Who puts the brain in brainstorm? Your facilitator!
Solid ideas, an enthusiastic team and tangible results – that’s what you want out of any brainstorming session. But it takes good preparation and strong leadership if the exercise is to be a success. So you need someone who can provide both structure and inspiration. That person is called a facilitator. His or her role is to stimulate the creative process without losing control of the session.
Good facilitators make sure a brainstorming session runs smoothly, refrain from voicing their own opinions and keep the participants on task. All while sticking to the schedule, of course. Below are three key qualities of the ideal facilitator.
A skilled facilitator is…
1. A bold challenger
Challenging and inspiring the group is crucial in a brainstorming session. The facilitator needs to involve all team members and encourage them to step out of their comfort zone by fostering a creative atmosphere in which innovative ideas can flourish. Various techniques for generating ideas, known as divergent techniques, can help the participants think out of the box and spark a host of different suggestions. For example, bring in some people who don’t know much about the subject. They will tend to adopt a neutral stance, which might rekindle the discussion.
2. A professional thinker
A good facilitator thinks ahead by preparing an agenda that fits the timeframe available for the brainstorming session. It’s also important to spend some time getting everything ready before the participants arrive. Last but not least, the facilitator helps to determine the goal of the brainstorm and the issues to be addressed.
3. A flexible leader
The facilitator leads the brainstorming session from start to finish. It’s important to make the participants feel safe right from the word go. He or she also clearly outlines group etiquette and lays down a few ground rules. What’s more, as an impartial observer, the facilitator has the task of keeping the peace in the group – and a close eye on the clock.
Another tip for breaking the ice
How do you stop people’s attention from wandering and so avoid the brainstorm coming to nothing? “Provide a great energiser to break the ice,” advises Vincent De Coninck (Idea & Innovation Management graduate and ex-intern at Bold & pepper). Something that will liven up the participants and – literally – get them moving. “One of my favourites is the association circle, which involves the whole group. Form a circle, choose a fun topic and start making associations! This helps you create a relaxed atmosphere in which everyone feels comfortable. You also get them all out of their comfort zone and encourage them to think associatively, spontaneously and boldly.”
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