Better Brainstorming (3/3)

Assembling the right team

In brainstorming the group dynamic is all decisive for the end result. If you want a lot of original ideas you’ll need to select your participants carefully.

A brainstorm should be held with a group of 6 to 8 people. The size of this group makes sure there will always be someone with a new idea. You can brainstorm with a bigger group but there are several reasons why it’s better not to.

If your group contains more than 8 people group thinking can occur. A phenomen where participants will look at each other and conform to the groups behaviour. A big group will thereby frustrate and demotivate fast thinkers. They all need to wait a long time before it’s their turn to share their ideas.

Just like in sports the best players (or thinkers) don’t necessarily make the best team. It’s more important to find unity within diversity. Put together a mixed group of people. Young, old, male, female, experienced, unexperienced etc. The cocktail of different perspectives will add to the thinking power of the group and will inspire new ideas.

Aim for a balance between specialists, generalists and people who know nothing about the subject. Strive to put together an equal formation of men and women. As a result, both the men and women will work harder to impress the other sexes.

Try to find the following roles within your group:

The Problem Owner
This person has been struggling with the problem for a while and is desperate for fresh ideas. The problem owner knows everything about the subject. He or she is totally responsible for the challenge and is willing to put the ideas into action. The problem owner is involved with solving the problem and is able to carry out the suggested ideas.

The Facilitator
The organizer who guides the brainstorm and who is concerned with the process. He or she motivates the thinkers and stimulates people to hunt for novelty. The facilitator doesn’t create ideas but is focused on collecting ideas. He or she keeps track of the time schedule and makes sure that people are aware of the ‘brainstorm rules’.

The facilitator understands the problem. During the preparation the facilitator can help the problem owner (re)define the issue into a creative challenge. The facilitator can never be the same person as the problem owner.

The Note taker
Responsible for capturing all the ideas. He or she makes sure that all the ideas are written down on a flip chart and that they are not lost during the heat of the brainstorm. The note taker supports the facilitator and makes sure that he can focus on motivating the group.

A brainstorm can also be held without a note taker, if the participants are asked to write down their own ideas (on paper or on post-its).

The Specialist
People who know everything about a specific part of the challenge. They are professionals with a lot of knowhow and experience. They can explain details and can help to turn a wild idea into a feasible idea.

The Generalist
They know the subject but it’s not their field of expertise. They know a lot about a lot. Their broad knowhow and experience is extremely useful. They can share information from other fields and combine insights in innovative ideas.

The ignorant
These participants don’t know anything about the subject whatsoever. That’s why they ‘re perfect for creating fresh ideas. They are not prejudiced with what’s been done in the past. It’s not their role to be realistic. They need to shoot wild ideas and question everything about the current situation.

You now know how to prepare a better brainstorm. You should be able to 1). Assemble the right team, 2). Warm up the participants and 3). Ask a creative question. It’s time to get back into the field and try it out.

Good luck and have fun.

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