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


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


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.



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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