Your brainstorming session was a success! Your team was engaged and forthcoming. Not one employee rolled their eyes and everyone had a chance to contribute. You have post-its and smudgy whiteboards and legal pads filled with the finest solutions ever conceived.
Strike that, looking at it now, it seems you have these surfaces covered with chicken scratch. You have sticky pages and pages of notes. So how do you take this proliferation of brain work and turn it into actionable solutions? I’ve put together a list of 10 next steps to take to squeeze the best ideas out of that successful brainstorming session.
Gather all the ideas...every last one
To get a good idea, you need lots of ideas. So make sure you have every scrap of paper or note that was doodled on during that meeting; you never know what jewel might be on there. It also helps to have a team secretary responsible for official documentation.
Only one person does the first review of the brainstorming notes. Alex Osborn's classic book, Applied Imagination, says, “Creativity comes from a blend of individual and collective 'ideation.'" This means both individuals and groups have a place in effective idea development. Idea review, however, is best left to the individual. The individual reviewer can call someone else in for input, but keep it as small as you can.
Forget about it
Step away from it for a day. Give the unconscious brain a chance to synthesize that flurry of important information. Every time a critical thought about your brainstorming session enters your mind, use a mindfulness trick; notice your thought, and then let it go. There will be time for evaluation, but the first 24 hours after a brainstorming session is not that time.
Review your goals
You and your team had goals for your brainstorming session. Break those goals out. Use your goals as criteria for idea evaluation. Are none of your ideas making the cut during this goal evaluation? You may need to refine your goals and try the whole process again.
The one person chosen for review should take the giant list of ideas, review the initial goals and then evaluate ideas one by one. Group ideas together to get a picture of all the main themes. Use whatever basic groupings make sense in the topic you’re looking for to make refinement a smoother process. By reducing the number of solutions from hundreds down to three to five, follow-up meetings can be much more productive.
Don’t just collect ideas; combine and extend them
It’s a universal truth: ideas come from other ideas. So which ideas on the list can be combined for an even better solution? Draw lines between different ideas and challenge yourself to combine them. Ask yourself: How can these ideas support each other? How can pairing ideas up make even better ideas than single solutions?
Take a bird's-eye view
Take a long-term view on those solutions. Fly 50,000 miles up in the air to look at the solutions from different perspectives. How would a teacher view the ideas? How would a child perceive your solutions? Solutions developed to solve tense or emergency problems often overlook the long-term impact. Make sure that you evaluate your ideas from multiple perspectives with both a short-term and a long-term eye.
What’s the smallest step I need to take to make this a reality?
If you are scrapping all of your POS systems and implementing a new one, is the smallest step just calling vendors to price solutions? Or is it to scrap your existing system? Evaluating ideas can be even more streamlined when you consider what you’d need to do next.
Scale the ideas in terms of their “sexiness.” By that I mean, their flash, the excitement they generated and the way they’ll make you look if implemented. Sometimes the sexiest ideas have significant flaws and the least sexy ideas have really good bones. Scaling ideas on the sexy continuum can help change perspective.
The good old-fashioned pro/con list
There’s a reason that everyone tells you to make a list of all the positives and negatives about big decisions: it works. List out what is positive about the ideas that appeal to you, then list the negatives. It’s not necessarily the number of positives and negatives that can make the decision for you, but the weight of the positives and negatives. Take a tip from technology and make a word cloud where you size the words on the list in terms of their impact.
Some great books on brainstorming that have helped me immeasurably include:
How do you evaluate brainstorming sessions?
Image credit: JakeCaptive