You either love or hate a brainstorming meeting. Creative employees usually love them because they might be overflowing with ideas, while others might feel like they are a waste of time. Brainstorming can indeed be a waste of time when done wrong. But with preparation and the right structure, it's powerful in discovering new ideas and solving challenging problems. Plus, it could be a good way for a team to bond outside of the regular meetings.
A brainstorming meeting's primary purpose is to generate new ideas. It could be a new idea to bring a specific result or to solve a problem. It's usually done at the end or beginning of the quarter, especially when teams plan their quarterly or yearly roadmaps. But it can be done any time of the week, month, or quarter if the need arises.
Start with the why.
Simon Sinek, author and entrepreneur, always encourages to start with the why. Why did the team decide to have a brainstorming meeting? What is the main problem that you're trying to solve?
Prepare the agenda ahead of time.
When you know precisely why you're having a brainstorming meeting, you'll have a better time preparing the agenda. You'll also be able to narrow down the topics that need to be discussed.
Assign a facilitator.
A successful brainstorming meeting achieves the right balance between letting the ideas flow freely and staying within the guidelines, and having a facilitator manage the discussion and ensure that everyone stays focused. They also redirect the conversation if it trails off, reinforces the guidelines, and makes sure everyone feels heard.
Set a time limit.
Brian Tracy, personal development coach and productivity expert, recommends that a brainstorming session be around 30 minutes. However, as a manager, you should use your best judgment to understand how long your meeting should be. How many people are attending the brainstorming session? How complex is the problem? Try to set it for 30 minutes, and if needed, you can always extend depending on the quality of the ideas. Sometimes you have to play it by ear to ensure that you get the best results.
One of the best ways to keep your brainstorming effective and productive is to prepare the agenda and ideas asynchronously. That's why we've created a template that fits perfectly with any type of team type or size. This allows the facilitator and the contributors to prepare ahead of time.
What is the context of the meeting? Provide background information as to what lead to the decision to have a brainstorming session. More importantly, be very clear of the objective. For example, is the objective to think about a campaign to increase the organic traffic on the blog?
For ideas to flow, it's better to set guidelines. For example, in the context of a marketing brainstorming session, you shouldn’t include ideas for a paid campaign if your goal is to increase organic traffic. You might even have a way to rate ideas so that it's easier to shortlist them. You might rate them according to potential results and how easy it would be to execute.
Before the meeting, you can get initial ideas and include them in this section to get a head start.
When you have clear guidelines, then it will be easier to come up with a shortlist. If the team came up with 20 ideas, choose the top 5.
Time to turn those ideas into action. What else is needed to make a decision? Who will be the owners of the action items?
Brainstorming sessions don't need to be long and complicated. It should be fun, collaborative, and fruitful. With this brainstorming template, you can work together on ideas asynchronously, so you'll have a shorter yet more productive brainstorming meeting.