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Six Great Ways to Ruin a Brainstorm

Six Great Ways to Ruin a Brainstorm


    The brainstorm is the most popular group creativity exercise. It is quick, easy and it works. But many organizations have become frustrated with brainstorms and have stopped using them. They say brainstorms are old-fashioned and no longer effective. But the real reason for the frustrations is that the brainstorms are not facilitated properly. A well-run brainstorm is fun and energetic. It will generate plenty of good ideas. But a poor brainstorm can be frustrating and demotivational. Let’s look at some simple ways to ruin your next brainstorm meeting.

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    1. Having no clear objectives

    A brainstorm with a vague or unclear purpose will wander and lose its way. So set a clear objective. The purpose of the brainstorm is to generate many creative ideas to answer a specific goal. It is best to express the goal as a question. A wooly objective is not helpful. ‘How can we do better?’ is not as good as ‘How can we double sales in the next 12 months?’ However, the parameters of the questions should not be too detailed or it can close out lateral possibilities. ‘How can we double sales, through existing channels and with the current product set?’ is probably too constrained. Once the question has been agreed it is written up clearly for all to see.

    It is worth setting objectives for the number of ideas to be generated and the time to be spent. ‘We are looking to generate 60 ideas in the next 20 minutes. Then we will whittle them down to 4 or 5 really good ones.’

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    2. Too homogenous a group

    If everyone is from the same department then creativity can be inhibited and you may get ‘group think’. Choose the group carefully. The best size is somewhere between six and twelve. Too few people and there are not enough diverse inputs. Too many people and it is hard to control and retain everyone’s commitment. Sprinkle the group with a few outsiders from other areas or even from outside the business – people who can bring some different perspectives and wacky ideas. A good mix of people works best – varied ages, men and women, experienced and fresh in, etc.

    3. Letting the boss act as facilitator

    Beware of having an autocratic boss with his or her team. They can inhibit or shape the discussion. If the boss is present then it is better to have a good independent facilitator – someone who can encourage input from everyone and stop one person from dominating. The worst formula for a brainstorm is generally the department manager leading the meeting and acting as scribe and censor at the same time.

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    4. Allowing early criticism

    The most important rule of brainstorming is – suspend judgment. In order to encourage a wealth of wacky ideas it is essential that no one is critical, negative or judgmental about an idea. Any idea that is uttered – no matter how stupid – must be written down. The rule about suspending judgement during the idea generation phase is so important that it is worth enforcing rigorously. A good technique is to issue water pistols; anyone who is critical gets squirted.

    5. Settling for a few ideas.

    Don’t get a handful of ideas and then start analyzing. Quantity is great. The more ideas the better. Brainstorming is one the few activities in life where quantity improves quality. Think of it as a Darwinian process. The more separate ideas that are generated the greater the chance that some will be fit enough to survive. You need stacks of energy and buzz driving lots of wacky ideas. Crazy thoughts that are completely unworkable are often the springboards for other ideas that can be adapted into great new solutions. So keep the crazy ideas coming – you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find one prince!

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    6. No closure or follow through.

    Don’t stop the meeting after generating lots of ideas with a vague promise to follow up. If people see no real outcomes they will become frustrated with the process and lose faith. You should quickly analyze the ideas at the meeting. One of the best ways is to divide the proposals into three categories – promising, interesting or reject. If any of the promising ideas are real no-brainers – so good that they should be implemented straight away then give them to someone as an action item immediately.

    You should categorize and collect the ideas. On a separate flipchart write all the promising and interesting ideas which are marketing ideas say and on another chart all the sales ideas etc. This process of rearranging the ideas can help you see new combinations and possibilities. Some people use post it notes at this stage so that they can easily move ideas around.

    If you are pressed for time then an alternative method of selecting the best ideas is to give everyone five points. They can allocate points to their favorite ideas in any way that they want. They can give one point to five separate ideas or all five to one idea. Then you total the points and select the best for further action.

    Close the meeting by thanking everyone for their input. Mention again one of two of the best, most inventive or funniest ideas. Then see which ideas you can implement – even if they are small things.
    People enjoy short, high-energy brainstorms that lead to actions. These meetings can motivate people, improve efficiency and drive innovation.

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    Paul Sloane

    Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

    How to Win an Argument – Dos, Don’ts and Sneaky Tactics How to Get Rich: 11 Bold Moves That Guarantee Wealth How to be a Brilliant Conversationalist Think Laterally Write A Killer Resume In Seven Easy Steps

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2019

    15 Smart Ways to Approach Interpersonal Relationships at Work

    15 Smart Ways to Approach Interpersonal Relationships at Work

    Once you have embarked on your professional life, whether it is after college or high school, you will be making a transition to the workplace. If possible, it is good to find an employer that is flexible. In other words, one that possesses a culture that is diverse and tailors to the needs of its employees as a bottom line.

    But, even if you don’t land your dream job right away, there are many ways to improve your experiences within the workplace as you climb the career ladder.

    In the subsequent sections will be looking over ways to engage your relationships at work, including 15 ways to effectively approach interpersonal relationships at the workplace.

    1. Open Up Cautiously

    Depending on if its a startup, a small business, enterprise or corporation it’s important to be aware of your surroundings.

    Be mindful of how much you open up about yourself, specifically regarding your personal life. You do not want to give the wrong impression, so be careful how much or what details you divulge about being in a relationship or having children.

    You have to reach a certain comfort level and rapport with the rest of the staff to be able to engage in transparent conversations. A good general guideline is to stick to small talk.

