Make the Most of Your Brainstorming Sessions

April 9, 2020  •   LPi

Team of people brainstorming over a table

When a parish wants to tackle a project, often a group of people — including the priest, parish staff, and other leadership — will get together to plan or problem solve. The success of those efforts could very well depend on the productivity of the brainstorming session. Follow these tips to make these meetings more fruitful.

Set the Tone

Keeping everything relaxed can help the ideas flow more freely.

  • Don’t Judge. Don’t disregard any ideas. Doing such can discourage creativity or keep others from speaking up.
  • Remember There Are No Bad Ideas. Even if it may seem outlandish or impossible, write it down! Once you consider all the other suggestions, the idea may work after all.
  • There’s No Such Thing as Too Much. Come up with as many ideas or solutions as possible. It’s better to have too many than not enough!
Plan the Meeting

Organize the meeting in a way that will lead to success.

  • Define the Problem Clearly. Set a time frame to implement a program or solve a problem. It shouldn’t take three hours to figure out who can help with the upcoming pancake breakfast. Likewise, you shouldn’t vote on the next finance chair committee member in 20 minutes.
  • Establish Context and Terms. Ambiguity is not your friend here. Make sure everyone has the same definition of terms and are on the same page when it comes to the problem at hand and possible solutions.
  • Choose Wisely. Pick a facilitator who can be unbiased, has experience leading a brainstorming session, can keep everyone on track, and doesn’t allow powerful personalities to dominate the meeting.
  • Establish What Comes Next. The goal should be to allow the open discussion of ideas and to pay attention to favored ideas or themes that emerge. Then narrow down the list of ideas to a handful of possibilities and establish the next steps in planning and implementation.
More Considerations

Here are a few other things that might inspire greater participation from those in the meeting:

  • Assign “Homework.” Consider allowing those involved time in advance to form their ideas. Introverts may have a hard time speaking up in the moment. By giving them extra time to formulate what they want to say, you may get more participation from them.
  • Hold the Meeting Outside the Office. Instead of having the meeting on-site or in a conference room, consider a restaurant, park, or other location. Such a change can stimulate the creative juices by getting your team out of their typical surroundings.
  • Offer Sustenance. Feeding your team can make them more eager to participate and offer ideas. Plus, everyone is happier and thinks much better on a full stomach!
  • Practice Good Timing. Research says people are most creative in early mornings. It’s best to avoid times when fatigue typically sets in.
  • Ban Laptops, Smartphones, and Other Electronic Devices. This creates an environment in which everyone’s full attention is given to the meeting, to those who are speaking, and to the ideas being proposed.

How does your parish’s brainstorming sessions usually work? What tips work for your team?

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