How to Properly Set Up a Brainstorming Session for a Startup
It is no secret that most startups today shy away from the common vertical hierarchy where the guys at the top make all the decisions, while the workers at the bottom only have their heads down and do what they are told. Instead, they have adopted the way where everybody gets to have a say in how the company works, since every worker is an expert in his or her own field. The boss cannot know everything, nor should he, as communication between workers is essential for success.
The best way to achieve communication, cohesion and the feeling that the workers’ opinions are valued in the company is to organize brainstorming sessions, especially about cute business names while looking at otters. These sessions will often lead to many new ideas, not all of which will be useful at the moment, but they can surely be remembered and used later on. At the place where I work, we have a daily brainstorming routine in the morning, just before we start working.
This not only gives us an idea as to what we will be doing that day (and a chance for other colleagues to help out with key ideas), but also what route our company will be taking in the following months and even years. It is safe to say that we wouldn’t be where we are now if it weren’t for our morning sessions.
With the importance of brainstorming in mind, here’s some advice on to how to properly prepare for it and ensure that the effort you get is maximized.
If you already haven’t, get a whiteboard
This one might seem obvious. I mean, where will you write the all the ideas that come from brainstorming? Surely you won’t remember them all. A whiteboard, or even two, is an obvious choice. The more the merrier (if you have the space for that, of course). They are not as expensive as you’d think, and with proper markers to write with, you will get years of information to be written, erased and then written again. If you are well-off with your profits, you can even consider investing in an interactive whiteboard.
Even though a bit more expensive, they will make the brainstorming work even easier, leaving more time for thinking things up. When the session begins, you can either supply each participant with a marker and tell them to write their ideas straight on the whiteboard, or write the ideas yourself, as the participants shout them out. Either way, the whiteboard offers a good way to step back and gaze upon all the ideas, see which are useful, which are not, and which can be combined into something extremely purposeful.
You can also delegate tasks this way and after everything is finished, just snap a picture of it all, or let it stay on the whiteboard so that every team member can view it with ease.
Realize that there are no bad ideas
Often, during the process itself, you will find yourself thinking that some ideas or cute trendy business names are subpar, while others are downright bad, unrelated and of no particular use. However, before coming to the session, prepare yourself mentally and tell yourself that there are no inherently bad ideas. Why? Simple: every member of your business has only progress in mind. They all want the company to make as much profit as possible, since that almost surely means better salaries.
So, while an idea for brandable domain names might not be as useful as you’d need, save it for later. It might become useful at some point. Maybe later in the session, someone will suggest another idea that complements the one that you would write away as “bad”. Two or more “bad” ideas combined can sometimes make a completely new one, which will define what your company is in the future. Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here, but a combination of bad ideas can definitely turn their initial individual value around.
Take it outside
This one is optional, but it can work wonders. Have you noticed that, during brainstorming, your team members come up with the same ideas over and over again? If so, it might be time for some changes in the way you do things. The best way to spark their productivity is to put them in a different setting. No, a different office is not a change of setting.
You should change it completely. One of the best ways is to get them to the great outdoors. Go to a nearby park (if you have one) and just sit beneath a tree and start sharing your ideas. You might lack a whiteboard here, but a notepad will do wonders for you.
If you don’t have a park nearby, think about organizing a brainstorming weekend at a local resort or a nearby spa. Spending a weekend in nature will almost certainly get the creative juices flowing and allow your team members to think outside the box (because they are no longer confined by the walls of their office space).
Concentrating on a task can be hard when there are numerous distractions at hand. The Internet and constant connectivity has enabled people to check things wherever they might be. While this is useful, it is largely distracting. Telling your employees to turn off their phones when entering the brainstorming space will leave them focused on the task at hand and get their brains spewing out new ideas instead of checking for that e-mail that is yet to arrive or updating their LinkedIn profiles. Nothing can have that big of an importance that it cannot wait at least an hour until your session is complete.
Create a proper space for brainstorming
This one combines with our second piece of advice. While a whiteboard is a must, you must also ensure that the space where the brainstorming session will happen is designed in a way that it will spark the creativity of your team members. This means that it should be void of things that might cause distractions (but this does not mean that it should be empty), so no TVs, computers, music players or anything of the like. Choose, also, the right colors for a creative environment (energizing colors work wonders here, think red, orange or yellow, or their toned-down shades). Finally, get some seats in there, as the sessions will most probably last more than fifteen minutes and no one can think well if their feet are tired.
Brainstorming is a way for your employees to feel valued and respected and the implementation of the ideas that they bring forward during these sessions will have them feeling like they are really contributing. They are a great way to build your team cohesion and to bring your business forward. Utilize this technique extensively, and you will see progress down the road in every possible aspect.