    2. Observe Your Surroundings

    There will be times when we are summoned to have a leadership role or to undertake a project to lead a team.

    Try not to be too bold or overcompensate at every turn when there is a meeting or an interaction among other staff or employees. The last thing you want to do is to be the person who wants to monopolize every conversation and every interaction.

    Be a passive observer at first, and more often than not, you will learn a lot by letting others talk a lot about themselves.

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    3. Listen Actively

    It may seem redundant, but it is essential to practice the art of really listening to the other person.

    Developing interpersonal skills and connections with others at work comes down to listening. It is not just paraphrasing what your superiors or colleagues are trying to communicate; it is about understanding what is at the core and reading between the lines.

    Phrases like “I can see what you are saying” or “I can acknowledge your insight” are just some examples. Learn to empathize and relate with people with whom you have a genuine connection.

    4. Consolidate All Feedback

    When you learn to listen to others and to allow them to finish their thoughts you are on your way to be being a great communicator.

    One of the toughest tasks to accomplish is to include everyone’s voice. Don’t rely on shout-outs or trying to come up with the best answer. Including everyone’s voice is about listening to all suggestions and putting together an entire picture. When everyone feels part of the process there is great cohesion.

    5. Never Make Sweeping Judgements

    As person and a human being with compassion never make any assumptions about anyone.

    Just because they have a certain skin color, clothes or physical features, never make stereotypical or generalizations about anyone.

    6. Keep Emotions in Check

    Work-related stress is something we all have to deal with at some point or another. Whether you work in the public or private sector you will encounter stressors or stressful co-workers. In this case, it is good to keep open the lines of communications.

    Always ask to clarify how a person feels and where they are coming from. It is better to entertain these conversations before they make a person lash out or have a negative reaction. Ask to speak privately and get feedback. When you do this it really shows you care about what your role is and that you are a true professional.

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    7. Give Help to Others

    Having compassion and empathy for others is a noble attitude to practice.

    Though, do be careful about how much you want to get involved with colleagues at the office; it could jeopardize the nature of your work relationship and the roles you both have.

    It’s best to separate the personal from the professional and lend a hand by using your best judgement.

    8. Broaden Your Horizons

    Once you have worked in a company or an organization, things can get repetitive and dull. Sometimes we need to remember that we are human and need to fulfill certain responsibilities.

    Often we want to try to change things by introducing our best abilities or perhaps our inventions, but we need to be realistic. Change does not happen overnight, rather it is a long process.

    Step back and take a look at the big picture, and, put all your cards on the table to get perspective. Sometimes we approach situations in life from the wrong point-of-view.

    9. Be Optimistic

    This is probably one you have heard time and time again.

    When we suggest to have a positive attitude it does not mean to fake it until you make it, nor to conceal your feelings. This is not the case in this situation. Overall, you want to try to be authentic in how you are feeling, because life will throw curve balls that are beyond our control.

    10. Be Sensitive to Cultural Norms

    Whenever you are around other people within a professional workspace, do not make assumptions in trying to figure people out in an instant.

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    Some cultures discourage physical contact, while others may be inviting. Always be courteous, respectful and ask questions. It will not only make you more aware of others’ needs, but show that you are considerate of the differences.

    You do not want to get off on the wrong foot by being too friendly or too touchy. Just observe how people respond to your approach and let them lead the way of what is a safe practice to meet and greet the first time around.

    11. Show Professionalism

    How you interact and carry yourself around others will be the difference between a job promotion or losing your job. No matter what, always respectful and professional towards others.

    You will have an opportunities in life and at work, so showcase an outpouring of great and positive energy in the face of adversity.

    12. Get Involved with Activities

    When you are part of a company, there are often opportunities for organized activities outside of the office space.

    Sometimes it is worth exploring uncharted terrain and to get to know people in a different environment. Plus, you will have an opportunity to be seeing in a different light.

    Even though you are off the clock, keep your professional tenure and set boundaries. You want to be vulnerable, but not put yourself in a comprising position. Use your intuition and common sense to evaluate these situations.

    13. Get to Know Your Company

    With your smartphone or your laptop, you have at your fingertips a mine of information online. Just as you would do before a job interview, conduct ample research to get familiarized with what your company does and how its branding is perceived via the media or social networks.

    Rather than just focusing on doing your job and fulfilling the duties, see what the business is up to. It is fundamental to really know what organization you belong to. Get educated on what other ventures they are involved with as well as the ones that you are directly in the know about.

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    14. Learn to Problem Solve

    Problem solving is going to be a skill you will acquire with experience and by making mistakes. Furthermore, not only will you make mistakes but you will likely also sometimes fail. This is okay and is part of the natural swing of things!

    Learn to take responsibility for your actions and decisions. At the same time, do not blame others for coming up short. When you come forward with the truth and responsibility, your supervisors or superiors will take notice of your authenticity.

    One of the greatest gifts in life is fail and once you experience you start to get a different perspective on how to move forward at the job.

    15. Do Some Prospecting

    If you have coding, computer, language or other beneficial skills, be sure to pitch these at the right time.

    When you start out new at a company it is best not to show all your cards. It is like poker: don’t let others see if you believe you have the upper hand. Take time to get familiarized with your company and organization before promoting your outside skillset.

    You will know when to put forward your amazing talents, so proceed with caution.

    Conclusion

    Learning to refine your interpersonal skills is a lifelong process. In time, you will also became more effective and skillful after accumulating work-related experiences.

    Exert humility, understanding, compassion, and mindfulness and the rewards will come!

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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