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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Not Every Brain Can Storm

Brainstorming sessions are critical to the success of any business or business unit seeking to grow and attract new audiences and customers. But, if run poorly, these sessions can be “useless,” according to an article in Chief Executive Magazine. We couldn’t agree more. In fact we go further than the article and recommend that more often than not the session should be guided by expert brainstorming facilitators rather than the head of the unit or the project leader. Yes, those “brains” may be the best in their industry. But it requires a distinct and different skill set to be a great facilitator. Often, the unit leader is too close to the project/subject and is better as a contributor.

When performed well, facilitating message development or positioning can yield immediate and hugely productive results. This fits well into CommCore’s “workshopping to goal” philosophy. In fact, we believe that more solutions can be found, more creativity can be revealed, and more challenges can be met in a properly conducted workshop environment than through most other methods.

Aside from the typical uses for brainstorming sessions – creative ideas for marketing campaigns or a new way to launch a product – how else can one utilize this methodology? How about to tackle a persistent problem? To create new product/service descriptors? For new web/website content? To analyze an audience and discover a new way to approach them? All are examples of potential brainstorming sessions that should be facilitated by someone who knows how to do it well. Or else bring in a trainer to build up the enterprise’s own brainstorm facilitation skills.
Brainstorm facilitation skills are distinct from other leadership or communication skills. Below are a few of the many tips we teach when building these facilitation skills in managers:
  • Prepare an Opening Statement – Lay out general rules & procedures
  • Protect Every Idea – Do not allow ideas to be attacked until evaluation time
  • Encourage Expression – Promote balanced participa¬tion, validate varying points & keep track of participants
  • Focus on Process – Concentrate on getting things done, not on the outcome
  • Cross Organizational Silos – Try to make sure new ideas from different units are represented
  • Organize, Connect & Summarize – Gather data & arrange it in an order that makes sense, continually summarize
What do you think? Tell us about brainstorming sessions that went horribly wrong or particularly well. Do you agree that more solutions can be found through this process?

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