McKinsey Quarterly has a list of Seven steps to better brainstorming. Clearly, Ideation is important and difficult to do well.
From R&D groups seeking pipelines of innovative new products to ops teams probing for time-saving process improvements to CEOs searching for that next growth opportunity—all senior managers want to generate better and more creative ideas consistently in the teams they form, participate in, and manage.
The article is a good read with great examples and explanations. Below is a quick summary of the steps:
- Know your organization’s decision making criteria: Even though it is good to think outside-the-box, if the idea is going to be rejected by the culture anyway, it probably should not be pursued.
- Ask the right questions: I can personally vouch for this one. It is better to be focused on a particular question rather than brainstorm on any broad topic. People come up with ideas that are far too diverse to follow through (Step 7 below)
- Choose the right people
- Divide and conquer: Divide into sub-teams
- On your mark, set and go: Orient people before they divide into sub-teams (based on 2)
- Wrap it up: Do not choose the top ideas during the brainstorming session. End the session on a high note. I will have to think about this one.
- Follow up promptly: Many a brainstorming sessions have failed because of lack of follow through. I have been part of several of these. I think that the root cause of the lack of follow through may be step 1 and 2 above.