Effective Brainstorming with the Project Team
June 8, 2011 1 Comment
Whether the project is in its pre-planning, executing or monitoring stage, there will always be instances where the team needs to come together to perform some effective brainstorming. This could be conceptualizing a design inherent to the derivable, discussing the overall process to be adopted or trying to find a solution for a problem that has manifested itself.
Whatever the scenario, brainstorming is common parlance in the corporate world. When performed effectively, it is an excellent tool to have the team perform a free exchange of ideas and tackle some of the more difficult or challenging aspects of their target deliverable.
For the project manager, its important to be able to recognize the benefit of brainstorming to the success of the project and provide an outlet for its occurrence. With that being said, what are some of the key attributes to an effective brainstorming session? What can the project manager do to foster an environment that allows for a free exchange of ideas?
Target a Wide Array of Ideas
Whenever starting a brainstorming session, make sure the target participants are encouraged to be as ‘off the cuff’ at the outset. The point of brainstorming is, after all, to generate a lot of good ideas. Initially, some may be almost comical in nature, meant only to lighten the mood. But that is ok as well. The more comfortable the team is when it comes to voicing their opinions, the more smoothly the brainstorming session can proceed.
Discourage Criticism of Ideas
Nothing can stifle creative juices more than people being belittled when voicing their ideas. So it is absolutely imperative to state at the outset of a brainstorming meeting that ALL ideas will be given equal weight to begin with. The triaging of ideas or merging of thoughts can come later. But what must be avoided at the beginning is someway stating ‘that’s a dumb idea’ to a colleague. So ensure that everyone that is part of the brainstorming session is instructed to act professionally. No idea is ‘dumb’ when starting out.
Build upon the Ideas that Arise
Once the initial brainstorming session has yielded its numerous ideas, begin to encourage discussions on the ideas themselves. What ideas can be expanded upon? What ideas have overlap and can be potentially merged? Which ones may need to be tabled? The idea at this stage is to perform a little triage and begin to coalesce the ideas into more cohesive thoughts that can be eventually morphed into a tangible outcomes.
Triage the Ideas List Based on Feasibility
A final stage to the brainstorming session is to self assess the list of ideas that have emerged and begin to triage that list according to feasibility. There may be some good ideas on the table, but for one reason or another (technical or resource limitations), they cannot be implemented or considered at this time. Separating out those ideas that have merit but are not practical at this point will eventually yield the short list of ideas that can be tackled in the near to mid-term.
In conclusion, brainstorming is often a very effective way to have the team gather their thoughts in a collaborative fashion. It is also an excellent team building activity that gets the team members more comfortable in their existing role and place amongst the team. By allowing a free exchange of ideas to take place, you also foster a good social experience that makes the exercise seem more like an outing of friends as opposed to just peers working together.