What Would Shawn Do? How to Hold a Brainstorming Session that Actually Works

Q:

Holding a brainstorming session with my team sounds productive and fun, yet very intimidating. How do I begin?

A:

Brainstorming is a useful tool for solving problems. Invite people with different backgrounds and areas of expertise. Sometimes a fresh outlook comes from someone who isn’t considered an expert or close to the problem.

 

idea

Before the meeting, give participants a brief explanation of the problem and its history. (This will help everyone prepare mentally.) The more specific the topic, the more you’ll be able to focus on creative ideas related to the problem. Write the objective in the form of a question. For example: “How can we better understand the needs of our customers?”

 

Also distribute the rules beforehand, like “Criticism of ideas isn’t allowed.” “ALL ideas, no matter how wild, are encouraged.” “The more ideas, the better.”

 

Encourage participants to build on or combine the ideas of others. If there are more than 10 participants, create teams. Small groups encourage more sharing.

 

When the flow of ideas comes to a halt, you, as the facilitator/leader, should keep the conversation going. Try re-reading every third idea, or asking each participant to select one idea and give three reasons why s/he likes it, or keeping some ideas to yourself and sharing when the conversation dies.

 

Brainstorming can be tiring. The session shouldn’t last longer than 30 or 40 minutes. Schedule another session if needed. Lastly, take notes, and save all ideas for future reference!

 

Good luck!

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If you have a question you’d like Shawn to answer in a future issue of our newsletter, please reply to this email or submit the question via our website on our contact form. (We will maintain your anonymity.) Thank you!

What Would Shawn Do? How to Hold Meetings that Matter

Q:

My staff lets out a collective, resigned sigh when they hear the word “meeting.” I don’t blame them. Our clinic meetings are either time wasters or a platform for ranting. How can we make them count?

A:

The common thread in all good meetings is ACTION. Here are the basics: meeting
  1. Meet only if necessary. Meetings aren’t the place to socialize. Avoid a gathering if the same information can be covered in a memo, email, or brief report.
  2. All meetings must have clear objectives. Outline the specific results you aim to achieve.
  3. All meetings must have an agenda. Organize the objectives so as to keep the meeting on track. Assign presenters and allot times for each topic.
  4. Watch the clock. Start on time. Don’t run over. Limit after-hour meetings.
  5. Circulate information about the meeting to everyone beforehand. Include the objectives, agenda, time, date, location, background information, and required preparation. This will make it easy for everyone to participate actively and meaningfully.
  6. Be a role model for good communication! Protect the self-esteem of participants by stopping any public criticism. Let everyone have a chance to speak, and facilitate skillfully so that one person doesn’t grandstand. Don’t use group pressure to force decisions.
  7. Take notes. Record assignments and decisions. Circulate the notes to everyone afterward.
Holding a meeting doesn’t have to be a major production. A 15-minute meeting can be highly productive if you focus on the issue at hand and concentrate on reaching a workable solution. Meetings are a powerful way to figure out — together — how to do something better.
Good luck!

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If you have a question you’d like Shawn to answer in a future issue of our newsletter, please reply to this email or submit the question via our website on our contact form. (We will maintain your anonymity.) Thank you!