Generating ideas and gathering facts are probably the most common functions performed by groups in facilitated sessions. In many sessions, the generating of ideas is crucial to arriving at creative solutions to the issue the team is tackling. We commonly use Brainstorming as the technique for generating ideas.
Brainstorming is an excellent vehicle for collecting a large number of ideas in a short period of time. In a brainstorming session, the facilitator states the objective, sets a time limit and uses a flip chart, or some other vehicle, to record ideas that the session participants rapidly throw out.
As an example, to help a Hiring Process Improvement Team address potential improvements to their hiring process, we will take them through a brainstorming exercise as shown below.
|Function: Generating Ideas|
|1. Describe the activity and purpose; be sure to encourage creativity and out-of-the-ordinary ideas.
2. Set a time limit and describe the general directions, with an example if necessary; offer a response format if appropriate.
3. Prohibit judgment of any type on an idea. If the idea does not meet the objective, record it anyway. Remind the participants of the objective and keep moving.
4. Ask your starting question to help the group visualize their answers.
5. Record responses being sure to use, not abuse, the pen and to manage the recording process.
6. Keep the pace moving. Go for quantity. The more ideas the better. Use a lot of fill-in words if necessary, along with prompt questions and extended prompt questions
7. End the brainstorming segment when the time limit is reached or when there is a round in which everyone passes. Ask for any last thoughts before closing.
8. Always follow a brainstorming session with some type of grouping or prioritization activity to highlight the jewels.
Apply this guide in your next brainstorming session! You and your group will love the creativity generated from this brainstorming exercise.
Certified Master Facilitator Michael Wilkinson is the CEO and Managing Director of Leadership Strategies, Inc., The Facilitation Company and author of the new The Secrets of Facilitation 2nd Edition, The Secrets to Masterful Meetings, and The Executive Guide to Facilitating Strategy. Leadership Strategies is a global leader in facilitation services, providing companies with dynamic professional facilitators who lead executive teams and task forces in areas like strategic planning, issue resolution, process improvement and others. The company is also a leading provider of facilitation training in the United States.