(SPONSORED) For many designers and developers, working as part of a team comes with the territory, and as such, meeting with all of the members of the team to brainstorm can be a tricky process.
Your ideas can fall beneath the rabble of the anxious horde before it has been given the consideration it is fully due. In a sense, your ideas are swallowed up in the madness, and effectively, you are too.
With so much happening at one time, and ideas firing in succession, the brainstorming session can quickly degrade into yet another waste of time like so many other less than orderly meetings have fallen before it. Now tech companies are capitalizing on software solutions of this type. Where head of department are just too lazy to brainstorm and rely on advanced algorithms to do the job. This might not always be the best solution however!!
So how can we ensure that whenever we step into one of these team brainstorming sessions that we are being heard, and not getting eaten, and that above all, the meetings themselves are effective? First we have to understand that brainstorming sessions tend to be different animals altogether from regular team meetings. Somewhat more mindless.
Brainstorming sessions have less order by design. There doesn’t tend to be an agenda, or at least not as rigid of one as we would normally be working off of. It is much more about getting ideas up on their feet, and much more of an open discussion than most meetings.
So we need to approach them slightly differently than we might be used to. And not just for our own ideas to survive the oncoming horde in this mindless onslaught of creativity, but for the sake of all of the ideas being offered, and the overall project your team is working on. Otherwise, you risk some truly amazing ideas that could elevate your project and demonstrate the absolute best of your team falling through the proverbial cracks.
Leader of the Pack
First, like with any meeting, it is a good idea to have some sort of leader to this pack of creatives. Someone to focus the voice and guide the discussion towards more productive shores. This can be more difficult to decide on than in normal meetings where the hierarchy is generally established. If we have a team leader, then this task can tend to be theirs.
However, it should be understood that in order for things to run smoothly and ensure no ideas get precedence over others, the leader of the meeting is going to have to be more sidelined from the actual brainstorming. They are there to guide the storm, not participate in it.
Given that if the leader is offering ideas, then other members of the team may feel that the leader favors their own approaches for the project and might therefore shut down others before they are fully heard, they have to stand back and act as a buffer. Not a contributor. So it may be a good idea to alternate who gets to lead the brainstorming sessions for your team, that way everyone gets the chance to participate more evenly. Whoever is leading the charge during these sessions should be good at filtering through the rabble to hone in on those ideas with true innovative potential. They need to be tactful, and fair.
If you choose the wrong person for the position, then naturally your brainstorming session can become compromised, and the project will suffer. So you have to know your team fairly well to be able to choose your leaders wisely.
Now with most meetings there is an appointed secretary to take down the important minutes of what transpires, but in team brainstorming sessions no one tends to be appointed as note keeper. So it falls to each member of the team to take their own notes of whatever they believe is important. This can also become beneficial later as well, but it also can ensure complete coverage and consideration of what the team feels should be discussed during the meeting.
One thing to keep in mind when taking notes though, is that with the rapid fire nature these sessions can take on, being able to keep up with your notes accurately while not missing out on anything important can be tricky. Companies like CSB Group have a set template to write meaningful and easy to understand meeting minutes. Mainly you want to keep up with your own ideas in your notes, expecting the rest of the team to be doing the same. Otherwise, you might want to make notations of any other outstanding ideas that come out during the session as well, no matter who they are from.
Post Meeting Reports
If you have taken notes throughout the meeting, another way to ensure that your ideas survive beyond the chaos of the initial session is to send the team your own assessment of the session. Put together post meeting reports that highlight the discussions and ideas that weathered the storm. This can help the project and the team remain on track between meetings as well. Do the team a favor and let them know you would like any notes they took as well to be included in the report.
Break into Groups
Another way that you can get more from these sessions, believe it or not, is to break into groups within the team and separate to work out some approaches or ideas without the rabble and somewhat overwhelming turn these meetings can take. With everyone effectively vying for recognition for their ideas, the discussion does not always remain as productive and focused as it could.
This is where the divide and conquer mentality can work out the best for the project and everyone involved.
Once you have split into groups to brainstorm separately, you can then meet back and take turns sharing what each group discussed and came up with during the time you were separated. This can control some of the tendency for the meeting to deviate down the path towards the unproductive.
This can also ensure that more of the ideas get heard and fully weighed before they are dismissed as someone else brings up their idea. As each group takes their turn, everyone is listening not just anxiously waiting for their go desperate to be heard. They know they will have their time just as you had yours.
Also, once you have divided into your smaller groups, it is easier to take turns within the groups to keep those idea exchanges flowing smoothly. The smoother and more focused those divided group sessions go, the better chance that your clearest best ideas get presented to the entire team when you reconvene. This adds a secondary filter for the brainstorming sessions, to help the better ideas rise to the top, and the less than stellar ideas fall by the wayside. So if the urge to let the rapid fire, mob mentality approach can be quelled, then this much more orderly turn based model might prove more effective.
Another way that you can use this group approach to further improve the output from these sessions is to include time for idea swaps. This is where each group, once they have settled on their best brainstorming ideas can swap them with the other group and see what they can do with those ideas.
Ways they can expand or improve on them, whatever. This can add an evolution to the ideas while still in the brainstorming stages, giving the project more layers and each idea more concentrated doses of creativity.
This also gives each group, and in turn each team member more individual time with each of the ideas guaranteeing they each process and digest them, rather than brush them aside or dismiss them. There are often times in these sessions when people get distracted, lost in their own heads, and in turn they miss out on what is being presented. But with this kind of approach, the team is less wrapped up in the anxious nature that can sometimes consume these brainstorming sessions, and they can each focus on what is being discussed.
That pretty much wraps up this end of the discussion, but we are anxious to hear from you. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below on what you think can help ensure that you are heard above the horde, and that ideas are not being lost to the team because of the nature of the meetings.