Building a Beneficial Brainstorm

A reader writes…

Hi Anita,

I am looking for a fresh new way to get the creative juices flowing in my team. I have tried to host a brainstorm but was not successful as I had hoped. What do I need to do to have a brainstorming session that promotes creative thinking and will be beneficial to all involved?

Hi, Brainstorm Builder!

Bringing together a group of talented individuals with unique perspectives can do wonders for your team. But in order for a brainstorm to function properly, you will want to follow this simple plan and include an assortment of key elements that will really make the sparks fly.

Put together a Dream Team. For brainstorming to work at its best, youBrainstorm are going to need the number one, most important ingredient…brains! An ideal number is 6-10 people, and to throw some interesting twists into the mix, bring in a person from a different area of expertise. For example, if you work in Marketing, invite some members of the sales team to participate in your discussions. Different perspectives bring forth new ideas!

Bring in an outside facilitator. This individual should be someone from your company, but from a different department. Many people default to appointing the manager or department head to lead a brainstorm discussion. I think it is best to avoid this approach as it can lead to shaping and guiding ideas back to the standard mold.

Escape from the ordinary location. Break away from the day-to-day scenery of the office for brainstorms. Parks and playgrounds are a great location, as well as museums and scenic outlooks. Better yet, try a location that is applicable to your brainstorm goals. If you are thinking of new ways to encourage children to eat more vegetables, why not visit a local farm or farmers market. These visuals will awaken creativity!

Define the problem and what you are trying to achieve. Once you have determined what the goal is of the brainstorm and what you hope will come out of discussion and reflection, get the wheels turning. Ask participants to begin thinking about ideas on how to solve the problem and request that they come to the table with at least 3 alternatives and solutions to share with the group.

IdeasThink outside of the box. Make it clear to your team that there are no wrong answers at the brainstorm. Encourage your staff to dream wildly and come up with solutions that may lie outside of the norm. Stir up the wild thinking and see how far they can push themselves and stretch the boundaries. If it weren’t for this kind of thinking, who knows where we would be? Imagine a world with no electricity. Airplanes. Telephones. All very scary thoughts and all way outside of the box.

Quantity, not quality. Yes…you read that right. We are looking for the most content as possible here, people. Ideas can later be sifted through and viability/quality can be determined. The more ideas you have the more you have to work with and build upon.

Build off of one another. One idea has the potential to spur hundreds of other ideas. Encourage participants to “piggy-back” off of the creativity of others.  It will help produce more ideas and help the group move forward together.

Designate a note taker. If all goes to plan, ideas will be flying left and right. Be sure to have a person whose sole purpose is to capture and record all ideas and information being discussed. You don’t want any of that creativity to slip through the cracks.

Now that you have all the ideas on paper, I suggest bringing everyone together one final time to review the ideas. As a group, discuss and then select the strongest ideas. It may take a few rounds of brainstorming to come up with the ideal solution. Once you have narrowed it down, assign follow-up activities for the ideas you have designated as contenders. You will want to set deadlines, hold your team accountable, and keep track of the progress.

See this video for some other great tips about brainstorming and some silly ideas on preserving gum…Crazy, right?

What have you found to be the best tips for brainstorming?

Sincerely,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Networking Know-How

A reader writes:

Hi Anita! I am new to the area and in search of a new job. I have heard and learned from reading your blog that networking is one of the most important aspects of job hunting. Can you offer any advice to help break the ice and get the most out of professional networking?

Dear, Need-to-Network,

Thank you so much for the great question. I have said time and time again that networking is extremely important when it comes to finding your next position. The more people you know, the more likely you are to bridge the gap between Business Man with Cardbeing a stranger or being the candidate that comes highly recommended. Getting your foot in the door and your résumé to the top of the pile is an incredible advantage in today’s world.

First off, get yourself a professional set of business cards with your contact information on them. Even if you are not currently employed, you should still be prepared. Being able to exchange business cards is networking gold! Think about it. How embarrassing is it to be empty-handed when you finally meet the CEO of the company you are dying to work for and he/she asks for your info. You just blew that first impression. Companies like Vista Print offer deals where you get 250 business cards FREE! All you pay is shipping and processing. Now you have no excuse not to have them! Include your name, address, telephone number, email, and other vital contact information.

One of the big No-Nos in networking is focusing your attention elsewhere, as in playing with your phone or carrying on a text messaging conversation. It makes you look Thumbs up from Womandisinterested, unapproachable, and worst of all, unprofessional. Do yourself a huge favor and leave your phone in the car or keep it in your pocket on silent. You are networking to meet new people, not to catch up with old ones.

Many of us, including me (I know, HARD TO BELIEVE), can find ourselves at a loss for words when placed under pressure or in a new social setting. Before you go to an event, prepare and arm yourself with what we call an “elevator speech.” When a hiring manager or person of interest asks you “what do you do?” or “what are you future career goals?” you will be ready to give them a response with a punch. You will leave them with an impression that you are smart, confident, and maybe even their next star employee!

Keep your spiel short, sweet, and strong for the most impact. Also be ready with follow-up questions to keep the conversation moving. (Check out my “Sell Yourself… Quickly” post for more tips.)

Finally, don’t be afraid to speak up and talk to others. This is probably the most difficult part of networking. It would probably be easier to be a wallflower and blend in with the crowd, but that is exactly the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. If you see a group of people talking, pick up your head, perk up your posture, and stroll over and introduce yourself. The more you do it, the less awkward it gets. Before interrupting their conversation, however, do be sure you read their body language; if they’re having a serious and intense discussion, wait a bit before going over.

Check out this video on Networking’s Golden Rule for one final tip:

Readers, what tips and tricks have you found helpful during networking opportunities?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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