9 Simple Tips For Leading Brilliant Brainstorms


by Lisa Bodell for [email protected]

Leading a productive brainstorm isn’t a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. It’s the product of smart planning. After holding thousands of ideation sessions — including plenty that were less-than-awesome — I’ve learned a few pro tips for keeping the momentum up and avoiding the awkward silences. Regardless of your organizational title or public speaking experience, this formula is designed for anyone who needs to tap into the creative resources of a group.

1. Invite with intent. Identify the eight to ten individuals best suited for your objective: should you invite people within one area of the business or do you need more diversity of thought? Defining the specific goal of your brainstorm should help you clarify your invite list. Share your goal with participants either in the invite or a few days before so people come prepared. Send supporting materials or relevant URLs to invitees in advance — and mention the variety of snacks you’re serving in exchange for their valuable ideas.

2. Location matters. The energy of your meeting is highly influenced by the energy of your meeting spaceCreativity occurs when our senses are heightened so try to schedule your brainstorm in a new location or creative space. If the weather is gorgeous but you don’t have outdoor space, meet at a nearby park or a coffee shop with patio seating. Another option is to reconfigure the furniture in your usual meeting space to encourage more interaction. Ideally, choose an uncluttered space with windows and the right table set-up: several small tables encourage group interaction vs. one long conference table.

3. The rules of engagement. At the start of your meeting, ask participants to check distractions at the door. Request that everyone sets aside smartphones, egos, and unproductive criticism for the duration of the brainstorm. Or, if your invitees are known for multi-tasking in meetings, consider welcoming everyone at the door with a smile — and a box for stashing devices.

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