The primary objective of a brainstorming session among a group of individuals is for them to pitch in all ideas that they can contribute so that the group may be able to come up with a good idea amenable to everyone. Ideas from various sources are not supposed to cancel out each other but must instead find a way to use all good points that come out from each source positively. In businesses, civic groups, or clubs, members usually hold brainstorming sessions so that they may come up with a cohesive idea or solution to an issue being addressed. It is how companies channel its workers’ ideas to make it function as an efficient unit. Compare it to the way any efficient PBX works and you pretty well get the idea: Open communication lines!
Brainstorming sessions are done along the premise that if you democratize ideation among members of a group and each member of the group participates enthusiastically; a potentially good idea may be arrived at quickly. This can only happen, however, if the participants in a session are aware of the major requirements that make brainstorming activities successful. Basically, participants in a brainstorming session must be capable of generating useful, positive, logical, constructive, and doable ideas; and must be capable of respecting other participants’ ideas. Discussed further below are the factors that make or break brainstorming sessions.
• A serviceable premise or starting point. You get the ball rolling by defining the problem or clarifying the issue that needs to be addressed. This becomes the premise that rationalizes why you need to get your heads together to brainstorm for a solution. People naturally can only come up with coherent ideas about anything once they are properly informed or refreshed about the agenda. Keep in mind that a brainstorming session is essentially a meeting of the minds.
• A high level of intelligent participation. It is easier to arrive at a good idea when those in participation are equipped with a good enough mind to come up with ideas that can be discussed intelligently. It is better to let all ideas out without anyone editing or canceling out any idea initially. Some groups list down all possible solutions or alternatives and then pick out the best, logical and the doable among them.
• Solutions orientation. Discussions must be about solutions only after the main starting premise has been agreed upon. Going back to the problem or issue will only derail the thought momentum and the whole process.
• Open-mindedness. It is easier to come to an agreement or consensus when participants all go about the discussion with open minds. Options, alternatives and possibilities are better explored when you venture into ideas with a mind willing to learn new things or view things from new perspectives.
• An unfocused objective. This is the result of a group’s failure to define the problem or issue that needs to be addressed. This leads only to a frustrating experience where the group finds itself going round in circles around a number of issues but never arriving at any single resolution to anything being discussed. Avoid this by being definite about the problem or issue supposed to be addressed.
• A lack of interest. Participants who hold back on their thoughts for fear of criticism or rejection are sources of disinterest in any discussion. The same rut you get into with members withholding important information so that their personal motives may not be adversely affected by whatever decision the group arrives at. Replace people like this with people having higher levels of participation and appreciation.
• Analysis paralysis. Avoid this tendency to over read and analyze situations to the point of paranoia about potential repercussions group decisions may bring about. Overanalyzing and being overly critical of possible repercussions usually result in indecisiveness. Keep in mind that no decision made will always be worse than making a wrong decision. The latter can be corrected quickly while the former only invites disaster.
• Absolutism. Being absolute about anything is the extreme anti-thesis of the very reason why groups brainstorm for good ideas. It is undemocratic, unprofessional, irrelevant and absolutely bad practice. Business is also about flexibility.