When it comes to ideation and the generation of great ideas, it is a well known fact that quantity beats quality every day of the week. The biggest problem, however, is that quantity does not come easily to most of us. The fear of saying something wrong or presenting an idea that others will not approve of is always present, and to break free of that ball and chain is essential for any team to excel in what they do.

In an article titled “How to tease out great ideas of every member on your team” Lydia Dishman presents a few tips on how to encourage everyone to participate and how to keep the dominant persons in the groups at bay.

I personally feel strongly for the tactics suggested in the article, but as alwyas it demands a lot of trust from the team members to engage in an excercise like this. Much to often, the damp blanket of old habits is never lifted from the participants, and instead of participation and creativity, all members feel awkward and wants to crawl out of their skins rather than stay another minute. I know, beacuse I’ve been there more than once.

To increase the chances of reaching creative Nirvana, I suggest the following steps are taken before jumping into the excercise itself.

1. Establish buy-in from all participants.
More often than not on these facilitated creative sessions, the purpose of the exercise is not clear to all attendees – and even if it is, it’s not always that everyone agrees that this purpose is worth while spending their precious time on. So, before starting to seat people, make sure everyone present is interested in contributing and let the ones who are not tend to their business as usual.

2. Do some excersises in divergent thinking
More often than not, the brainy people with great analytic ability are the ones who get the last say in any conversation based solely on their ability to reason. For lateral thinking however, this ability is not always a gift. To start loosening up the brains of the gathered crowd and begin making sure everyone understans that right and wrong is not the name of the game at the moment, present a few divergence tets and see if you can start getting people in the mood.

3. Remind everyone that there is no right and wrong and only one rule: Noone can even as much as hint that something is a better or worse idea than something else.
As stated earlier, this is not an exercise in solving a problem or evaluating or testing ideas. It is just about generating them. And the more ideas there are, the better it is, and the only thing that will keep ideas off the table is peoples’ fear of not having the right ones.

Now you are ready to go about and start generating a bucket full of great (and of course less great!) ideas for later evaluation and prototyping.

Good luck with your ideation session!

[Image: Flickr user tomczak | Released]