A brainstorming meeting agenda is a perfect tool to guide the conversation and allow everyone to prepare adequately. Adapt this brainstorming meeting template and customize it to your needs.
Keep everyone informed of the objectives of this brainstorming session.
Set up the ground rules during the discussion.
No interruptions when others are talking.
All ideas are welcome.
Set time for everyone to think and share their ideas. Write down all the ideas.
Clarify the ideas with open discussion.
Everybody votes on the ideas they love.
Look at the most-voted ideas and see how to improve them or ways to put them into practice.
@name Task by DUE-DATE
“Creativity is not the domain of one single person. Through free association of thought and brainstorming, an accidental suggestion can be the best solution.” - Joshua Fernandez
The rationale behind brainstorming as a means of idea generation is simple. Firstly, the more relevant people are included in the brainstorming process, the better the quality of ideas that would be generated. Secondly, the presence of one idea would stimulate other ideas.
To expand on this premise and encourage maximum idea generation, the brainstorming process has four major rules:
Come up with as many ideas as possible
Prioritize unique or original ideas
Refine the ideas generated
Do not criticize ideas generated during the process
These rules demonstrate that the brainstorming process tends to favor a lack of structure in its approach. While this is intended to promote creativity and encourage participation, it could also cause a few individuals to dominate the conversation, stunt participation, and divert focus from more important things.
The surest way to avoid this is to introduce some structure to your brainstorming meetings.
Brainstorming meetings are sessions held to generate and discuss ideas and solutions. The primary goal of these sessions is to stimulate creative ideas and problem-solving.
“Brainstorming can be used to help a team buy into and implement a plan of action. Or it can be used to simply build cohesiveness, which in turn can lessen employee turnover and increase employee commitment.” - David Henningsen
However, as we can see from the quote above, brainstorming meetings can yield benefits beyond the quantity and quality of ideas. They can also have team and company-wide benefits, including
Promoting the expression of diverse and novel perspectives and thoughts
Employee participation in decision-making and problem-solving
Building workplace relationships and affinity
Enhancing employee engagement
The cadence of brainstorming meetings is hard to determine because they are typically called when the need arises. This is often when teams are required to develop new and unique ideas or solve problems.
Examples of such scenarios include developing content ideas, designing a new (or improved) product or campaign, managing a crisis or problem, creating a marketing or promotional strategy, etc.
Every brainstorming meeting needs an agenda to guide the conversation and provide structure. The agenda lists the talking points of the meeting in a clear and orderly manner so that the conversation can flow seamlessly.
Generally, a brainstorming meeting agenda should cover the below items to maintain a productive discussion.
Objectives reflect what the brainstorming meeting is intended to achieve. This part of the agenda defines the purpose of the meeting and the scope of the conversation in clear terms so that everyone is informed and can remain on track.
A good way to determine the objectives of the meeting is by asking yourself questions like:
What do we want to achieve with this meeting?
What are the issues we hope to have successfully addressed at the end of the meeting?
How will we define success in this meeting?
The meeting objectives should typically be one to three sentences specifying the meeting goals clearly. They could look something like this:
Generate at least five novel ideas for the XYZ marketing campaign
Generate three potentially viral content ideas for social media
Develop 10 ideas on how to boost sales on the company’s e-commerce site
Objectives are a great way to guide the line of thought of the participants in a brainstorming session and help curb deviation from the most important conversation.
Brainstorming is one of the most widely used idea-generation methods for good reason. However, the process could easily become chaotic and unproductive without setting ground rules because of its informality.
The agenda should include ground rules that specify the dos and don’ts of the meeting. The ground rules typically mirror the main rules of brainstorming meetings identified in the introduction.
The ground rules could read as follows:
No interruptions when others are talking
All ideas are welcome
No criticism for any ideas
Piggybacking off ideas is permitted
No idea is discarded without being carefully discussed
It is important to stress that the main point of the rules is to encourage creativity and respectful expression, and whatever ground rules you establish should reflect that.
This is the main idea-generation stage, where participants in the meeting are expected to think and share their ideas.
