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 safecan 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.
Do 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 welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenOaglLgNKgRlXGnRbner@ChacfLmKsAXWEhjQyfkroCanyon.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.
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.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Become a Tugboat Captain
- If your job responsibilities sometimes require that you tell powerful people that they must do something
differently, you could find yourself in danger from time to time. You can learn a lot from tugboat captains.
- Trips to Abilene
- When a group decides to take an action that nobody agrees with, but which no one is willing to question,
we say that they're taking a trip to Abilene. Here are some tips for noticing and preventing trips to Abilene.
- Time 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.
- How to Foresee the Foreseeable: Recognize Haste
- When trouble arises after we commit to a course of action, we sometimes feel that the trouble was foreseeable.
One technique for foreseeing the foreseeable depends on recognizing haste in the decision-making process.
- Holding Back: I
- When members of teams or groups hold back their efforts toward achieving group goals, schedule and budget
problems can arise, along with frustration and destructive intra-group conflict. What causes this behavior?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming August 22: Dealing with Credit Appropriation
- Very little is more frustrating than having someone else claim credit for the work you do. Worse, sometimes they blame you if they get into trouble after misusing your results. Here are three tips for dealing with credit appropriation. Available here and by RSS on August 22.
- And on August 29: Please Reassure Them
- When things go wildly wrong, someone is usually designated to investigate and assess the probability of further trouble. That role can be risky. Here are three guidelines for protecting yourself if that role falls to you. Available here and by RSS on August 29.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrennmQSSqlcXNOqbrHjner@ChacVtSsBPzCJGbaoufQoCanyon.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:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
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
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people 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.