How Shorter Brainstorming Sessions Can Help With Developing Great Ideas


Did you know that the brain is able to generate 75 % of ideas within the first 50% of a brainstorming session?

What happens in the rest or latter 50% of the time? Well, several things tend to happen:

  • People get stuck on one seemingly ‘good’ idea and stop thinking about other innovative ideas- this is also known as anchoring or conformity pressure
  • Those who have a propensity to talk more and to strongly defend their ideas often take over the meeting and sideline those who are less inclined to present their ideas in a crowd
  • The session swirls out of control and into a black hole of too many ideas

Are brainstorming sessions necessary? Yes, especially if you care about innovation as a way of staying competitive.

Some of the largest companies including Apple and Google have dedicated entire groups to brainstorm and come up with feasible ideas that will help the companies stay ahead of the game for many years to come.

A great way to productively make the most of ideation sessions is to actually make them shorter to avoid the pitfalls presented above.

Here are some practicable ideas for shortening your brainstorming sessions to come up with truly innovative and implementable ideas:

Keep it intimate

If you have ever been to a meeting that has one too many people tagging along, you know that the experience is often overwhelming. Such meetings end without any tangible results or bounce off points for subsequent meetings. When it comes to generating ideas or problem solving, one of the best ways to keep the sessions short and to tap the best ideas is to have a maximum of the five most relevant people in attendance.

To ensure that these sessions are productive, try to invite team members who are not characteristically contrarian or too domineering as they could unnecessarily prolong the meetings.

There’s need for a designated leader

Just like in any meeting, brainstorming sessions need a leader who will set the parameters for discussion. Of course, the goal of brainstorming is to generate several ideas before discussing and implementing the most feasible one. However, too many ideas generated in an unstructured meeting often creates a black hole of protracted sessions that are ultimately futile.

A designated leader will be able to point out when a discussion is going beyond the parameters, thereby refocusing the meeting to maximize on the time allotment.

Practice brainwriting

Research shows that brainwriting sessions are 40% more productive than a typical, think-out-loud brainstorming gathering. As the name suggests, brainwriting entails writing out ideas prior to coming together to discuss them.

Why is this process more effective than the traditional method of ideation?

brain3First, brainwriting solves the black hole scenario. Instead of having too many people talking over each other and presenting different ideas all at once, brainwriting allows team members to present their ideas systematically, each one at a time. More importantly, presenting and discussing ideas systematically helps to eliminate overwhelm and save time.

Second, brainwriting eliminates the problem of anchoring. During a brainstorming session, the first ideas that are presented typically set pace for the rest of the meeting and subsequent ones. The problem with clinging onto these first ideas or succumbing to the pressure to conform is that it erases the spirit of innovation and true ideation.

Third, done right, brainwriting can reduce the competitive nature of traditional brainstorming sessions, for example by requiring participants to anonymously present their ideas to a team leader prior to coming together to discuss the ideas.

Lastly, brainwriting allows team members to think through their ideas before presenting them. A major problem with the traditional brainstorming session is that it encourages participants to blurt out ideas that are not thought through or are simply not feasible. In effect, a lot of time is wasted sifting through these unprocessed ideas. On the contrary, writing before speaking creates an atmosphere of relatively refined ideas that can be polished up for implementation.

Brainstorming Tips

With teams facing a lot of pressure on their time, there is greater need to reduce the time spent on meetings while still supporting innovation. Cutting your brainstorming time into half is not only feasible; it also allows team members to focus on producing the best ideas that are anchored on a spirit of invention.

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