Go for Quantity Rather than Quality in Brainstorming

Regardless of the industry you’re in, you know that brainstorming sessions can often be a frustrating exercise. After a few participants initially contribute an idea or two, the session often devolves into a slog, with long stretches of silence, head-scratching, pursed lips, and glazed eyes as everyone struggle to come up with additional ideas.

An effective way to kickstart brainstorming and get more productivity out of the session is to put more emphasis on generating a lot of ideas instead of worrying about how good the ideas may be. By allowing and encouraging unusual, offbeat, crazy, and radical thinking—this is the perfect setting for reassuring participants that “there’s no such thing as a dumb idea”—you can quickly build a large volume of concepts that can be further fine-tuned or linked to real-world applications later.

A simple way of incorporating this into a brainstorming session is to give each individual a sticky-note pad with instructions to jot down or sketch out as many ideas, each on a separate sticky, that he/she can think of within a short time limit (say 5 minutes). After time’s up, post everyone’s stickies on a wall and collectively review each one. You’ll end up with some ideas that go nowhere, but you’ll also have many that show some real promise.

Fast ideation helps you:

  • explore as many ideas as possible
  • shorten the time for reaching possible solutions
  • enable initial thoughts to be expanded into additional ideas
  • get all participants involved and feel more productive
  • uncover possible obstacles or difficulties sooner with promising ideas

Of course, this technique also works well on an individual basis—there’s no requirement to wait for a meeting.

So the next time you need to tap into the creativity of your team, give this approach a shot. It’ll help you get more out of each individual and the group as well.