Team brainstorming is hard

Team Brainstorming

Free association idea generation

Brainstorming is the process of collecting ideas without filtering, not allowing anyone to critique an idea until all of the ideas have been generated. There should be no judgment of the merit of any one idea, nor should there be any explanation of why an idea will not work. There should not even be the statement that a new idea is essentially a restatement of a previous idea.

The only reaction to an idea which is permitted is to let it trigger the thought of another idea, continuing this way until the maximum number of ideas has been collected. The slightest hint of disapproval, even jokingly, will stem the flow of ideas, especially from timid participants.

Each participant should have exhausted their imagination. Only then can the process of sorting begin, and that process should start with just categorization, since new ideas may emerge from the effort of classifying ideas and understanding their commonalities. Very few teams call pull this off.

In Read This Before Our Next Meeting, Pittampalli lists the seven attributes of what he calls the modern meeting. This is a powerful framework for how to run meetings that lead to action.

1. The Modern Meeting supports a decision that has already been made.
2. The Modern Meeting starts on time, moves fast, and ends on schedule.
3. The Modern Meeting limits the number of attendees.
4. The Modern Meeting rejects the unprepared.
5. The Modern Meeting produces committed action plans.
6. The Modern Meeting refuses to be informational. Reading memos is mandatory.
7. The Modern Meeting works only alongside a culture of brainstorming.

Making this the "accepted meeting protocol" in your company reduces the need for draining meetings, hold anyone that calls or attends a meeting accountable for action and even keep managers on task.

Pittampalli's last point can't be emphasized enough - brainstorming is an essential business tool, but it's not the same as a meeting. Meetings are for making decisions, brainstorming sessions are to throw out ideas, discuss constraints, test theories and get feedback on ideas.

You need an entirely different framework for brainstorming. You need to frame the idea, establish a safe environment, ignore hirearchy, and encourage big thinking.

Far too many meetings are really just protracted brainstorming sessions where little (descision making) gets done.

Again, meetings are for making decisions, most everything else can be handled with email, IMs and texts.

This applies to team meetings, all-hands meetings and even some one-on-one meetings.

Embrace this mindset and watch what happens to the energy, accountability and action produced from meetings that nobody hates.

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