If you're one of those people who perks up at the thought of a brainstorming session, it can be hard to empathize with those whose hearts sink as soon as they receive the meeting invite.

In particular, your more reserved employees who don't enjoy jostling for the spotlight are less likely to really want to partake. But not to worry, says editor Laura McClure in her recent TED blog post. You can make few simple modifications to your meetings, hopefully making them less painful for your more introverted team members. When everyone is more comfortable,  you get to hear more ideas. Here are some of McClure's  tips: 

1. Give Everyone a Head's Up.

Send out a memo that announces the brainstorming topic in advance. That way, people who aren't confident in their ability to think on their toes will feel less stressed. "This allows them to come prepared with several creative options--and not feel stampeded by extroverts who prefer to riff," McClure writes. 

2. Keep it short.

"Some people might get a case of the woozies if they see a 60-minute session pop up on their calendar," McClure warns. In some cases, 10 minutes is all you need. 

3. Equalize the spotlight. 

Starting from your left, go around in a circle and ask each person to describe just one idea. This way, it's not only those who have the loudest voices who get to speak.

4. Improvise.

Get team members to build on each other's ideas by using the "yes, and" improv technique. (This goes something like: Person A: "I think it's inspiring to listen to Celine Dion while we brainstorm." Person B: "Yes, and we should all watch "Titanic" together after work.") 

Again, not everyone likes spontaneity, but the idea is to force your employees to focus on ways to improve upon their colleagues' ideas, rather than tear them down.

5. Don't take a position on any idea. 

Lastly, make sure to display a neutral attitude toward every suggestion. "Consciously or subconsciously, others will cue off your lead. You want everyone in the room to feel heard, to have permission to speak their piece, and to defer judgment during the brainstorm," McClure says. 

And after your team members--even those most reluctant to speak--unleash their ideas, the next step is for you and a smaller team to pick out the best ones. 

Published on: Nov 9, 2014