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Brainstorming Methodology

3 Steps for Brainstorming Sessions

Brainstorming Methodology

Creativity can help you solve some of the most difficult problems, which is why it is an important criteria in new job postings. Yet why are some people so creative, and others aren't? Creativity in business is something that you can develop through practice with your team, using a more enlightened brainstorming approach.

In many organizations, brainstorming takes place in a meeting room where those who have the biggest voice "storm" those with littler voices. Sometimes there are ground rules (don't interrupt, never say no, etc), but still, if you didn't wake up on the right side of the bed that morning, it is unlikely that you will be contributing much.

Where do people usually have their best ideas? Think of yourself: is it in the shower, when you are out for a jog, or while laying in bed before sleep? Wherever it is, the common denominator is that you are by yourself! So how do you get a team to come up with great ideas? Consider this process:

1) Have each person do a "brainstorm" by themselves beforehand, and send draft notes to the facilitator. The facilitator would combine all of the ideas into one working document, and send to everyone before the meeting for review.

2) Use the group meeting to develop the ideas further – and possibly come up with additional ones. Use ground rules to make sure that no idea gets shot down.

3) Change the paradigm to produce truly creative ideas. For example, have the group answer the question: "How would Company X solve this problem?" Repeat this with very different companies (eg Apple, General Motors, FedEx, Nokia).

This week's action item: The next time you are leading a brainstorm meeting, use this methodology and see what happens. If you are "just" a participant, spend time beforehand putting together your pre-ideas. If you are in the mode for career planning for yourself, why not use this approach to help? Convene a group to help brainstorm your personal career development activities. Then spend time yourself prioritizing the ones that make the most sense.

Randall Craig is a Toronto-based management consultant, speaker, and author of "Leaving the Mother Ship," a career-planning book. For more information and resources: www.LeavingTheMotherShip.com and www.PersonalBalanceSheet.com.