Small businesses need every edge they can get. A good brainstorming session can give your small business the new strategy and product ideas that can make the difference between success and failure. However, good brainstorming sessions don't just happen. You need to set up and run a brainstorming session the right way if you want useful, creative new ideas.
The Brainstorming Team
Ideally, you want a lot of people from different backgrounds, with different talents, for your brainstorming team. After all, with a lot of different perspectives, it's easier to see new ideas. However, as a small business owner, you don't have a lot of people to choose from in your company. Try to involve as many of your employees as you can. Bring some people in from outside your organization, if you can, such as noncompeting professionals in your industry.
Prepare for the Session
If you want effective brainstorming, you need to make sure that everyone on the team thoroughly understands the nature of the problem you want solved. They must also understand what resources the company has to work with. Prepare a short report outlining these things for each person on the team. Hand them out before the meeting so that people can show up well informed. Here, you have an advantage as a small business owner. Because you are working with a small business, it should be relatively easy to explain everything about the relevant operations. If your team has a good understanding of all the systems they are working with, it will be easier for them to come up with useful ideas.
Make Sure Your Team Feels Free to Speak Up
It's important to remember that, as the business owner, your team members might be hesitant to speak up at the session or freely share their ideas out of fear for their jobs. You should go out of your way to reassure your team members that they can speak freely and that nothing said in the session will affect their jobs. You might motivate them by offering rewards for good ideas.
Remember: You're Just the Referee
If you try to control the conversation too much, you'll stifle your team's creativity. You'll get the best results by playing referee, making sure that everyone gets a chance to speak and that all disagreements are handled professionally. Remember that people have their own ways of problem solving. Some people throw out a lot of random, weird ideas until they hit on a good one. Some need to engage in long winded analogies and examples. Let your team members talk out their ideas in the way they need to, even if it seems like they aren't going anywhere at first.
You never know which ideas your team comes up with will end up being useful. Set someone to take notes so that you can go over everything later, at leisure.
If you run your brainstorming sessions the right way, you should have productive sessions even if your business is a small one. Just make sure that your team is as diverse and well informed as possible, and keep the exploration of ideas moving along.