Brainstorming is one of the best ways to get new ideas and solutions to the forefront. Brainstorming is not a structure-less exercise where people spitball ideas to see what might stick.

When structured, brainstorming exercises can be super potent and excellent at identifying synergies. A lot of times, they are not given the attention they need due to this assumption and are not optimized for the best output.

Hence, in this blog post, we will look at how you can structure brainstorming sessions and look at some best practices to get the most out of them.

Let's jump in.

Preparing for the brainstorming session

Maintain a checklist and assign roles

To have a successful brainstorming session, you need to maintain a checklist of steps. You should also assign roles to people attending the session. Some of the common roles for brainstorming sessions are time-keepers, facilitators, note-takers, etc.

Create a list of diverse participants

Prepare a list of participants for the event and get feedback on this list from past attendees to ensure a high quality session.

Also, pay attention to the diversity of the group to ensure diverse lines of thoughts and better output.

Prepare questions, goals and agenda ahead of time

List few open-ended questions for the beginning of the session to encourage participation.

Also, remember to share the agenda & goals to ensure that participants come prepared. This will also help keep them on track during the session.

Ensure that logistics are not a bottleneck

Ensure that logistics are ready so that there are no last-minute rushes. These checks include checking and confirming the rooms booked, stationary, sending reminder emails to participants, etc.

Conducting the brainstorming session

Start with the context

Start by validating the session by addressing its importance to the participants so that they know what's at stake and define the agenda and expectations from the session to ensure that the discussions stay on track.

Make assurances for the session

Inform the participants that the minutes of the session will be shared with them after the session so that they don't spend their time taking notes during the session and also, discuss the next steps for the ideas generated during the session to increase accountability in execution. People like to see value in things they contribute to.

Structuring the brainstorming session

Begin the session and set the structure

Dedicate the first few minutes to setting the agenda and defining the problem statement. You also need to have a breathing period between sessions for participants to recollect their thoughts and move around a little bit. At the end of each session, summarize what was accomplished and the plan for the next section.

Break the session and map the outcomes

Break the session into three parts: Open discussion where minimal boundaries are set to encourage new ideas, qualified ideas session where the best ideas from the first session are discussed, and finally, the conclusion and future steps session. Map the ideas that qualified for the second session on the board/screen to ensure that participants understand the context of the discussion.

Set the hierarchy of control and roles for the session

Ask the participants to introduce themselves to the group along with their connection to the problem the session is trying to solve and assert that the session's facilitator will decide when and how to move on from a discussion.

Post-session followup

It is important that you share the minutes of the meeting with each participant and ask for their feedback on the session. On the other hand, you should also prepare a list of top performers from the session and make it a priority to ensure their participation in future sessions.

It would also help to share the progress made on the ideas discussed and reasons for success and failure, this will help motivate the participants understand the realities of the solutions better.

Finally, after 3-6 months pass, it would be of good value to do a post-mortem of the session and the ideas discussed therein, so that participants can have their perspectives improved to better contribute in the next session.

Conclusion

Time and again, we learn that adding a little bit of structure to discussions can make the outcomes so much more potent and valuable, and brainstorming is no different.

So take the steps shared in this post and use them when you want to conduct your next brainstorming session, and let us know how it worked out. We would love to hear from you on our Twitter page.

Consider checking out Routine's own productivity podcast called "The Productive Minute" on iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify if you enjoy content like this. Thanks for reading.