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Involvement in a brainstorming session can be stressful for some, as many believe that they will be asked, in front of others, to come up with a brilliant idea. This of course is not how brainstorming works. Brainstorming if it is well run, rather than being stressful, can be satisfying, exciting and even mentally refreshing. Successful brainstorming sessions will only occur if we are fully committed to seeking to get the best from the process for our self, our colleagues and our organization as a whole.

To help you understand how you should handle your role in a brainstorming event (and perhaps make the processes a little better) I offer the following points.

1. Brainstorming is not anything like a planning meeting and accordingly brainstorming sessions are better to be seen more as an EVENT.

2. When you attend a brainstorming or event we must always remember that we don't need any special knowledge outside of what you already know.

3. Our management level or status in our organization is not and must never be of any benefit, or hindrance, to participation.

4. For brainstorming to be effective both we and our other stormers should not at any time need to feel that we (or they) would be put in an embarrassing situation. If this atmosphere is not achieved no true brainstorming will occur.

5. All individuals need to be given time to work at the speed at which they are most comfortable.

6. Criticism of any involved in a brainstorming should be banned. All ideas should be seen as good ideas until late in the process when an analysis session is conducted. If you do feel the need criticise others, acceding to this temptation will kill all creativity.

7. We are usually working with members of a multicultural group in the sense of our roles or occupations (i.e. financial, production, human resources, technical, sales etc), however the overriding cultural influence must be that our business reality is driven by our customer expectations and that satisfying those expectations needs to be our central focus.

8. Individual (natural) personality traits and our behaviour in group situations is different for all of us and these differences need to be respected. Attention should be drawn to the following list of anti group behaviours that need be avoided.

i. Trying to dominate or lime-lighting

ii. Being dogmatic about a point of view

iii. Saying things to please the group, "groupthink"

iv. Interrupting others when they speak

v. Talking too much again becoming a "dominator"

vi. Talking too little being an avoider

vii. Opting to follow when you could lead

viii. Blocking by introducing irrelevant issues

ix. Rejecting ideas because you don't respect the presenter

x. Saying it won't work because of past experience

xi. Being passive or indifferent

xii. Clowning around, joking or mimicking

xiii. Having arguments based on a philosophical point of view or belief

xiv. Trying to lobby others xv. Competing to try and introduce the best idea

xvi. Self-Confessing or expressing personal non group feelings or points of view

xvii. Jumping to quick decisions regarding ideas being offered

xviii. Seeking sympathy for your own perceived hardships

xix. Not listening

xx. Daydreaming or thinking about other work issues

xxi. Having and pushing a "secret agenda"

9. Again during a brainstorming session we need to avoid the natural tendency to sit and try to think up brilliant ideas. Brainstorming will be more successful if we approach the event by seeing it as a group conversation and the ideas will come from the group based on where the conversation leads. 10. Brainstorming must focus on having some fun, nothing great will come from an overly serious formal meeting stifled by fear, reverence and an "I can't make a mistake" attitude. Remember most human progress or success is based on a history of mistakes and the willingness to try again.

For beginners a great first step to having a brainstorming session is to use the 6X3X5 method

A SILENT METHOD BY H. SCHLICKSUPP (Book - Creativity Workshop)

Step 1: Based on a single issue (mission, goal, objective, etc) each person on a team of six (6) writes down three (3) ideas in five (5) minutes

Sep 2: Each person then passes his/her sheet of paper to the next person who has 5 more minutes to write down 3 NEW ideas based on the 3 they receive from the person next to them.

Step 3: This process of building through rotation continues through the total no of team members (say 6). This means at the end of the process each team will have 6 sheets each containing 18 ideas. If teams of ten it would be 10 sheets each containing 30 ideas.

One of the interesting facets of this method is that the team members need to consciously need to build on the ideas of others. Also remember the bigger the team the greater the time spent, 30 minutes for groups of six or 50 minutes for groups of ten.

To me brainstorming is best when it is a verbal exchange of ideas, it runs a bit like a good joke session. If you have ever been in a group of people telling jokes it is often the case that one joke will jog the memory of another participant who will then tell another joke on a similar theme. This process often continues which leads another of the group to think of yet another joke and so on. Brainstorming if effective leads to new ideas in a similar fashion.

Copyright Orglearn - Richard Townsend 1999-2014