“Nothing will kill a group’s idea generation efforts faster than negativity and judgment creeping into the session,” says Rigie. “If participants’ contributions are repeatedly shot down, they will quickly feel self-conscious about sharing their thinking for fear of being criticized or viewed as foolish.”
How much negativity is finding its way into your brainstorming sessions? “It’s the role of the leader to maintain an ego-free zone,” says Harmeyer. “The most effective way to do that is to introduce a few ‘rules of the game’ before generating ideas.”
The SmartStorming partners suggest establishing brainstorming rules such as, “Suspend all judgment,” “There’s no such thing as a bad idea,” “Go for quantity over quality,” “Shoot for wild, edgy ideas,” and “Nothing is impossible.” By having the group agree to such rules, you establish a safer, more open and supportive environment in which new and innovative ideas can emerge.
3. The session feels like a torture chamber. The reason many brainstorming sessions feel like a veritable “house of pain” is because they are poorly planned, loosely structured, have ill-defined goals, and include few if any fresh techniques to inspire new avenues of thinking. The agony can be compounded by untrained leaders who allow group discussions to meander aimlessly, or who fail to keep the group’s creative energy high.
“When enthusiasm plummets, participants’ contributions slow to a trickle,” says Rigie. “That’s when those old, familiar ideas start getting recycled over and over again.”