The one thing about being an entrepreneur and/or leader is that sometimes, you might have either a million ideas circling around in your head with no concrete plan for any of them, or you may need /want to revamp something within your business or organization. What’s a person to do when this happens? Brainstorm of course!

What is a brainstorm? What does it mean to brainstorm?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a brainstorm is “an idea that someone thinks of suddenly”. Brainstorming, according to them, is both a “group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous contribution of ideas from all members of the group” and” the mulling over of ideas by one or more individuals in an attempt to devise or find a solution to a problem”.

Why bother?

Brainstorming is good way to bring focus and clarity to you (and your team if you have one). It forces you to layout everything that comes to mind when thinking of an idea/concept. Seeing and talking about what you’re thinking about can help you to think about the details and/or the idea’s validity. It doesn’t matter how silly, irrational or out-there the thought is, it gets written down.

When you are working in a team environment (even if said team is Mom, Dad, and a mentor), on top of encouraging thoughtfulness, it also really encourages communication and team cohesiveness. This is because the entire team is contributing to either a solution to a problem or the creation/revamping of a product/service. Team members who feel like they are making real contributions to the success of the organization tend to be more “switched on” and engaged in making the business a success. An added bonus to including the team in the brainstorming process is that you as the entrepreneur/business owner get to see how your team interacts with each other, along with each individual’s strengths & areas of improvement.

How can it be done so it’s effective? 

There are no set rules for how a brainstorming session should go, but there are general guidelines and tips. This is because each team and each of you is unique, so what works for one team may not work for another. That being said, here are 5 guidelines you can use for your next brainstorming session!

  1. Assign a Moderator
    • Preferably from outside the organization who is unbiased, but informed.
    • Someone who can make sure the group stays focused and on task.
    • Friendly, but in-command, who can keep the conversation flowing.
  2. Identify and set SMART goals for the session
    •  Specific: what exactly is it that you want to achieve? Use the 5 W’s to answer this.
    • Measurable: what it is you will see, hear and feel when you reach your goal.
    • Attainable: whether the goal really is acceptable to you.
    • Relevant: does the achievement of the goal matter with you and the company.
    • Time-Bound: set a reasonable time limit for achieving these goals.
  3. Set a time limit
    • If it is a big/complex decision, either set aside a set amount of time per day or divide the team into groups to discuss different subsections.
  4. Record everything that comes to mind, good or bad, and without judging it or the person who came up with it.
    • Can be written (on a white board, chalk board, sticky notes, paper, etc.) or drawn.
    • Whatever works for someone to communicate their idea.
  5. Avoid group think.
    • Group think is a situation where the team would rather focus on working together cohesively and agree on everything than look at something critically and thoroughly.
    • Most often times this occurs when no one wants conflict or to seem like they disagree with the leader (“telling them what they want to hear not what they need to hear”).