Creativity in the workplace is fun in theory — but usually it’s under some sort of time crunch. Your team may feel too stressed to deliver on cue, or team dynamics may get in the way of the free flow of ideas. But there are a few things businesses can do to create a situation where employees feel their most mentally flexible.
At Merritt Group, we recently took a staff-wide course in divergent thinking and learned a few tips on how to stimulate our creative side whenever a brainstorming session calls. Here’s what we learned:
Team Diversity Can Ignite Brainstorms
The most effective teams are fueled by diversity. This means that if you’re having a sales and marketing brainstorm, it’s best to include people from all backgrounds in your company, regardless of speciality. Someone from accounting or HR may have a fresh perspective on something that’s been bogging the rest of the team down, and they will cut through all the jargon playing on a loop in everyone else’s head.
Diversity also means that your team should have a mix of big-picture thinkers, detail-oriented people, extroverts, introverts and so on. But, your team also shouldn’t be very large. A handful of people will feel comfortable sharing their ideas and will provide everyone with a chance to speak up without feeling too intimidated.
Select Your Surroundings Carefully
Are most of your brainstorming sessions in a gray-walled, fluorescent-lit room with a whiteboard? That may be fine occasionally, but if you get the chance, teams will think a lot clearer in interesting looking spaces. At Merritt Group, we’ve designed different corners of the office to promote these collaborative moments, and any business that needs creativity on the spot from its employees can do the same. Also, if you have a nearby outdoor location that could offer a relaxing alternative to the office, the space could provide some zen-like stream-of-consciousness opportunities for your brainstorming. And keep your connected devices out of sight.
It’s important to select not just your location carefully, but also your time. Brainstorms are best held earlier in the day, right after people have had their coffee, read some emails and settled in. Limit your brainstorming sessions to 30 minutes. Any longer than that, and people will likely feel stuck, unable to offer better ideas than they did in the first half-hour.
Try Different Brainstorming Techniques
Did you know brainstorming actually refers to one specific technique that enables divergent thinking? And there are actually multiple other ways other than a laundry list of every idea people come up with to rapidly create a slew of new ideas?
A technique called mind mapping asks a team to freely associate one idea with the next, forming connections and creating a web of information to pull from. Another method, called catchball, asks team members to get a little physical to spark fresh thoughts. Whoever has the ball first needs to come up with an initial idea. Then they toss the ball to the next employee. Instead of coming up with their own concept, that team member must expand upon what the last ball-catcher said.
Idea generation can also be deeply personal for some. Consider allowing all team members their own space to write down ideas on sticky notes that they can submit to the team. Individual idea generation allows concepts to come to the fold anonymously, which some team members may prefer to sharing aloud.
Time to Get Convergent With Your Thinking
Eventually, ideas have to make it off the drawing board and into the boardroom. After one or two brainstorming sessions, teams must make a final selection.
It’s best to let ideas from your brainstorming session breathe. Leaving the content overnight and coming back to it later allows a team to review it with a more critical eye. It’s important not to settle too early on any idea — if the winner isn’t there yet, it may be time for another brainstorm with different team members.
When selecting a winner, make sure the concept aligns with your organizational values and the the resources, time frame and money to actually pull off the idea. You should also examine the idea’s potential return on investment. Will it open the door to other opportunities? What happens if it fails? By fully fleshing out the final concept, your team can be prepared for whatever comes down the pike after the new idea is unveiled.
Feeling stuck after your latest brainstorming session? Contact Danielle Lucey from Merritt Group today at firstname.lastname@example.org and see how our creative services, marketing and PR teams can inject your product announcement or marketing campaign with some pizzazz.