Status meetings can often seem like time-consuming rumble strips, which only serve to slow a project down and drain it of enthusiasm instead of the desired opposite effect. One way of shifting the format of your status meetings to something more energizing is by altering its dynamic.
Brainstorming is a technique used to generate ideas on a theme in a short period of time, fostering collaborative and creative thinking to provide innovative solutions to a specific problem. Apart from being a method for troubleshooting and cultivating ideas, brainstorming is also used in the initiation phase of a project, as an information gathering technique and for risk identification.
In recent years, several different ways of brainstorming have been developed, approaching this creative process from different angles to promote innovation, stimulate imagination and encourage creative behavior. One of the biggest advancements in brainstorming has been the advent of online project management software. Many of our own customers at Clarizen have utilized this to assign and inform members of tasks in real-time, instead of creating minutes which must then be shared throughout the team.
Four different ways of brainstorming
While brainstorming is a very potent technique, in order to become productive and fruitful it is important to approach the process with an open mind, eliminate judgment and encourage your team to ask: “Why are we doing it this way?”
Here we propose four brainstorming techniques that support different styles of expression, to try at your next meeting.
- Brain Writing: The main advantage of this method, is that it enables everyone in the group to participate and contribute equally throughout the process and can often generate more solutions than conventional brainstorming. Combining key characteristics of individual and group brainstorming, the team works on a common topic and each member writes down their own ideas on a piece of paper.
Then, each paper passes to the member sitting next to them, who is asked to add their thoughts, elaborating or building on the initial concepts. This exchange goes on until everyone has had the chance to read and add to each of the original papers.
Afterwards, the notes are gathered on a flip board, shared with everybody and discussed. This approach leaves space and time to the individual to process and elaborate on their own ideas without distractions and influences from the “loudest” team members, resulting in the generation of a variety of unique ideas on the subject.
- Figure Storming: This practice is based upon basic roleplaying techniques, giving the opportunity to each member to step into someone else’s shoes, imagining and reflecting on how they would react if they were in their position. Simply by asking “What would X do, if they encountered a similar challenge?”, and pretending to be someone else, one can take the distance they need from owning an idea and put their ideas forward. The greatest benefit of this approach is that that it encourages different perspectives on the same problem and, since it is fun, it often works as ice breaker in meetings, helping team members who are not familiar with each other to relax and feel comfortable in sharing ideas.
- Brain-netting: Based on the basic concept of brainstorming techniques, brain-netting or online brainstorming is a modern method that many enterprises use to accommodate their needs, especially when their teams are virtual or are collaborating from a distance. The rapid evolution of online tools and the development of agile technologies and collaborative platforms such as Clarizen, provide the necessary virtual space where team members can record and share their ideas in real time. The greatest advantage of such tools is that they are designed for remote collaboration, they facilitate exchange, as well as the recording and mapping of ideas in the easiest and most time efficient manner. The possibility of live scheduling tasks and plotting the project path is a huge advantage of collaboration software.
- Starbursting: When introduced to a new, innovative idea the questions of how, what, why and when, start to burst in the mind, overloading the brain with mental images, ideas and solutions. This mode of brainstorming, instead of giving answers, aims to generate questions and requires the members to propose as many questions as possible. The round of questions can be used iteratively, adding new layers of questions each time, until the subject is thoroughly investigated. This is a useful way of examining and fully comprehending a new idea and ensuring the subject is considered from all angles, preventing any unforeseen problems and eliminating risk.
When conducted effectively and with an open mind, brainstorming has the potential to generate the most creative and radical solutions to any type of problem. Furthermore, it can reinforce team character, strengthening the bonds among team members and encouraging the cultivation of a creative and engaged work environment.