Factors That Slow Down Brainstorming

In a good brainstorm session, everybody is able to give his or her input. In an ideal world, you work with engaged colleagues and get inspired from their ideas. When a team really dares to think out of the box you prove that 1 + 1 is much more than 2.

However, the unfortunate fact is that the real world is far from the ideal world. In too many companies one finds people dragging themselves from meeting to meeting, sitting around the table waiting for the chairperson to arrive and colleagues taking minutes of the meeting.

In this post, we’d like to share some of our ideas about how to conduct good brainstorming sessions, as well as two factors that slow down the process and make meetings less effective.

A good brainstorming session has to engage people and challenge them to be creative. Throw away any notebooks brought and, instead, take notes and meeting minutes together on a big surface for everyone to see.

Throw away the agenda

We’ve seen companies where employees had a brainstorming session regarding the design of a new product. The first thing we saw was a formal agenda, including topics such as ‘ease of use’, ‘costs’, ‘design’ etc. We believe that agendas reduce creativity and hinder ‘open mind thinking’. Throw away the agenda and bullet points. Our minds don’t work with bullet points but with associations. When you need structure, build a mind map instead of a list of items.

Please don’t take a seat

Another thing is that a good brainstorming sessions need active people. Too many individuals are used to going into a meeting, taking a seat, sitting there with their own laptop and fighting keep from falling asleep or being distracted. Unfortunately, the meeting culture in many companies promote this kind of behavior.

When one realizes that sitting down directly leads to inactivity of the mind, it’s crucial that participants of a brainstorm session are able to move. The movement of oxygen throughout our bodies is much better when standing or walking. In our company, since we use higher, pub-style tables during our brainstorm sessions, we’ve experienced shorter and better meetings. That previously ‘silent colleague’ now offers an opinion since he or she is in another mood — and in a more active position.

We would like to hear your experiences for brainstorming best practices. How did your company change its meeting culture from being passive to active, or from one person doing the work to real collaboration?


Try SMART kapp at your next brainstorm. 

Leendert Louter
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About Leendert Louter

Leendert Louter is a Collaboration Consultant with Allinco VCS in The Netherlands. Leendert is a former math teacher. He now helps companies not only investing in collaboration technologies but also helps them change their meeting culture.

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