Corporations have been using brainstorming as a tool to generate new ideas for decades. Brainstorming is a group creativity technique that combines an informal approach to problem-solving with lateral thinking.
It is driven by the process of free-thinking and encourages the participants to come up with a variety of ideas, including ones that might seem “crazy” at first.
Brainstorming provides an open environment where people can discuss ideas without the fear of being judged. Coming up with ideas without restrictions gives people the confidence to just let their creativity flow.
Brainstorming plays a key role in new product development. It allows the team to pool its knowledge and creativity in a non-critical environment and collate ideas on how to provide compelling value to the customers.
However, for brainstorming to be fully effective, you need to do it correctly. Here are five useful ways to successfully mediate a product brainstorming session:
Brainwriting is a great technique the mediator in a brainstorming session can use to generate creative product ideas and solutions.
Sometimes in brainstorming sessions, only the most confident voices get heard, limiting the flow of ideas, especially from the more introverted participants in the team.
You can use brainwriting to ensure that everyone gets a fair chance to share their ideas. In brainwriting, instead of sharing their ideas aloud, the participants are asked to write down their ideas in a worksheet.
This is a good way to encourage and empower the introverted members of your team to share their ideas, which they otherwise might not do in a brainstorming session.
Brainwriting also gives the participants more time to properly formulate their ideas as they write them down. As the mediator, you have to set the timer and ensure that everyone stays on track throughout the session.
After the session, the worksheets are collected, and all the ideas are discussed.
2. Agile Brainstorming Techniques
If your organization deals in software products, you would be familiar with Scrum, an agile framework that helps teams work together to develop and deliver complex products.
Agile brainstorming is all about teamwork, and product owners play a key role in the team. They are responsible for envisioning what they want the company to build and convey that vision to the Scrum team.
The agile product owner is someone with an in-depth understanding of the market, the customer base, and the competitors.
Since the role of the product owner is a key one, it is worthwhile for a product manager to get certified to handle product owner interview questions throughout their career in a better manner.
Brainstorming effectively in an agile network requires proper planning. You must first identify the problem clearly and set the goals to be achieved.
The next step is to generate as many ideas as possible. There is no scope for criticism and judgment at this stage. After the active brainstorming session, the ideas are evaluated and prioritized.
3. Figure Storming
Figure storming or role storming is a fun yet effective way of encouraging your team to develop innovative ideas during a brainstorming session.
This method was developed by Rick Griggs, a leader in the area of personal development and effectiveness in the 1980s.
As brainstorming sessions are all about quantity, you should focus on getting as many ideas on the table as possible as the mediator.
However, some participants might feel inhibited during a brainstorming session and find themselves unable to share their ideas openly. In such cases, figure storming would be an ideal tool to use.
In figure storming, the group picks up a well-known figure who is not part of the group and discuss how that person would approach this specific problem.
The figure could be a leader in the industry your organization is part of or a respected public figure. For instance, those in the computer software domain might ask, “How would Steve Jobs approach this problem?”
By putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, your team members are likely to shed their inhibitions and offer different perspectives to deal with the issue on hand.
4. Online Brainstorming
While traditional brainstorming requires all the participants to be physically present in a specific location, technological innovations have made it possible to conduct effective online brainstorming sessions.
Online brainstorming is an especially useful tool in the post-COVID-19 world, where virtual teams are becoming more common across industries.
Technologies like online whiteboards, video conferencing, and file sharing apps make it easier than ever to conduct online brainstorming sessions.
You can use several useful tools online to mediate a brainstorming session and make it a visual and collaborative experience.
The process of conducting an online brainstorming session is similar to conducting a traditional one. The first step is to define a specific problem in clear and concise terms.
Once you finalize the participants’ list and send them an introductory email, you are ready to start the actual online session.
Online mind-mapping tools can be used to answer very specific questions. Google Docs, Google Drive, or DropBox can be used to share files with the group.
5. Stepladder Technique
Often, the later responses in a brainstorming session are heavily influenced by the initial responses. You can tackle this problem with the stepladder technique.
Developed in 1992 by Steven Rogelberg, Janet Barnes-Farrell, and Charles Lowe, this method encourages team members to contribute their thoughts before being influenced by anyone else.
The facilitator shares the topic with the entire team and gives everyone time to think about probable solutions. Then a core group of two members is formed.
Once they have discussed the problem among themselves, a third person is added to the group. The third member explains their thoughts and then discusses the core team’s ideas.
A fourth member is then added to the group, and the process is repeated until all members have been brought in to present their ideas. This step-by-step approach gives a chance for everyone to be heard.
Brainstorming sessions ideally need a mediator with a product owner certification who encourages all the parties involved to share their ideas and thoughts in an unbiased manner.
As a mediator, your job would be to remain as unbiased as you can and try to understand the basis for the stakeholders’ concerns if any. To this end, you must learn to put all subjective thoughts aside.