There is no more need to have long and boring meetings with analysts and stakeholders to encourage them to come up with new ideas and strategies—at least not if you can make your meetings more engaging, interactive and, dare we say it, fun. For this, you might want to consider brainstorming as a way to bring in a breath of fresh air.
What Is Brainstorming?
I’ve seen brainstorming described as a “process for generating creative ideas and solutions through intensive and freewheeling group discussion.” Using this technique, leaders can encourage their team to think out-of-the-box and come up with sometimes radical ideas and solutions without being overcome by shyness or intimidation. Since you can never have enough good ideas, the technique is useful in generating several approaches to an issue, any of which can be used (or not). In brainstorming, no idea is ever a bad idea. Indeed, all ideas are acceptable.
BABOK on Brainstorming
The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge says that, “The aim of brainstorming is to produce numerous new ideas, and to derive from them themes for further analysis.” That makes brainstorming a powerful tool at almost any stage of a project.
In any meeting format, there are always a couple of participants who take time to come out of their shell or are just not used to thinking beyond set patterns. Brainstorming is a great technique for getting the less-involved or quieter members of your team to open up their imagination, think creatively and become participative. At the same time, take care to put together a group of diverse participants, since each one can bring a unique idea to the table. Brainstorming can bring about a broad spectrum of ideas and expertise to the discussion, something other methods may not.
Often, junior employees tend to be withdrawn around their seniors. They refrain from presenting their ideas, no matter how good they are, because they fear a backlash. Keeping everything equal between all participants is an essential element of brainstorming, and reduces inhibitions and related shyness.
Brainstorming should be a fun and effective way of team building as it brings everyone involved in a project together on a common platform, with each one contributing toward a shared solution. The best part is that as they arrive at one, everyone feels that they’ve contributed. That creates a bond between participants.
No Fear of Rejection
In a brainstorming session, there is never any “right” or “wrong” idea, so fear of rejection can be eliminated—or at least minimized—in the participant’s mind. Certain ideas that might be found unsuitable can be parked for later consideration. It’s important to be able to work in an environment where ideas are respected and the environment is neutral.
Mind Maps: Tying it Together
Mind Maps are an approach that complement brainstorming sessions very well. They’re graphical representations used to visually organize information gathered from brainstorming. Wikipedia says mind maps are often “created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank landscape page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those.” There are also a variety of different mind maps that can be used just like there are variations of different kinds of brainstorming sessions.
If facilitated properly, a brainstorming session can bring to fore a plethora of ideas, strategies, information and excitement to the team. Mind Mapping helps organize and give some direction to all of these ideas and information, and provides a useful visual channel for those efforts. For this method to work best, the facilitator needs to build a healthy and safe environment to foster creativity and eradicate any scope for bullying and infighting. It’s always better to prepare and plan beforehand and have a set of ground rules related to focusing on the problem, being fair and respectful of others’ opinions, and building on the ideas of teammates.
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