Brainstorming is not the only option for generating ideas and, in fact, traditional brainstorming could be stifling the quietest people in your team. I've found myself in many a session of five or six people where only the most confident one or two actually ever speak up and share ideas.
There are ways to tweak brainstorms to make them friendlier for more introverted members of the team, of course. But over the past two years, I've adopted alternative methods to ensure we get ideas coming from everywhere within the business and not just our most confident corners of the office.
Here are 3 simple tricks you can try to encourage more ideas sharing from everyone.
1. The Worst Idea Method
If you are going to go down the route of brainstorming, changes to the way the session runs could make it more effective. As a totally different take on an ideas generation session, I'm a huge fan of the Worst Idea Method as described by Brian W. Mattimore in the book, 'Idea Stormers.'
With this methodology, instead of asking people to share their best ideas in a room, you're asking them to share the worst ideas against a brief. People typically feel a lot less self conscious in sharing something that is supposed to be bad than when asked to put themselves out there and share their strongest ideas.
Putting this spin on brainstorming also tends to re-energize a flat session.
You conclude the session then by asking everyone to think about how those ideas could be transformed to become something good or, perhaps, what the opposite of that idea might look like.
2. Anonymous Ideas Sharing
Evaluation apprehension is common amongst people - not even just quieter or more introverted individuals. By allowing people to share ideas anonymously, you all but eradicate this fear making people feel more comfortable sharing their ideas.
A second benefit of anonymous ideas sharing is that everyone's ideas are judged far more objectively.
Of course you could have people simply drop printed sheets with ideas in a single location, which is what I chose to do until I found an online tool to simplify that.
SpeakUp is a tool designed to allow employees to share their thoughts on workplace initiatives. But it can very easily be employed to ask people for ideas on a given brief. Employees then have the option to share answers to a question or ideas against a brief anonymously. The tool is also free for teams of up to 25.
3. The 'Note and Vote' Method
The 'Note and Vote' method is one favored by the Google Ventures team. Each person in the room has the brief and has between 5 and 10 minutes to write as many ideas down as possible. They are then given a further 2 minutes to filter their list and pull out their best 2 ideas.
The next step is that everyone in the room reads out their top two ideas while a session moderator writes these on a board in the room.
Everyone is given a further two minutes to consider all the pooled ideas on the board and write down their favorite. The moderator then asks each person in turn which their favorite it and marks votes down against the ideas on the board.
The fact that people know only 2 of their initial ideas will be seen by the remainder of the team often helps people to feel confident in writing down anything that comes to mind. But I've experimented with tweaks to this format to cater to those less confident as well:
- Circulate the brief well in advance of the session to allow people time to prepare and therefore feel less "on the spot."
- Tweak the format so that everyone writes their top 2 ideas on a separate piece of paper rather than reads them to the room. The moderator collects these and writes them on the board without referencing who the idea came from, bringing an element of anonymity into the session
Ideas Come from Everywhere Within Your Business
Ideas are hidden in all corners of your business. For marketing ideas or content ideas, which are the ones I am usually working on generating, the temptation is to stick with the same team of marketers for your sessions. But by inviting other people into the room from different corners of the business and making the process welcoming, you encourage new perspectives and fresh thinking you might otherwise never benefit from.