6 Tips to Supercharge Your Next Brainstorming Workshop

6 Tips to Supercharge Your Next Brainstorming Workshop

Almost every other week I work with people to collect and prioritise ideas.  Ideas can act as a type of currency in the modern organisation.  In times of dramatic change, this currency becomes more valuable.

6 tips to supercharge your next brainstorming workshop

The challenge becomes, not just how to get the right people together, but how to most effectively share new ideas- and then selecting those ideas which have the greatest potential.

Ever since I did a course on Agile Development with @JeffPatton– I’ve adapted my approach to these sessions to focus on the goals of collaboration, enjoyment and speed.

Use these 6 simple tips to run your next brainstorming workshop with maximum impact.

1. Pick the brainstorming topic

An important task in any strategy process is to identify the question to be explored. This can be in the form of articulating the question (eg. “What is the future of digital in the next 3 years for our company?”) or framing an objective (“We’re here to identify typical online journeys involved in selecting and buying our product”).

Setting a clear context helps everyone focus on the task at hand.

2. Generate ideas

The next step is to provide people with 5 to 10 minutes to generate every idea they have that is relevant to the focal question or objective you have articulated in Step 1.
One suggestion may be asking participants to:

■ use post it notes- capturing one idea per note
■ using a marker so the idea can be easily read when displayed

3. Share ideas

Next, ask people to read each idea aloud and stick the idea on a facing wall in any order they wish.

Sometimes people want to explain each idea. If there are 50 ideas to get through within your group, this can be time consuming.  One quick sentence representing each idea works best.

The value of this step is to give everyone in the group a high level view of every idea, so that connections between the ideas form across participants.

4. Categorise ideas

When all the ideas are on the wall, invite participants to refine the placement of these post it notes.

 

From my experience, this is best done in silence. This increases the speed with which categories can be formed.

The second aspect of this step is to provide a heading to each category. Again, you can invite people to discuss categories, or simply ask each person to write a single category on a post it and put it on the wall, until the top 2 to 7 categories have been identified.

 

When this is done, ask people to take a final look at the post it notes and to switch around any notes they feel belong to specific categories.

5. Prioritise

If you wish to find the most important ideas you can add this step.

Ask participants to take 5 minutes to review all the ideas, and mark the top 2 to 3 ideas they feel are the highest priorities for the theme (whether based on value, impact, influence, etc).

They can do this by using a different pen, or if you have star or dot stickers, even better.

brainstorm example of sorted post it notes

6. Reflect

At this point, it’s fantastic to hear people’s observations about the process.

You can easily spend 20 minutes to 1 hour at this step and this is where the true insights are revealed. In itself this process (of reflecting on the ideas, building connections between them, and then teasing out the implications of multiple ideas) builds learning among participants.

Summary

I’ve used this process many times to identify anywhere between 50 to 100 ideas within the short space of 1 to 2 hours.

It is common for participants at the end of a process like this to be surprised by the volume and depth of work they’ve been able to uncover.

For many (and myself included when I started using this technique) it is a refreshing alternative to the way we may have traditionally worked in identifying and working with concepts.

Question: What are the best methods you use for strategic thinking processes?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.
I'm a digital strategist and channel manager with 15 years experience in digital, across marketing, e-commerce, online sales, digital and mobile app strategy. Companies I've worked for include Coles, ANZ and GlaxoSmithKline. I'm also a graduate and previous sessional lecturer of Strategic Foresight at Swinburne University.
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