Attention Vampires—They always want to stand out, be in the spotlight, and be the center of attention. It’s always about them. Attention Vampires can smother a brainstorming session by dominating the conversation, excessively pushing their ideas, and ultimately sucking the life out of the whole group.
Wet Blankets—These are the pessimists who see the flaws in everyone else’s ideas. Nothing goes unscathed. Wet Blankets have the unique ability to instantly dampen the enthusiasm level of a session. They are discouraging and depressing, and the majority of their comments don’t hold water.
Idea Assassins—These seasoned killers love to shoot down ideas…anyone’s and everyone’s. Under the pretense of being constructive, they will find flaws, poke holes, and pick apart promising ideas until they bleed to death. These are the same people who go to birthday parties and enjoy popping the balloons.
Dictators—They love every idea—as long as it’s theirs. These totalitarians feel they are the only ones with good ideas, or good taste, for that matter. Everyone else’s contributions need to conform to theirs or risk being shot down. Many bosses unknowingly become Dictators in meetings (not on purpose, but their role in the company makes it too easy.) Such idea overlords are to be avoided at all costs. It’s not wise to let them dictate a negative outcome for your group.
Obstructionists—To them, nothing is simple or easy. They overcomplicate conversations and procedures and bring up extraneous facts or considerations that derail the flow of the group. Obstructionists overthink, overspeak, and singlehandedly dead-end otherwise promising sessions.
Social Loafers—These are the people who show up for a brainstorm session, but rarely participate in the generation of new ideas in a meaningful way or contribute much of substance. They usually sit back, appearing bored or aloof, and let others do the heavy lifting.
Any one of these problematic personalities can undermine the focus and collaborative efforts of a group. While it’s difficult to prescribe a simple, one-size-fits-all formula for handling all these different personality types, Rigie and Harmeyer say there are a number of practical steps you (or the session leader) can take to more effectively manage disruptive behaviors to keep your sessions on track and productive: