Tips for brainstorming

Brainstorming can be an effective way to generate lots of ideas
Brainstorming is most effective with groups of 8-12 people and should be performed in a relaxed environment. If participants feel free to relax and joke around, they'll stretch their minds further and therefore produce more creative ideas.

A brainstorming session requires a facilitator, a brainstorming space and something on which to write ideas, such as a white-board a flip chart or software tool. The facilitator's responsibilities include guiding the session, encouraging participation and writing ideas down.

Brainstorming works best with a varied group of people. Participants should come from various departments across the organisation and have different backgrounds. Even in specialist areas, outsiders can bring fresh ideas that can inspire the experts.

There are numerous approaches to brainstorming, but the traditional approach is generally the most effective because it is the most energetic and openly collaborative, allowing participants to build on each others' ideas.

Creativity exercises, relaxation exercises or other fun activities before the session can help participants relax their minds so that they will be more creative during the brainstorming session.

Tips for brainstorming effectively and efficiently
• Quantity not Quality.
When brainstorming on your own or with a team of people, the goal is to express as many ideas as possible very quickly. Do not self-censor or hesitate before offering an idea. A free exchange is what can help bring your most brilliant ideas to the surface.

• Pen to Paper.
Assign a person to write down all of the ideas on a sheet of paper that can be seen by all of the participants. This list will serve as the master and will be culled to include the most relevant suggestions.

• No Critics.
All ideas should be welcome and no one (leader or participant) should issue any type of verbal criticism toward an idea presented, no matter how off base it may seem at the time. This will help keep the environment supportive and help to encourage everyone to take part in the process.

• Time's Up.
For fertile idea generation, set a time limit. Having a ticking clock or a timer helps get the creative juices flowing.

• Go the Extra Mile.
Even after you think you've exhausted all of the possibilities, reexamine the ideas presented and push yourself to add a few more to the list.

• Change of Scenery.
Sometimes the best brainstorming and idea generation can happen in new surroundings. So, leave the all-too-familiar conference room behind and meet somewhere new, maybe a colleague's home, a park or a quiet cafι.

• Small Groups.
Brainstorming works best in groups of up to 15 people. If a group gets too large, some attendees may not feel as comfortable participating.

• Brainstorm Alone?
Sure, it's possible. Create a mind map starting with your central theme and branch off that, setting new ideas in different circles that connect to the central theme. Maybe one of your new ideas inspires you, so make it a theme and connect new thoughts to it. This form of mind mapping is commonly used by writers trying to spark their imagination. The main rules are the same: no self-censorship, set a time limit, and keep writing - the pen must be touching the page the entire time.

• Project Maps.
Mind maps are great to use in project management. One such use would be to brainstorm a list of all the questions you have regarding the scope of your project to make sure you are prepared with the answers.

• Have Fun!
Brainstorming can be fun, and is a great way to boost morale among employees and help them to feel part of the decision making process.

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