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How to generate the very best ideas

With organisations striving to achieve more with fewer resources, how can you keep generating the best ideas?

Brainstorming is a fantastic approach to creating new ideas and marketing strategies to overcome problems and challenges, however, it is essential that your brainstorming team is made up of the right people to avoid ‘group think’, otherwise team members will agree with each other; constraining ideas rather than generating them. This article helps you to set up the most effective brainstorming team.

Before I begin, there has been much debate over the term ‘brainstorming’; Epilepsy Action conducted a survey and 93% of people with epilepsy didn’t find the term offensive and accepted it as mainly positive. This article is written with the positive context in mind.

Did you know that face-to-face groups can actually generate fewer ideas than individuals?

Therefore, it is recommended that you encourageindividual team members work on their own ideas first and then join the brainstorming group to combine and develop each member’s ideas (Osborn, 1953). Developing ideas in teams in general, promotes more dynamic ideas (Stoner, 1961), therefore, a dual approach is recommended.

A diverse brainstorming group develops the very best ideas …

Rushing straight into a brainstorming session with no preparation can result in group members failing to reach their potential because of apprehension and fear of embarrassment which is a barrier to effective brainstorming (Milliken, Diehl & Stroebe, 1987, Gibson & Vermeulen, 2003). Not only will the brainstorming sessions be lacking in trust, lack of investment in understanding team members may damage employee relationships and harm organisational culture in and out of sessions.

Did you know that creativity can be stimulated by increasing the demographic diversity of the brainstorming group?

Although it may seem natural to create brainstorming teams from employees who have previously bonded, research has shown that pre-formed groups may offer fewer ideas because they are more likely to agree and conform with their peers (Phillips, 2003). They may also be reluctant to share ideas in case they are negatively judged by their group members (Camacho & Paulus, 1995).

Brainstorming teams are more effective when they include a few members from four or more demographic groups; they are more likely to pay attention, learn and stimulate each other and resulting in a wider range of ideas: “People tend to be more accepting of different ideas and information when it comes from people who are different rather than similar to oneself” (Phillips et al., 2004). Brainstorming teams which consist of two demographics can adopt a ‘them and us’  group culture.

Members from different organisational departments will also add to the diversity of the group, for example, if you ask your team to discuss an idea, an accountant would add a financial perspective, a designer would have a creative perspective and so on. They would all have different priorities and approaches which helps to ensure that ideas are scrutinised from all angles.

Ensure your team feels psychologically safe

“Creativity at the group level requires that group members feel psychologically safe to express one’s ideas” (Diehl & Stroebe, 1987; Edmondson, 1999).

Your employees are as important as your clients and you should take time to discover how their strengths will contribute to the group dynamics.

If you are facilitating a brainstorming session, it is essential that you know the best way to contribute to your team and how to get the best out of your brainstorming team. Executive coaching is an effective tool to develop these skills.

How do you know if your ideas are the best?

Success of your brainstorming team can be measured by the willingness of team members to express ideas, the ’sense of belongingness’ and the amount of interacting with the members of the team. Creativity at group level is typically measured by the sheer number of ideas a group is able to generate in a fixed amount of time (Brophy, 1998).

You can only measure the strength of ideas once they are implemented and innovation can only happen once you implement ideas. Flexible organisations are not afraid to takes risks and test new ideas; they venture into exciting new pastures and disrupt the market.

Measure ideas generated by your team against your company mission, vision and values – do they align closely? If not, there is a chance that you are not promoting the organisation values clearly in which case you should develop an internal marketing communications plan.

If you would like to develop your leadership skills and learn how to get the best from your team, call me, Vicky Vaughan, Chartered Marketer and Executive Coach, on 07909 693172 or email vicky@thebrandsurgery.co.uk.


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