Brainstorming Consulting and Training

Team building and problem solving


Team Brainstorming Tips

I'm a new team leader and have 2 teams of 8 employees each. One thing I would like to start doing with the team is brainstorming sessions. I have participated in brainstorming sessions but have never led one before. Do you have any advice?

Anonymous Submission December, 2006 : Posted with consent

Effective Brainstorming and Problem-Solving

Certainly, we can offer some tips in brainstorming. First of all, keep in mind that brainstorming sessions are but one method of problem-solving but it does have several benefits. It can generate numerous suggestions and also builds team morale. If you are a new team leader or supervisor this is a great way to establish yourself as a leader and will help tie the members together as a team. As far as tips I would like to offer the following:

Since each team consists of 8 members this will be very easy. First, you can either select a "scribe" or handle that role yourself. You should have three rounds in your brainstorming. All you need is a flip chart and marker or a white board and dry erase marker. One important rule must be followed. No one can criticize ideas! Make this point very clear prior to starting your brainstorming session. Do not allow or tolerate criticism.

Have the team help you put together a problem statement. This is important as you will often find that everyone's perception of the problem may vary. Once a problem statement is written begin with round one. In round one, simply go around the room and have each team member make a suggestion; only one suggestion. Suggestions must be directed toward the problem or improvement opportunity that is your focus.

No one, including yourself is allowed to comment, whether positive or negative as of yet. Simply write each suggestion on the board. After you have gone around the room and gathered one suggestion from each member, vote on the suggestions. At this point you can actually allow members to vote for as many ideas as you like. Since you will have 8 suggestions I recommend you allow each member to vote for 4 different ideas. The goal here is to eliminate half of the suggestions. Recall that no one was allowed to comment whatsoever up to this point. However, once half of the ideas have been eliminated it is a good idea to share a little praise. State that "all" of the ideas were excellent, but that our goal is to come up with solutions "as a team". You do not want any team members feeling upset that his/her idea was eliminated. So, offer a little praise before proceeding. Once round one voting is complete the team is not allowed to look back. In other words, eliminated suggestions should not be revisited during this session.

In round two each team member can cast one vote. The goal here is to again eliminate half of the remaining suggestions. The process works just as in round one.

In round three each member will again cast one vote. Our goal here is to identify one suggestion in which you and your team will implement! If by chance there is a tie open a discussion with the team. Encourage them to look at each remaining suggestion, discuss advantages, disadvantages, and feasibility.

Once you have narrowed it down to one suggestion you must, before the end of the meeting, develop a plan of action for implementing the chosen solution. Develop an action plan and delegate responsibility. The team must see that you not only allowed them to offer input but that you are the kind of leader that will act!

Document, document, document!

During your brainstorming sessions keep notes. Jot down the specific problem or opportunity the team was discussing and list all of their suggestions; even those that were eliminated during voting. These ideas may prove worth revisiting in the future. As a rule one should always keep thorough documentation. This is a good place to start.

You may also find that the chosen plan of action did not work. This is not the end of the world; merely a learning experience. Having kept good records of the brainstorming session you can always go back and vote again or throw everything out the window and start over. Most importantly, empower the team. Solicit their input and ideas. Take action and involve everyone! This will keep your team moving forward and you moving forward as a leader!

Again, brainstorming can be effective but there are several other methods of problem-solving that are even more effective in identifying root causes. We can assist in teaching these tools. However, even if you utilize other problem-solving tools and method, brainstorming should always be used. It is an effective team-building tool.

Feel free to contact us if you have further questions.

Thank you for your interest in Lean Consulting and Training LLC.

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