Brainstorming: Control Freak Seeks Creative Dreamers

If you’re a control freak, the very word “brainstorming” strikes fear in your heart. It’s got that dreadful word in it — “storm” — the very apotheosis of loss of control. And yet, you need creative ideas, right? Can you lead brainstorming sessions without driving yourself nuts? You can if you follow a few simple guidelines. Your creative partners will be amazed at your brainstorming chops…

I’ll let you in on a little secret: control freaks make great business people, especially during startup and the early years. Why? There’s not much room for error. Too many mistakes and not enough cash flow can put you out of business.

So it’s understandable for control freaks to be leery of brainstorming.

Brainstorming is chaotic, unpredictable — messy.

But the greater danger is missed opportunities — opportunities not apparent to control freaks while they’re busy doing uninspired work.

That’s why smart companies build a culture of brainstorming, to allow room for unexpected, brilliant, world-changing ideas.

How does a control freak create the delicate balance between chaos and order?

Here are 7 techniques that satisfy the needs of control freaks and their counterparts — creative dreamers.

1. Choose attendees with care.

dv1954038Brainstorming is like any other skill: you improve with practice. During early sessions, identify those who criticize, complain, and don’t get into the spirit. You may need to exclude them from future brainstorming sessions.

Invite people who are open to new ideas; people who would rather celebrate than criticize; people willing to question the status quo.

2. Make sure everyone participates.

That includes you, the nervous control freak who’s leading the meeting. Your creative folks may be shy about showing their spontaneity if you seem uptight.

Today you’re not the grown-up, you’re one of the kids. So toss a crazy idea into the mix. And make sure it doesn’t sound like a decision or an order.

3. Go for quantity.

numberLet’s say you’re brainstorming a name for a new product. You should assume that your initial idea isn’t very good. In fact your first few may be stinkers.

But quantity can save you. It’s nearly impossible to come up with 30 bad ideas. However, if you get 30 ideas, and none seems right, dream up another 30.

4. Suspend judgment.

In this iterative process, some ideas will swing wide of the target. Others will help you zero-in. In the heat of creativity, it may be tough to tell which is which.

So leave your inner critic (we’ve all got one) outside the door and allow ideas to flow unimpeded.

5. Allow fun.

Let’s add one characteristic to the kind of people you want in brainstorming sessions: invite people who have a sense of humor. Why? They like a clever turn of phrase, a novel idea, an unexpected turn of events.flip

Let everyone know it’s OK to laugh and have a good time. In fact, it’s required!

6. Block hidden agendas.

Brainstorming isn’t a time for making decisions; it’s a time for generating lots of ideas. So if a participant tries to steer toward a decision, put your foot down.

Praise every attempt at a new idea: the wackier the idea, the more lavish the praise. Write down even the patently bad ideas. The more bad ideas you get out of the way, the more likely that a good one will pop up.

7. Set a time limit.

zegarControl freaks like this one. After all, brainstorming can get out of control and eat up a lot of time.

A time limit has another curious effect: it quiets that annoying inner critic. Sometimes your best, most creative, most useful ideas appear in the final minutes, as you try to meet your quantity goal.

What if your brainstorming team is spread out?

I’m so glad you asked! Use ClickMeeting — it’s great for quick, impromptu brainstorming sessions. The Chat feature can capture the ideas. Or you can pass the camera and mic to any participant. And don’t forget to click the Record button to preserve a record of your brainstorming magic.

All done?

Not quite. When the meeting ends, it’s time for your inner control freak to make sense of it all — to bring order out of the chaos.

Hey, it’s what you’re good at, right?

You’ll find it easier to create order when you have lots of ideas. A culture of brainstorming can add new depth to your thinking and help you create a more vibrant, lasting, world-changing business.

Do you brainstorm? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

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