Nothing kills creativity quite like worry

Brainstorming is often something people dread. It’s one of the easiest ways to feel a complete idiot, coming up with a daft idea in public. It’s a powerful emotion – people worry that it will influence how others feel about them too. So what can be done to make brainstorming work?

Rob Briner, Professor of Organisation Psychology, believes it’s an ineffective management fad. He says that people find working in groups, “Cognitively Distracting”, spending their time worrying about how others assess them rather than think about the topic in question.

And that’s the central issue. How can you get people to relax, enjoy the process and let the ideas flow?

Here are five tips to help:

1. Choose a broad mix of participants. Different ages, disciplines and backgrounds and make sure that you have everything in the room that you need to avoid disturbances (maybe hold the meeting somewhere away from the normal working environment)

2. Frame the meeting topic beforehand and get people thinking about the issues as individuals before they meet up

3. Make sure participants understand that most of the ideas will be hopeless and off the wall. Ideas can be put forward anonymously on ‘Post-it notes’ to overcome fears, if necessary

4. Have a facilitator to keep people focussed and on track. Good questions will help achieve a great outcome and have a scribe to write everything down, so nothing gets lost

5. Circulate the meeting mind map and make sure people keep thinking about the issues and follow-up at a later date.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. But it’s a good start point to effective brainstorming.

And I know from experience that it works!

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