While the most common practice here is setting time for everyone to think and share their ideas, other known techniques are:
Brainwriting: Here, participants are given a timeframe to write down a specified number of ideas and pass it to the person beside them to build on. The ideas would then be passed again after some minutes for further input. After this, the group would discuss all the ideas that have made it around the circle.
Rapid ideation: Participants write down as many ideas as possible within a stipulated time and then discuss the ideas.
The point here is to encourage participants to think very quickly and note all ideas - refined or otherwise - without overthinking them.
Round-robin brainstorming: Participants in a round-robin brainstorm contribute one answer to the brainstorming topic before the floor is open to the next person.
This approach ensures that every participant in the meeting can verbally contribute to the conversation and have an opportunity to be heard by everyone.
A good way to kick off the brainstorming phase is to set the ball rolling by sharing your idea first, no matter how unrefined it sounds.
After generating the ideas, the next item is to hear and clarify the ideas submitted with an open discussion.
The emphasis here is to ensure that every idea is heard and analyzed and that the pros and cons are weighed before the team moves on to the next. So, even though criticism is generally discouraged, it is important to deeply question the logic, practicality, and utility of the ideas presented.
This would help filter through the long list of ideas and ensure that only the best ideas are retained.
After the discussion, participants proceed to vote on the ideas they love.
The discussion is deepened by looking at the most-voted ideas critically and deciding how to improve them so they look clearer and more actionable.
This is also where participants in the meeting share their thoughts on how to put them into practice.
The final most important item to include is action items. These are resolutions reached at the meeting that serve as guides on the next line of action for team members.
The best way to keep track of action items and ensure that they are executed is to express them as tasks, assign them to team members, and specify a due date. They could look like this in the meeting notes:
@name Task by DUE-DATE
This makes someone responsible and accountable for them and sets a clear deadline for execution.
Running a successful brainstorming meeting is not as daunting as it seems. Simply do the following.
The first thing to do when planning a brainstorming meeting is to define and set your objectives. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve with your meeting will guide your research, approach, and preparation. It would also help you to structure your agenda and determine what talking points to include.
Going into the other stages of your preparation without a clear goal would be setting the meeting up for failure.
The agenda is a map of how the meeting would run. It contains activities and talking points in the order they would occur.
It is good practice to allot a specific amount of time for each item so that the conversation does not extend (significantly) beyond that time. It is also important to share the agenda with the other meeting participants before the meeting so that they can prepare by researching and thinking about ideas.
Give team members adequate time to prepare for brainstorming meetings and avoid springing surprises on them.
You can adapt the agenda above or use the guide in the previous section to create yours.
Once the meeting starts, you can set the tone by sharing your own ideas. It helps to prepare some ideas ahead of the meeting and share them while addressing participants to get their creative juices flowing.
Notetaking is especially important for brainstorming meetings so that no ideas or suggestions are lost.
You can use a notetaking app like Airgram to live-record and transcribe the meeting in real-time. This frees up the mind space and time that would have been otherwise spent on manual notetaking and allows you to focus on being creative and ideating.
The loose structure of the brainstorming process makes it very easy to deviate from important conversations or to present ideas that are far away from the mark. When running a meeting, it is your responsibility to keep the conversation on track as much as possible.
An excellent way to do this is to provide prompts, define the scope, and reiterate the objectives of the meeting at intervals throughout the meeting.
The participation of everyone ensures that the conversation is robust and the ideas are high-quality. If the meeting is left in the control of a vocal few or people are reluctant to express themselves for fear of judgment, the primary purpose of the brainstorming would be lost.
A way to avoid this is to ensure that you create a psychologically safe environment within and outside the meeting. Simple actions like listening actively, making every team member feel valued, and respecting every idea could make employees feel safer and more confident to speak up.
Conclusively, it is important to meet often. As Richard Branson suggests, “Meet regularly with your business team and brainstorm. Intricate business problems are mostly resolved at brainstorming sessions.”
Having regular brainstorming sessions makes imbibing the culture easier and makes regular iterations of your approach possible. These, in turn, make your brainstorming sessions more effective.
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