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Over the past month, we’ve been designing a 150-person brainstorming session for the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund launch in Kansas City, Thursday, February 13, 2014.

The Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund will invest $150,000 in the Kansas City innovation community (with an equal amount in Chattanooga, TN) to support “development, experimentation, and deployment of learning experiences and workforce development opportunities enhanced by next gen networks.”

Brainstorming-FacilitationOur objective for the Building the Gigabit City 2.0 brainstorming session is to build community and imagine concepts for how technology can address needs and aspirations in multiple community segments. These segments include K-12 and higher education, workforce development, digital inclusion, seniors and lifelong learning, and digital making and storytelling.

The scope and detail behind designing and producing a brainstorming session for such a large group is exciting. It’s also something we’ve become known for doing very successfully at The Brainzooming Group, starting with the first Building the Gigabit City event in 2011.

5 Keys for Successful Brainstorming with Any Group

To produce the Building the Gigabit City 2.0 event, we’ve assembled a fantastic team of individuals from Kansas City and beyond to help facilitate the Brainzooming session we designed for Mozilla.

Creating the facilitator’s guide for Building the Gigabit City 2.0, I included five keys for successful facilitation. Whether your creative thinking group is just a few people or approaches multiple hundreds, these five keys to successful brainstorming and facilitation for our extended team apply to any group:

1. The facilitator is present to serve the group, its strengths, and weaknesses.

Far better to reach the desired result and be forgotten as a facilitator than to be remembered for being part of the reason a group wasn’t successful.

2. Facilitators should be managing the group for the outcomes, not all the interim steps.

There may be a pre-planned flow to a brainstorming session, but the specific activities are less important than reaching the expected outcomes and deliverables.

3. One of the facilitator’s chief roles is managing and respecting participant time.

By sticking as best possible to the timing guidelines and keeping the session moving, you help create energy, focus, and productivity within the group.

4. You have a unique opportunity to draw out once in a lifetime creative thinking.

This group may never come together again, so this is the only opportunity ever for exciting creative thinking from these individuals as a team. Actively push, prod, stimulate, and cajole the group for more ideas throughout this precious time they are working together.

5. A facilitator is more important for creating “white space” than for sharing ideas.

Depending on how the group is progressing toward answers, cheer a lot, suggest a little, and say what YOU think the answers is only as a LAST resort. Try to answer their questions with questions. The group will get to where it needs to be, only if you give them sufficient room to explore.

What else?

I know we have other facilitators in the audience. What would you add to or subtract from this list of keys to for successful facilitation? – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

 

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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  • http://taotwits-too-big-to-tweet.blogspot.hk/ Nigel Green

    Here’s a few other thoughts I use when designing and running a Brainstorming session:

    1. Create context for the session – use a ‘Canvass’ (a visual aid) that helps trigger
    thinking and link ideas. This could be a ‘Rich Picture’ or similar that creates
    a ‘space’ for ideas to be posted (at least mentally if not physically). Refer
    back to it regularly.

    2. Think carefully about the sequence and flow of ideas – storyboard the session in a way that makes the narrative as natural as possible. Help the participants tell
    their stories and link ideas.

    3. Consider using a game to warm-up creative thinking before you get to the main Brainstorm. I recently used a ‘Journey-to-Work’ game to get the team to think about the difference between: a need, a service, a process and the underlying infrastructure capabilities.This was to warm them up for a Brainstorm around replacing parts of an infrastructure.

    Cheers,
    Nigel.

    • http://www.brainzooming.com Mike Brown

      Great ideas, Nigel, for planning and conducting the brainstorming session. We’re big believers and users to graphics on posters to focus the participants.
      Sent from my iPad