Have you ever been in a meeting when someone starts dominating the conversation and they won't stop? And they go on and on about that same old pet idea of theirs? And it's not a particularly good idea, but you've been told there's no such thing as a bad idea. So you have to sit there and not criticize. If you're like most people, these typical brainstorming sessions can be frustrating, one person talks while the rest of you listen. People start mentally checking out. They start looking at their smartphones, sending text messages. The ideas are either really weird, or really boring, and you come away from these meetings feeling unsatisfied.
A very simple technique is, instead of working as a large group, imagine breaking the group down into smaller teams, pairs, or groups of three. Why does this work? Working in pairs has many advantages. When you work with another person, you give that person your undivided attention. You feel a certain accountability to that other person to do your fair share of the thinking.
You bounce ideas off each other. You give each other suggestions. And working in pairs creates a certain camaraderie and team spirit. But there's also another advantage to working in small groups. It's much more efficient. Here's an example. Imagine you're generating ideas in a typical brainstorming session with ten people. One person talks, and nine other people listen. That's ten people working on one idea. But if you took that same group and created five groups of two people.
Now you have five times the ideas coming out in the same amount of time. That's a huge boost to your creative output.
Now, here's the way to manage it. When you start an ideation session with your colleagues, first have everybody in the room stand up, then ask them to find a partner, but ask them to find a colleague that they normally don't work with. It's critical that you try to mix things up every so often. Then have the pairs sit down, but be sure the people spread out in the room a little bit.
Otherwise, you'll notice they have a tendency to want to come back together. So what is their assignment? You remember that list of components that you generated earlier? Take one component off that list and assign each pair a component from that list. That's going to allow them to focus on just that issue. By the way, make sure you give them a time limit, say three minutes. This further constrains them inside the box, so they come up with that breakthrough idea.