Doing Better Brainstorming: A Business Analyst’s Guide
Instead of a “go with the flow” approach to brainstorming sessions, arm yourself and your team with brainstorming best practices guaranteed to give you results. Business analysts must learn to be intentional in their brainstorming to generate worthwhile, actionable ideas consistently.
Here’s how to lead more productive brainstorming sessions.
Take Care of the Logistics
First, you must take care of the brainstorming session logistics. Sometimes, spontaneous brainstorming sessions are necessary, but they should be few and far between. Instead, you should walk into most of your meetings with a plan.
Determine how long your session is going to last and where you’re going to hold it. Decide who is going to attend. Name your notetaker, facilitator, and timekeeper. Create an agenda or outline to distribute. And be sure everyone has access to and knows how to use the tech tools you’ll be using.
Also, come to every session with a clear purpose.
Come to Every Session With a Purpose
One of the worst things you can do in a brainstorming session is go into it without a clear goal or objective. Instead of developing solutions to problems or tangible ideas, you’ll have a lot of random conversation that ultimately goes nowhere.
Every time your team comes together to brainstorm, there should be a straightforward goal you’re trying to achieve. For example, are you trying to solve a problem? Do you want to determine the next steps at a project’s checkpoint? Are you there to mull over a new direction?
Make your purpose clear to the team, and let that purpose lead your brainstorming session.
Consider the Personalities in Attendance
It’s also wise to consider the personalities of the people you’ve invited to the brainstorming session. How you approach brainstorming with a group of extroverts will be different than how you facilitate brainstorming with a mixed crowd or one made up of reserved individuals.
Equally important is your personality and how you can use your strengths to facilitate a successful session. For instance, let’s say you’re introverted. Introverts are typically laid back and quiet, but can absolutely still be successful team leaders. So, play to your strengths.
Write your main speaking points down on paper so you don’t forget them. Use your exceptional listening skills to absorb everything thrown out in your session. Find opportunities to connect with people one-on-one and empower them.
Encourage Everyone to Participate
Considering everyone’s personality is also a good idea because you can make the brainstorming session more welcoming for each person when you know how they operate. And that, in turn, furthers your effort to encourage everyone to participate.
Set ground rules for brainstorming. It should be a no-judgment zone. Welcome every idea regardless of how crazy or out of the box it may seem. Allow everyone to express their creativity and experiences.
Moreover, everyone should have an opportunity to share. When someone starts dominating the conversation, politely interrupt them and ask others to contribute. You could even use a timer to ensure each person has equal time to express themselves.
Experiment With Tried-and-True Brainstorming Methods
Experimenting with different brainstorming methods can get the creative juices flowing for your team too. There are many tried and true brainstorming strategies to sift through until you find one or a combination that works for the individuals in your session.
Mind-mapping is one brainstorming method to try. You start with a main idea and generate sub-topics surrounding that central subject. Then, you come up with smaller ideas around those sub-topics. Finally, connect your ideas with lines, and you’ve got a mind map.
It’s an incredibly flexible brainstorming technique that allows for a surplus of creativity and idea generation in your session.
Here are a few other brainstorming methods to try:
- Modified design sprint
- Stepladder technique
- Round-robin brainstorming
- Rapid ideation
- 5 whys analysis
Leave Each Session With an Action Plan
Many people deem brainstorming sessions ineffective because nothing comes out of them. In other words, teams are leaving meetings without an action plan. So, all of the ideas generated in these sessions live out the rest of their days in a file on your computer instead of in the real world.
Each idea or solution your team voted to move forward with in your brainstorming session should be accompanied by an action plan. You, your notetaker, or facilitator can take the lead on creating this action plan.
Document next steps and assign someone to each step. Put a deadline on each step and when you want the action plan completed in its entirety. And don’t forget to follow up on each action plan to ensure it gets done.
Business analysts need brainstorming to excel in their roles. If your sessions have been less than productive so far, use the tips above to elevate them and come out with real results.