Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 18, Issue 6;   February 7, 2018: Nine Brainstorming Demotivators: II

Nine Brainstorming Demotivators: II

by

Last updated: August 8, 2018

Brainstorming sessions produce output of notoriously variable quality, but understanding what compromises quality can help elevate it. Here's Part II of a set of nine phenomena that can limit the quality of contributions to brainstorming sessions.
Capturing ideas in a brainstorm

An important technique for elevating the quality of the output of brainstorming sessions is to stop doing the things that degrade quality. That's good news, because not doing something rarely costs much. In Part I of this series, we looked at changes to make before the session starts. In this Part II, we examine changes in the conduct of the session itself.

Maintain psychological safety
If we want people to contribute fresh, potentially radical ideas, they need to feel psychologically safe. Safety is the degree to which group members, as a whole, believe that personal risk-taking will not lead to harsh judgment of the risk-taker by the group. The brainstorm structure provides safety by prohibiting evaluation of contributions during the session.
Evaluation If we want people to contribute
fresh, potentially radical ideas,
they need to feel safe
can come in many forms: ridicule, derisive laughter, incidental comments prefatory to making contributions, and so on. Ruthlessly enforce the non-evaluation rule.
Ensure that scribing is fair
The scribe's duty is to capture honestly the contributions of participants. Honest mistakes do happen, but a pattern of biasing the record of contributions eventually causes some to object. If biased scribing continues, some will simply stop contributing.
Intervening when this happens is the facilitator's duty. The matter can be so delicate that recessing for a private chat with the scribe might be advisable. If interventions don't work, replace the scribe. If the facilitator fails to intervene when a scribe intervention is needed, have a private chat with the facilitator.
Have enough scribe capacity
When some scribes cannot keep up with the pace of contributions, they compensate by omitting some contributions, condensing them, or combining them with others. When this happens, contributors can feel devalued, and some will stop contributing.
If the scribe is slow, and can't speed up, replace the scribe. If the contribution pace is too rapid (a wonderful problem to have), add an additional scribe.
Name contributions descriptively
When we name contributions to refer to them in conversation, using the contributor's name risks interfering with psychological safety when others contribute alternative ideas, or when someone credits the wrong contributor.
To refer to a prior contribution by a name, use something descriptive of the contribution, rather than the name of the contributor.
Allocate airtime fairly
In some brainstorming sessions, a few individuals dominate. Reticence on the part of others can result.
The few individuals who are dominating might be simply uninhibited, eager, well-meaning souls. If so, try a polling technique. Go around the group repeatedly, restricting each person to either making just one contribution, or passing. The more difficult situations relate to individuals whose intent is to prevent others from contributing, or who insist on evaluating the contributions of others: "I already said that," or "We tried that," or "That will never work." Address these difficult situations proactively by establishing behavioral norms at the outset, and by intervening, perhaps privately, in the case of repeated norm violations.

None of these practices guarantees better brainstorming results. People can be very creative about finding ways to stifle creativity. First in this series  Go to top Top  Next issue: How to Get Overwhelmed  Next Issue

101 Tips for Effective MeetingsDo you spend your days scurrying from meeting to meeting? Do you ever wonder if all these meetings are really necessary? (They aren't) Or whether there isn't some better way to get this work done? (There is) Read 101 Tips for Effective Meetings to learn how to make meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot more rare. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

A time ManagerTime Management in a Hurry
Many of us own books on time management. Here are five tips on time management for those of us who don't have time to read the time management books we've already bought.
The Palermo StoneWhat Measurements Work Well?
To manage well, we need to know where we are, where we would like to be, and what we need to do to get there. Measurement can help us achieve our goals, by telling us where we are and how much progress we're making. But some things aren't measurable, and some measurement methods yield misleading results. How can we use measurement effectively?
Barack Obama, 44th President of the United StatesSpeak for Influence
Among the factors that determine the influence of contributions in meetings are the content of the contribution and how it fits into the conversation. Most of the time, we focus too much on content and not enough on fit.
Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International AirportRisk Creep: I
Risk creep is a term that describes the insidious and unrecognized increase in risk that occurs despite our every effort to mitigate risk or avoid it altogether. What are the dominant sources of risk creep?
OverwhelmedHow to Get Overwhelmed
Here's a field manual for those who want to get overwhelmed by all the work they have to do. If you're already overwhelmed, it might explain how things got that way.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Critical Thinking at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

The 20-70-10 rule, graphicallyComing October 16: Performance Mismanagement Systems: II
One of the more counter-effective strategies incorporated into performance management systems is the enterprise-wide uniform quota, known as a vitality curve. Its fundamental injustice breeds cynicism, performance fraud, and toxic conflict. It produces performance assessments that are unrelated to enterprise objectives. Available here and by RSS on October 16.
An excavator loads spoil into rail cars in the Culebra Cut, Panama, 1904And on October 23: Power Distance and Teams
One of the attributes of team cultures is something called power distance, which is a measure of the overall comfort people have with inequality in the distribution of power. Power distance can determine how well a team performs when executing high-risk projects. Available here and by RSS on October 23.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership

On 14The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program.

Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power

Many The
Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.