I came across an interesting article in the Business Dictionary, a few weeks ago, about the benefits of brainstorming and how to put together a productive brainstorming session. The article by Leo Sun gave some great tips on how to conduct a successful session.
Plan a brainstorming session with your staff at least once each year, while setting up individual department brainstorming sessions more regularly during the year (perhaps three times each year). To help your employees’ creativity, change the venue from your regular meeting room. A different venue may help people express their ideas more easily.
Prior to the brainstorming session, let your employees know if you have a specific agenda or what topics will be addressed so that they can be thinking about them beforehand and have some ideas ready for the meeting.
You will need a leader for the brainstorming session, or more than one leader if you are going to break people into groups. Smaller groups can be more effective if you are bringing a large number of people together. Your leaders should write down the topic or topics that are the reason for the session, taking each topic separately and putting a time limit for each topic.
In the first phase of the session, it helps to get as many ideas out as possible, so let people know that you are looking for quantity over quality. Let everyone know that there are no bad ideas and that this is not the time to say that certain ideas won’t work. Additionally, everyone should contribute. The leaders should not allow anyone to sit quietly.
When you have all the ideas, you can group them into themes. Once you have them organized go back to the groups and ask them to go deeper, rooting out ideas that have not yet been thought of, then organize these items into themes. At that time start talking about the two lists and see what unique ideas emerge.
If you have more than one group, compare the results in each group and have the group leaders write up the results then tape them up around the room so people can vote on their favorites.
The objective is to come up with new ideas and to have buy-in from the employees so that when the new processes and procedures are introduced, everyone will feel as if they had a part in setting them up.