Rules for Brainstorming
Brainstorming is popular, because it is simple and delivers great results quickly. There are, however, as with any given method, a few rules that make brainstorming more successful. With these simple rules that each participant and the facilitator should follow during a brainstorming finding solutions will be even more effective.
Brainstorming rules for participants
Courtesy and openness are the prerequisites of brainstorming. These are the rules of brainstorming, all participants should be aware of:
Never criticize ideas immediately
The ideas must flow freely in brainstorming. A supposedly immature idea often leads to new ideas. Criticism during brainstorming slows the flow unnecessarily. Rather than directly criticizing an idea propose something better. However, from time to time, it can be helpful to point out the weaknesses of a solution objectively and thereby give the brainstorming a new direction. When doing so, highlight the positive aspects of the idea and try brainstorming on other ideas on top of those positive aspects.
Ideas are no ones property
Brainstorming is a group process. That is why no participant in a brainstorming session has a patent on his ideas. The idea is a product of the group because it has arisen from the brainstorming process and input of the other participants. The proposed solutions become the property group. Then, the participant will not feel the need to defend his idea which would be hindering to the brainstorming process. It is the task of the group in a brainstorming session to develop the best out of any idea. At the same time, in a brainstorming no one has to be ashamed of a bad idea.
No idea is kept from the group
Brainstorming is all about quantity. The ideas are valued later and the best solution will be voted on. It is important that each participant appreciates the brainstorming session as an opportunity to express unusual thoughts. In a brainstorming session, even the most crazy idea can inspire another participant. The rules of brainstorming say, we should not criticize others for bad ideas. Everyone should apply this golden rule of brainstorming also to himself!
Formulating accurate and short ideas makes it easier for all participants of the brainstorming to follow the discussion and to develop new ideas. The discussion should always be conducted separately from the brainstorming. Participants should be aware that they hinder others from thinking by speaking too long. Electronic tools can separate idea generation from idea consumption and allow everyone to follow at his own brainstorming pace.
Absorb the ideas of others
The brainstorming is based on the principle that each participant is inspired by the ideas of others. Being attentive and respectful for the ideas of others is just the basis of each brainstorming. It is important that each participant is willing to actively work on the ideas of others and let the brainstorming unfold. Brainstorming is in a way like a basketball game where the team is passing the ball to each other until one of them has a brilliant idea and scores. And if he misses, they start all over.
Brainstorming rules for the facilitator
The facilitator of a brainstorming has an important role. At the end of the day it is his job to keep the discussion going and lead the brainstorming session to success. The following rules help brainstorming:
Set the stage
The facilitator should begin a brainstorming session by mentioning the aim of the session. All participants need to know what should be achieved with the brainstorming. There should always be only one topic in each brainstorming. It may also help to reassure why brainstorming was choosen as the method. (For help, see the article Benefits of Brainstorming). The facilitator may remind the participants of the rules of brainstorming.
Even more than the participants the facilitator must emphasize the freedom of brainstorming. For the success of the brainstorming session it is essential that participants have the feeling that they can express their ideas freely and that every idea has a value. Therefore, the facilitator should respect every idea. To remove contributions of participants is only allowed if they violate the rules of brainstorming. And even then, it must be well justified and explained.
Integrate shy people
Not everyone feels well at once with the brainstorming method. Some people are shyer than others or have attended a poorly moderated brainstorming session. The facilitator can use different technologies, for example anonymous idea generation on paper or an on online tool to get everyone to participate in the brainstorming. It is important that everyone is taken seriously in the brainstorming.
Mixture of different people
Brainstorming is fueled by the variety of ideas and how they stimulate each other. Therefore it is beneficial when people with different backgrounds participate in the brainstorming.The creativity can multiply itself in such a brainstorming session.
Individual brainstorming breaks
The method of brainstorming relies mainly on creating new ideas based on other ideas. For this creative process, each participant must also have the chance to think a moment on his own. A good brainstorming facilitator ensures that participants have enough room to develop their own ideas.