Whether at work, school, or among friends, group brainstorming often feels like a waste of time. The fear of being shut down can do just that–it shuts people down. If someone believes he/she will be ridiculed, fired, or humiliated, then group brainstorming won’t work. People just don’t want to say something dumb.
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” — Ken Robinson
It is impossible to totally remove everyone’s fear of being judged, but one simple change can make a big difference. Break the process up into two steps: rush and reserve.
Rush – In the first phase, let all the ideas come without passing judgment. Get as many out as your group can and don’t let anyone comment about the quality of an idea. Just write everything down. Let the discussion build and grow. No matter how dumb an idea may sound, don’t allow anyone to snicker or comment about the practicality of an idea. Often, the craziest ideas can be stepping stones to valuable contributions. It may be the crazy ideas that inspire someone else.
Reserve – Then, in the second phase, discuss the value of the ideas. Reserve the ones you want to keep. This is the moment to weed out the bad ideas and select the real winners.
With this simple change, you will notice a dramatic difference in the productivity of group brainstorming.