Thursday, September 02, 2010

How To Have A Brainstorming Session

We do quite a bit of brainstorming (aka ideation sessions) here at Aspen Research. Here's a couple of the unique steps that we take that really are productive. Maybe people are already doing this, but I've not seen these steps taken in the 4 previous places that I've worked.

  • We don't gather up the "usual suspects" - the experts or people already working in the area - the usual suspects. Bring in total outsiders. Being a small company we can't collect the usual suspects even if we wanted to so we have to go with outsiders meaning physicists, metallurgists, mechanical engineers... By bringing in all sorts of people from outside the immediate field, we gather a truly unique set of ideas that very few other places can match. Great scientists and engineers will be great in whatever they undertake. Going with the usual suspects will always be less productive. Why keep going with the same people? They are ones who got you into this situation in the first place.

  • Don't provide any background information prior to the session. Setting the stage like that is just a great way to taint the well. You're just taking your people and getting them to think along previously conceived lines of thought which is the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
Both of these steps are not what is typically recommended for a brainstorming session, but I've found them to be quite helpful. Any other suggestions?

1 comment:

Eric F. Brown said...

I'm always reminding people that we need to generate lots of ideas. We can discuss the ideas later.