Today let’s talk about setting up brainstorming sessions. There’s lots of chatter back and forth about the usefulness of brainstorming sessions. I am on the Pro-brainstorming side of the argument. I find that done correctly, it is a fast way to help people feel included on your project and you get the benefit of obtaining many points of view. Plus I’m an extrovert so I love the energy and fun and laughing and team building that takes place.
Today I want to walk you through how to pick participants for a brainstorming session. People as me this question a lot so it seemed like a good blog topic.
This summary describes the types of people that you should think about inviting to an open BLUE SKY anything is possible we’re looking for thousands of ideas type of brainstorming. You should always take time to think about the participants and what the goal of your session is during the planning stage of your brainstorming activities. Sometimes you cannot choose who to invite and then you’ll need to consider how best to incorporate and encourage the folks on the “less helpful” list below.
There are 3 kinds of people you want at your workshop
1.) Your team (in some cases you are a team of 1 right now but if you think anyone might be part of the team later in the development make sure to include them now for this activity)
2.) Creative thinkers – You know who these people are, they are the people who are talented in many ways not just smart at their jobs. They write, they sing, they draw, they do arts and crafts, they build models and prototypes, they work with their hands, love to build things, tell great stories. Find a few of these people and invite them.
3.) Problem solvers- who are the people you go to when you need a problem solved? These are the people who will be able to think through and around a problem in many ways until they hit on a solution that works. They are dependable and smart and open to solving problems in many different ways. Sometimes these people are also technical experts in a particular area. Don’t worry if that area is not your exact topic ! You want to invite a few people with a proven successful problem solving reputation.
There are a few kinds of people that are not helpful at these kinds of workshops
1.) Mean, rude, or generally discontent people- you know who these people are ! Even if they are the world’s expert on your topic, they are not the right personality for this kind of workshop. You can approach them 1 on 1 later for expert advice and help. Don’t contaminate your group or make the day harder than it has to be by inviting someone that will remove positive energy from the room. This kind of person makes sarcastic mean comments out of the side of their mouths when they think you cannot hear them or are not looking. They roll their eyes, sigh, and may even become verbally aggressive if they feel ignored or slighted.
2.) Very concrete logical thinkers who are upset by incomplete or unknown solutions- you probably know someone like this too. This person is always picking away at an idea, finding what’s not going to work, what’s wrong, why something is impossible. They need to know HOW it will work RIGHT NOW they are not content with the answer “we’ll figure that part out later”. A person like this will most likely be miserable at the workshop because you are not going to allow them to find the problems with an idea you are going to accept every idea as being equally good. This kind of person says BUT a lot when you are telling them your idea. They are very good at immediately identifying the PROBLEM with an idea. This kind of person is going to be very important to have on our team for the next phase of our project but we are not ready to call them in to help yet.
3.) People who will not contribute ideas in a group environment - These people are intensely shy and quiet. They HATE attention and seem to grow uncomfortable (they may look nervous or sick) if you call attention to them and ask them to speak in front of a group. These types of people can be brilliant and wonderful but the best way to get their ideas is 1 on 1 or to ask them to submit their ideas in writing to you. The idea of this workshop is to build on the many ideas thrown out by the group. If this person will not contribute then you are wasting a spot in the room that could go to someone that will be happy and feel great about contributing and playing in a group setting.
So have a great time planning your session. Starting with the right people in the room is a good first step. Next time we’ll address if you need a facilitator and how to choose a good one.
Soldier On !