In a previous post, I referred to brainstorming as one of the most constructive and fruitful techniques to collect project requirements.
Brainstorming can be similarly effective and efficient when applied to solving challenges in a project. Project managers can gather the project team together and brainstorm for creative ways to address the issues.
In a brainstorming session, the project manager can take on the planner role, as well as the facilitator role.
As a planner, project managers might consider the following guidelines:
- Clearly outline the problem or the idea to be explored.
- Define basic ground rules, such as no criticizing, analyzing or judging ideas during the session. Criticism inhibits creativity. The ideas evaluation should be done at the end of the session.
- Depending on the complexity of the targeted problem or idea, plan the session with no more than five to 10 people. In a larger group, it's challenging for everyone to participate.
- When looking to develop new ideas or concepts, gather a mixed audience to gain a wider perspective. On the other hand, if looking to solve a problem, gather people from a focused or specialized group.
- Schedule sufficient time so that people won't feel constrained. Factor in time for breaks so that people can feel refreshed.
- Have someone capturing the generated ideas and the underlying notes.
- Plan the logistics such as use of flip charts, pin boards, snacks, etc.
- Create a relaxed atmosphere that stimulates creativity.
- Start the session with an icebreaker, a warm-up exercise or something funny.
- Allow open brainstorming but keep the focus on the initial idea or problem.
- Encourage everyone to participate and ensure a fair participation from each attendee.
- Accept all ideas positively and appraise them equally.
- Encourage people to be constructive, as well as to build on people's ideas.
- Keep the session unstructured and unconstrained.