Group brainstorming is not always the most effective method to generate ideas. They can suffer from rabbit trailing, distractions, groupthink and even idea bias. You can avoid this situation when you consider the group in the room. You’ll yield strong results when you have the right balance of personalities.
Each person, along with his or her individual strengths and weaknesses, serves a vital role in a group session. Knowing the red flags is critical. Too many dominant personalities can lead to arguments, and too many introverts may not help you strike the quantity of ideas you were hoping to achieve. Teamwork and collaboration are very important, as they will lead to the end results.
We’re here to help you figure out exactly who to invite. As you plan your next brainstorm session, here are five profiles to include:
The Point Person
Some people might call this a facilitator, but point person is a more appropriate term. It implies responsibility for the team structure. This individual should own the set up of the session itself, in addition to the harvesting and translation of ideas post-session. A rational mind is needed to objectively look at the assignment and not apply pre-thinking or any bias to the group. He or she should bring the assignment to the table and exit with the results of the session. This individual should not be the primary note taker, but should keep track of the session highlights and big ideas to layer in with the tactical thinking.
Strength: Keeps the team on track
Red Flag Moment: Not following up after the session to collect notes and remaining ideas
The Topical Expert
Every group needs someone who possesses a deep operating knowledge of the industry, issue or subject matter at hand. This individual understands the unique challenges and can serve as a guiderail for the conversation. A topical expert isn’t always easy to come by, but they serve as a strong addition to a team working to develop ideas in a specific space. If this person does not exist at your company or on your team, consider bringing in someone from outside who can contribute to the thinking.
Strength: Possesses and understands the most important information
Red Flag Moment: May label themselves as ‘not creative’ and therefore do not contribute as much as they should.
Be careful not to label any individual as the “big idea” person. This can often stifle thinking from other members and create an unnecessary environment of intimidation. With that said, a dreamer is a core member of a successful brainstorm team. This person thinks on a high, sometimes unrealistic level. He or she may only account for a small portion of ideas throughout the session, but this is the value they bring to the table. Big thinking spaces can serve as umbrellas to develop further ideas under each.
Strength: Delivers 2-3 big idea spaces
Red Flag Moment: Can often silo themselves to just those ideas. If dominant, can prevent the group from continuing further ideation.
Tacticians are the rational mindset of a group, constantly thinking about the details. This can often be to the detriment of the session, but is also a necessary element to keep a focus on timelines and logistics. If approached properly, this individual can play a strong role as a devil’s advocate, doing strong checks of the ideas as they are discussed. This needs to be for the purpose of guiding the conversation to tangible executions, not to shoot down ideas. These individuals should have a strong understanding of a broad range of executable tactics. They should also know what resources are available and have contacts in several fields and industries who can lend support to a campaign, program, brand initiative or other project. Tacticians can nail down ideas and layer on activations that may not have been discovered otherwise.
Strength: Thoroughly evaluates ideas in real-time
Red Flag Moment: Can quickly become the pessimist of the group, reverting to what is not possible instead of what can be possible
The Wild Card
One person in your group should be the wild card – the person to throw the curve balls and offer offbeat ideas. Bring this person in from another team or group that has very little, if any, familiarity with the project before the session. This will bring fresh, original thinking to the table. While not every idea from this individual will be practical, he or she will bring a great deal of outside wisdom, which would otherwise be absent from the team’s dynamic.
Strength: Left-field ideas that draw on correlations and lateral thinking
Red Flag Moment: Not speaking up or easily becoming quiet because they don’t feel they belong at the table. Ensure they are welcomed and consulted.
As we mentioned, an ideal brainstorm session would include each of these personality types to ensure the team is productive and develops great ideas. Plan your next session around this approach, and let us know how it goes!