No matter what industry you're in, any company can benefit from a brainstorming meeting when it needs new ideas. These sessions can involve a small group of employees or the entire team, and if they're successful, you'll end up with tons of innovative solutions to move your company forward.
While brainstorms are great in theory, an unstructured free-for-all doesn't always produce the best results. Instead, you need to ask the right kinds of questions to direct your team's thinking. Below, seven entrepreneurs share brilliant questions they've asked during team meetings that led to some great new ideas.
What would you do if you had a million dollars to make the company better?
Ginger Jones, founder and CEO of Jones Therapy Services, believes in asking her team a million-dollar question -- literally. Once a year, she asks each member of her staff what they would do if they were given $1M to improve the company.
"By asking everyone on our team this question, we get many different perspectives on how we can be better," she says. "It has proved to be a great way to get the team thinking creatively and show me areas for improvement."
How would you do this if we had a quarter of the resources?
On the flip side, asking your team to come up with budget-oriented solutions can help them get creative about their solutions.
"As long as people don't get scared regarding downsizing, they may come up with some very creative solutions on how to implement or build a new idea," says Nicole Munoz, founder and CEO of Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc. "Necessity is often the mother of invention, so putting the right kind of restrictions in place can force people to think creatively."
What should I be asking that I'm not asking?
Birdsong CEO Monica Snyder loves to ask this question because it's a non-intimidating way to get your team to tell you anything.
"This question has helped us create new products to help our customers, improve our business systems and make our company a more fun place to work," she says. "We don't always implement every idea, but we do implement a lot of them, so I keep asking this same question."
How would you reinvent our current product/service?
Just because your product works in its current iteration doesn't mean it's perfect. According to Sweta Patel, founder of Silicon Valley Startup Marketing, asking your team how they'd reinvent your existing product or service really gets the creative juices flowing.
"People want to be able to express their ideas, and it's important to always be evolving so your competition doesn't outsmart you," she says. And there's another reason to continually ask for paths to improvement: "When you are not constantly coming up with new and better ways to handle your business, it leads the team to feel unmotivated," Patel adds.
What's your wackiest idea?
Colbey Pfund, co-founder of LFNT Distribution, likes to go to the extreme when his team is generating ideas.
"I ask my team to get out their wackiest ideas first," Pfund explains. "There are no wrong suggestions. It loosens the team up and honestly, sometimes some solid ideas come from riffing on the wacky. Think craziest, big-picture first -- then narrow it down."
What would you do if you were in charge?
If you really want your team to dream big, Calendar Founder John Rampton advises asking them what they would do if they ran the company.
"It's a great way to get the team to open up and share more of their ideas because it's connected to the idea of potentially growing into a leadership role," he says. "This question has gotten us much farther along on some of our toughest startup issues."
What's wrong with this idea?
When you and your team do settle on an idea, don't just take it at face value and run with it. Vik Patel, CEO of Future Hosting, asks his team to look at what's wrong with the idea -- he believes that creative disagreement can generate even more ideas.
"As people engage with a concrete solution, they think the problem through in an effort to find a flaw in the idea," Patel says. "This prompts more creative ideas and solutions. Ultimately, it's about getting people focused on the problem and talking."