5 Keys to Brainstorming New Products / Services / Solutions

Brainstorming is a way to get creative insights from various perspectives and to generate new ideas very quickly. You can set it up as a physical event with a group of 6 – 12 people (ideally), or as a virtual event with an ‘R and D’ Team (research and development). Essentially, you are asking individuals to contribute their perspective, to solicit experiences and resources, to map out new strategies, to test new ideas and to develop new products and services.

1. A Facilitator

There needs to be a facilitator, whether that’s you or someone else, to capture the key points and direct the use of time. The facilitator is responsible for making sure the various areas are covered as intended, makes sure the group doesn’t get into too many tangents, and invites the input of everyone who wants to share.
The facilitator must be able to communicate the objective clearly and with enthusiasm, starting the session with good energy and keeping it high throughout the session. The facilitator also sets aside their personal ideas and viewpoints in favor of the group’s input, although they may contribute to keep things moving. The facilitator keeps the session on schedule, keeps people focused on the subject at hand (vs. side conversations), making sure that the focus is on the positive (i.e., no judgment), encourage active listening to each other, ensuring that the note-taker is getting the gist of all input and seeing opportunities that come up but aren’t explored by the group.

2. Set the Stage

You, or the facilitator, should connect with participants to set the stage in advance of the brainstorming event. Things to be covered include the subject of the brainstorming, an idea of the desired outcome (product, knowledge, strategy, etc.) and any special tasks for participants if applicable. If supporting background information is needed, that should be supplied to participants in advance, as well as an explanation of rules for the brainstorming session.

3. Have Rules

Suggested rules include: there are no bad ideas, there is no public negative judgment of ideas or fellow contributors allowed, and inspiration is requested (vs. “advice”). If you have a number of ideas / areas to brainstorm, you can go for as many as you can get in 15 minute increments. Make sure to have a way to capture the output of the group as you go, including alternative ideas to be explored further at a later date.

4. The Environment

If the group is meeting in person, people should sit around a table or in a circle to see each other with the facilitator and the note-taker at one side with the board or flip charts or projector behind them. If the group is meeting virtually, make sure there aren’t distractions in the environment within earshot or visually (whatever is in the screen shot).

5. Powerful Summary

The session should close out with a summary of what was covered relevant to the initial agenda, as well as other ideas generated and where the group has left off. Participants should agree on the closing summary. Tasks should be assigned from the session as appropriate.