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How to Lead Effective Brainstorming for the Greatest Return on Investment

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

Are you ready to lead your team through effective


I ask if you if you are ready because as a leader, brainstorming can help you tremendously in helping you achieve your team goals. However, you have to be prepared on how to lead an effective brainstorming session! There are several steps to take to have an effective brainstorming session in order to get the greatest return on investment of your time as well as your team's!

The first think you have to do is,

Get your supplies ready!

You will need brainstorming supplies so why not have them ready so you won't have to pause your brainstorming session to run and get something? The last thing you want is to stop any momentum during the creative brainstorming process while the juices are flowing! You want to keep that momentum going because that's when the great ideas come to surface. So gather the following items and have them ready for your brainstorming session ahead of time. I suggest using these items:

Sticky Note Pads - Have one for each person participating in brainstorming, including yourself! You'll be participating too.

Pens, Pencils, or Markers - Everyone on your team should come to the brainstorming session with something to write with but if they don't, at least you did.

Large Restickable Easel Post It Pads or a White Board - This is what you will use to separate the ideas generated into different categories.

Now that you have all of your supplies,

Gather your team to have a team discussion about what your team goals are and why.

COMMUNICATION IS KEY when leading a team, and especially prior to effective brainstorming. Your team needs to know what goal to focus on so everyone can strive towards the same goals at the same time for maximum effort. A leader that promotes team work towards a common goal is a leader that understands the statement "Teamwork makes the dream work". When you communicate a common goal not only will your team work stronger together but they will also work smarter,

creating greater momentum towards accomplishing the goal!

After your team knows and understands the goal, have a discussion on why accomplishing this goals is important. When your team understands the reason why they should work together on this goal, they will not only understand what efforts are needed, but they will also

understand the reason why they need to put forth efficient and effective actions in regards to how the goals should be accomplished!

That is why you need to communicate the goal and why prior to brainstorming. Now you can encourage your team to take the discussion even further. Have your team bring forth creative ideas to overcome whatever road blocks are you will potentially face as a team, or that you are currently facing now.

Your team experiences obstacles standing in the way of achieving your team goals and their individual goals on a daily basis. This process of sharing during brainstorming brings forth a collection of information and will shed light on things you didn't even realize were issues or barriers for your team since you are not the one working on the front line like they are. They say "Knowledge is power" because the more you know what you team is experiencing, the more you will be able to share your expertise to help them overcome their challenges, which will ultimately help you lead your team to success. It will also enable you to do what a leader should do which is add value to your team.

Read my article on "Brainstorming Helps to Achieve Team Goals"to get more information on the benefits of brainstorming and the communication that can take place during this process.

Let the brainstorming begin!

The brainstorming process allows multiple individuals on your team to work together, be creative, and come up with different ideas for a solution to solve a common problem, and accomplish the shared goal.

Now that your team knows what the shared goal is and why it is important, give your team a specific amount of time to work individually and come up with as many ideas as they can for the team to accomplish this goal!

As far as the time frame, I have given my teams

approximately 10-15 minutes to do this. Gauge the room while monitoring the time. You know your team better than anyone else so if they need more or less time you can make that judgement call.

Also, I encourage you to participate in this activity as well if you would like. Why not? You are part of the team too!

Give everyone a pen, pencil, or maker and a sticky note pad. I personally like to have the team write down each idea that they come up with on a separate sticky note. This will make the process after generating ideas easier. Trust me.

This is where you take brainstorming a little bit further.

Now that your team has a list of ideas, as a group decide which ideas you will choose to focus on.

Ideally you and your team should focus on the top 1 or 2 ideas (maybe 3 if your team can handle it). If this is your team's 1st time brainstorming I suggest 1 to 2 ideas. This is a great time to show your team you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to as a unit!

So how do you decide which ideas are the top ideas to focus on? Lead your team through an exercise where you will explain the value of being realistic about what it would take to accomplish the ideas they have come up with. The more realistic you are during this exercise, the more effective and efficient your team will be in accomplishing this goal. This is actually a very strategic part of the brainstorming process!

As a team go through an exercise where they can rank the ideas on a Brainstorming Chart into 4 categories (4 quadrants).

You can use the Large Restickable Easel Post It Pad or White Board to make the Brainstorming Chart. Have your team place their ideas on the sticky notes on the post it pad or white board into the 4 categories. The objective of this exercise is to determine which ideas will give you the greatest return on investment!

The 4 Categories/Quadrants you will make will be the:

1) Greatest effort/Least return on investment (upper left quadrant)

2) Greatest effort/Greatest return on investment (upper right quadrant)

3) Least effort/Least return on investment (lower left quadrant) and

4) Least effort/Greatest return on investment (lower right quadrant)

Ideally you want to work on the ideas that are in quadrants to the right (2 and 4) that will give u the greatest return on investment.

You also have to consider the effort your team will put forth in accomplishing these ideas. You can still work on the greatest and least effort ideas but this will help you and your team be realistic in how fast or long they think it'll take for completion and take that into account when goal setting. The worst thing you can do is start efforts behind an idea without being strategic in planning the duration and effort needed. That is why it's best to consider this as a team during the brainstorming process so you can choose your ideas accordingly.

Another thing to consider is when you select your 2 ideas make sure you are strategic in choosing the 1st idea, which can be a "greatest effort idea" and the 2nd idea can be a "least effort idea". It would be strategic in choosing a greatest and least effort vs. 2 "greater effort ideas" because this will allow the team to feel less pressure, and allow them to allocate their energy into both ideas effectively. Ideally, this would lead to positive outcomes for the team and a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and teamwork.

If 2 "greater effort ideas" are chosen this could cause stress for your team, and they may not finish their efforts to completion of the project. This could potentially caus several negative outcomes like fatigue, carelessness, ineffective energy wasted, and maybe even a sense of failure. So I encourage you to take this into consideration when selecting your top 2 ideas.

Have your team put all the ideas into the 4 quadrants using their sticky notes. Now you can finally select the 2 ideas you will work on.

What do you do with the remaining ideas that weren't selected?

From there decide as a team which of the remaining

ideas will not be worth the effort or investment and trash them. Yes, you heard me correctly. Trash them!

Those ideas are not worth the team's time. The most important thing to remind yourself and the team is, at least those ideas were heard and considered. Your employees will feel valued that you took them and their ideas into consideration. Let's take this thought a step further. The entire team considered every idea presented, and they should and will appreciate this. The good thi