There was a time when I thought that all my ideas during team brainstorming sessions were bad. An idea would come to me and I would sit there, holding it in, listening to everyone else spout idea after idea while I silently convinced myself that mine would be laughed at – or worse, people would just stare at me and shake their heads in disbelief at just how terrible my idea was. I felt like my idea needed to be perfect before it could be shared. Pretty ridiculous, right? It turns out it’s actually quite a common feeling in team brainstorming sessions, particularly among us introverted folk. But like any learned skill, with practice and the right environment I was able to strengthen my brainstorming abilities to a point where I felt like I could freely contribute ideas without feeling like I was going to break into a cold sweat and make a sudden bolt for the door.
So how do you create an environment where everyone can feel comfortable voicing their creative ideas in a team setting, where there are no bad ideas? Let’s look at some facts.
FACT: Brainstorming groups come up with fewer ideas (and fewer good ideas) than individuals who work alone.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Give your team members the topic beforehand so they have time to come up with ideas on their own, and then regroup as a team. We often do this at NGX as a way to get the creative juices flowing. The team can spend some time with Pinterest, Google, Dragdis or their favourite tool to explore some ideas on their own before meeting. I find that this little bit of prep time not only builds confidence prior to the team meeting, but breeds more diverse ideas overall.
FACT: Team brainstorming favours the first idea, which then causes everyone else to lose sight of their own original ideas.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Get your team to write down their ideas before you discuss them. This allows people to get their ideas on the table before conformity pressure kicks in and everyone gets behind the first idea they hear. This also prevents convergent thinking from occurring, which is when the first idea floods the brain of everyone else in the room and they forget their own unique ideas.
FACT: Anonymous brainstorming reduces evaluation apprehension.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Have your team submit their written ideas anonymously on unidentifiable post-its and place all of them on a common white board, then discuss each idea as a group. We’ve done this at NGX and it not only reduces any apprehension someone might have about the quality of their idea, it also means that each idea will be viewed more objectively by the team.
FACT: Brainstorming is about quantity, not quality.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Don’t dwell on the quality of the ideas as they come in. Instead, encourage more new ideas to build momentum. Approach brainstorming as a collection process rather than an evaluation process. This will create an open, collaborative, and positive environment where people will feel comfortable voicing any and all ideas.
-Jason Clarke, Content Strategist