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Holding a Brainstorming Session

What if you don’t have a great idea worthy of proposing to your team?


First of all, don’t let that stop you. Even a bad proposal will become a better one with the 4 Steps of Alignment and a few smart people in the room that live into the principle of iterative co-creation.


However, if you feel that you want to walk in with a better starting proposal, we recommend hosting a brainstorming session with the team to get the creative juices flowing.


Here’s some tips on how to make the brainstorming session fun, efficient, and productive.


The key to brainstorming is to efficiently get as many ideas out on the table as possible.


Simply convening a group and asking each person to come up with ideas does not work, according to research cited by Keith Sawyer, author of Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration.


For one thing, I’ve observed that in brainstorming sessions, the first ideas presented, as well as ideas from a person of authority, often bias all the ideas that follow or prevent the expression of an opposing view.


To prevent bias from shutting out good ideas in your brainstorming session, start your session by asking each person to reflect silently and write their ideas down on a card before sharing with the group. Then sort the cards into themes and prioritize them.


To do this efficiently, first ask one person to share their idea and post it to a whiteboard, then ask if others had similar ideas on their cards. Collect cards from those people and place them near the first card.


Then ask another person to share a new idea. Post the second idea, then group similar ideas with that card. Continue until all ideas are on the wall and organized into themes.


This quickly and easily assembles affinity groups of ideas. Then narrow the list themes using multi-voting by giving each person in the group several votes.

They can use all of their votes on one idea if they feel that strongly about it, or they can distribute their votes over several items. This makes the degree of commitment to ideas more visible.


Run an Online Survey


To gather ideas from many people, your best option is an online survey. These are a cinch when you use free tools like Google Forms and Survey Monkey. In a short time, you can gather ideas from hundreds, even thousands of people and assemble them into a data table that allows you to sort and find themes.


However, if you prefer a more low-tech approach, you can also make a personal appeal for ideas through email or social media.


Host a Focus Group


A focus group is a small but demographically diverse group of stakeholders invited to share their reactions to an idea or product. Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members. During this process, the researcher takes notes to record the vital points.


The focus group gets you out of your echo chamber and can help you anticipate which ideas others will favor. However, if you find it too hard to convene a group, you can hold brief, private sessions to gather feedback and ideas instead.


While these suggestions provide a start for crowdsourcing ideas, for more creative methods, my go-to resource is The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures: Simple Rules to Unleash a Culture of Innovation (2016) by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless.


Use these methods to generate ideas, then write them up into a simple singular proposal that highlights the best or most popular idea.


I’d love to hear how this has helped you to discover the best ideas within the team using the Alignment principle and process of iterative co-creation.


How is your company culture changing when everyone is asked to contribute their ideas?


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