use techniques like rapid ideation or brainstorming in silence (brain-writing) to stimulate a flow of ideas without interruption. Reserve time for evaluation and refinement after the brainstorming session.


Time Management: Balancing time constraints while ensuring sufficient exploration of ideas can be challenging. Solution: Set a clear agenda and allocate specific timeframes for each stage of the brainstorming process, including ideation, discussion, and evaluation. Use timers or prompts to keep the session on schedule while allowing for flexibility if needed.


These are some of the common problems faced by the facilitators during a brainstorming session, and the solutions should help if you are stuck with any of these problems.


Which of the problems have you faced or observed in a meeting, think about those and do you think the above solutions would have worked. Do let us know.


Next topic: Focus group discussions.


If you would like to discuss more about this topic or project management in general, please do leave us a message on contact@edzest.org or WhatsApp on +91 9673332684. We would love to have a chat.


Hope to see you on the next article. Thank you for reading!


4 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page