As a green belter, the projects you usually get to lead are normally the “just-do-it” type of projects where the solutions can be very much straightforward. The necessary action requires no further analysis and is only a matter of implementation.
But occasionally you and your team can be facing a blank wall. You need to be creative and come up with an innovative solution. You need to generate as many solutions as possible to evaluate its viability.
This is where a brainstorming session could come in handy. A brainstorming session generates a workable list, which the team can take forward for evaluation.
However a brainstorming session does not always yield productive results. As a project leader, it is crucial that you steer the team towards a productive session.
Here are some of the most common reasons why your brainstorming session might fail and what you can do to avoid it.
1. Not setting up a goal. Your project always have a goal, so why not set a goal for your brainstorming session? Framing or clarifying the question that needs to be answered might be straightforward but it is worth the effort to put it up front. What is the goal of the session? Is it to list the top 3 ways to generate website traffic? Is it to enumerate possible enhances to a new model. Framing the question helps the team decide the amount of time devoted for the session as well as establish the success indicators of the session.
2. Not using a method. While the brainstorming session is mostly free-for-all ideas generation and involves a lot of right brain thinking, the facilitation process needs structure. There is where your skill as a project leader should come in handy. Decide the best tool to facilitate your session. The most effective ones based on my experience are SCAMPER, Mind Mapping, Anti-Solution and 6 thinking hats.
3. No pre-work done. Most of the team members might think that the session is just a series of rambling and sharing. Some could come to the session unprepared. The best way to start the session and hence the ball rolling is assign a bit of pre-work. Perhaps before heading to the actual meeting ask the members to come up with 1 or 2 ideas aligned to the questions asked.
4. No follow through. The brainstorming session is not an end in itself. While you have generated a list at the conclusion you need to follow up to ensure that the solutions proposed are evaluated (there are several tools to use for this as well such as PICK matrix)
5. Too much or not enough members. The numbers of the members can ultimately dictate the number of proposals to evaluate at the end. An additional member can provide a synergistic effect on the ideas. Too many members though can be hard to facilitate and will not be enough to cover in an hour or two-hour session. The workable number should be around 5 to 6.
6. Too many distractions. Successful brainstorming sessions require focus. The last thing you would want would be to have distracted members who would occasionally check their mobile phones for any message or for members to be excused for a few minutes to respond to operational concerns. Implement a closed door no outside communication policy so that all efforts and attention are towards the session.
7. Not in proper mindset. The most innovative solutions require a spark of creativity and ingenuity. It requires lateral thinking. You will not know where that insight will come in but you can prime your team members to encourage lateral thinking by giving them out of the box thinking puzzles ahead of the session or in the first few minutes of the brainstorming session. Among the popular puzzles are the Completion Test, the Word Association test and Incomplete Picture.
A successful brainstorming session can ultimately determine the best solution to the problem at hand and tremendously impact the success of a project. As a Green belt practitioner ensure that that the above pitfalls are avoided so you could make the most out of your session.