Brainstorming is a tool that helps to encourage creativity in your team. When managing projects a leader may need to stimulate creativity to identify alternative approaches and possible solutions, before focusing energy on a small number of high potential ideas. Brainstorming can help to generate new insights and innovative ideas.
- When you're defining the scope of a project and the possible solutions, you need to be creative. Like Einstein once said, "We cannot solve our problems "with the same thinking we used "when we created them." Creativity has business value. Sometimes, teams get stuck. Other times, they can get excited and get busy working on one solution, only to find out later that there was a much better way to accomplish the same thing. A good project leader can save their sponsor a lot of time, money, and effort by helping their teams be creative from the very start.
Brainstorming is a simple exercise that makes it almost easy for even the most rigid team to experience the power of creative thinking. Brainstorming is such a powerful tool because it taps into the knowledge and experience of the entire team, and as one of my friends says all the time, "None of us is as smart as all of us." But to get the full value out of brainstorming, you need to get everyone fully engaged.
And there are some specific things that you should and shouldn't do when you're trying to get a group of people to share their best ideas. For example, you should find ways to make sure that everyone is comfortable, engaged, and feels safe. That means, for example, setting job titles aside. Otherwise, instead of getting everyone's best ideas, what you really end up with is a hippo, the highest paid person's opinion. Establish a no criticism ground rule.
Any idea that anyone has is okay. And no one is allowed to challenge or change the idea during the brainstorming, including the person who had the idea. It's fine if one idea triggers another idea for someone else, that's not changing the idea. That's a new idea. Encourage people to think at extremes. You might ask, "How would we do this on the moon? "How would we do this if the materials cost "a million dollars per ounce?" Thinking at the extremes sometimes opens up innovative new possibilities.
And, find some way to capture the ideas that doesn't interfere with the free flow of creativity and discussion. Ideas that seems silly at the time can make perfect sense later. Maybe people could write their ideas on sticky notes, maybe you appoint someone to take notes. Maybe, you make an audio recording or a video. Or maybe, you can use an online tool, like a shared document that everyone can contribute to.
Think for a minute about the challenge that our team at H+ Sport is facing. They need to bring together a team of people who understand the different elements of the business: sales, marketing, fulfillment, purchasing, information technology. This group could use brainstorming to come up with lots of different options for solving the problems they're facing. For more detailed information on brainstorming, you can check out Stefan Mumaw's Brainstorming Basics course on this site.
If you want people to think creatively and generate lots of ideas, you also need to realize that it can be a messy process. There will probably be a good bit of redundancy and overlap among the ideas. Many, if not most of them, will not be useful. But as Thomas Edison said, "To have a great idea, have a lot of them." Project leaders can use brainstorming to draw out the creative potential in a group of people when they're defining the project.
Because brainstorming gets people engaged and invested in ideas, it encourages teamwork and it can often help a team find innovative, new paths on their journey to project success.
- Name who is responsible for approving the resources for the project.
- Recall what the spine of a fishbone diagram represents.
- List characteristics of the environment.
- Identify the tools used for mapping processes.
- Recognize what needs to be captured on the action item list.
- Recall what project metrics should be related to.