Whether you are attempting to solve pressing problems at work or seeking ways to increase membership in your favorite association, a brainstorming session is a sure-fire way to generate ideas. The great thing -- you don't have to go it alone.
1. Set Purpose. This step is important to the effectiveness of the session. Will you meet with the purpose to generate solutions to solve a problem? Is your goal to increase customer loyalty? Don't wait to take action on this step.
2. Organize Meeting. The key is to get the right mix of people in a suitable room. Eight to twelve participants are ideal for the session. Also bring the right tools i.e. flip charts, pens, and markers. And yes, having a flip chart requires that you select a scribe to write ideas on chart paper.
3. Set Rules. You want to set rules so everyone stays on track and productive. At a minimum set your time limit, and the no criticism rule. As the leader, make sure all participants understand the no criticism rule, because one critical remark can halt the flow of ideas.
4. Brainstorm Ideas. One method is to go around the room having each participant share an idea. The idea can be outrageous or logical - jot them done with no criticism. Keep going around the room till the time allotted is complete. Participants are allowed to pass on a turn if they don't have an idea in mind at that moment. Aim for 25 - 50 ideas. In my experience, more is better.
5. Clarify. At the end of the session, if necessary, clarify ideas that are not clear. This is not the time to evaluate the ideas. Save the evaluation of ideas for the follow up meeting, preferably the next day.
The 5 steps discussed above are important to generate ideas, but you must do something with those ideas. In a followup meeting, review the ideas and set criteria for choosing the top idea(s) to work with.