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  • Writer's pictureKaylie Dugan

Keeping Order in a Brainstorming Session

I’m often asked how to keep order in a brainstorming session. The premise of the question is almost always based on a concern that the boss will dominate or the most outspoken people will hog the floor. That has never once been my experience in all the years I’ve been doing this work.

Better Ideaz™ manages the concern in a simple way. We work in dyads, or pairs of people, that are ever-changing. That way, participants with more authority or who are more dominant can only influence one pairing at a time. And likely their dyad partner will be part of a more balanced group the next time the dyads change composition.

My experience is that sessions can get out of control because people are having such a good time and their output is so creative. That’s a good problem to have. Laughter and delight are wonderful side benefits of ideating together. The only reason you want to keep order is so that the session can proceed smoothly with the goal of creating brilliant ideas.

I’ve come up with a hierarchy of steps in maintaining order.

1. The most common problem is reporting ideas so fast that the Recorder has difficulty keeping up. A simple request to slow down a bit usually is all that’s needed.

2. Other times you get a soft-talker, which makes recording particularly difficult. I find asking a soft-talker to change their habit is not likely to be successful. So I like to repeat the idea in a louder voice to help the Recorder.

3. Next up is general talking that gets in the way when the whole team needs to be paying attention. This is particularly true when you are explaining how to use one of our proprietary creativity tools. I usually call for order in a voice that’s loud enough to get through the cacophony.

4. If that doesn’t work, I resort to a loud piercing whistle. I was lucky enough to learn loud whistling in a bowling alley at age 13. I’ve tried to teach many people the skill with no success at all. So if you can’t whistle, find a bell or chime that’s really piercing. And don’t worry too much if folks are startled by the sound; that’s the whole point.

5. On occasion I have to take one final step to gain enough order that the session can proceed. I call her my Third Grade Teacher persona. She sounds a bit strict (even harsh), and she certainly expects instant obedience to her instructions. She ALWAYS restores order. “Too bad for those who don’t pay attention” is the implication behind the Third Grade Teacher. Of course, you want to rely on her only if nothing else works.

Have you found other ways to “ladder up” to maintain order? I’d love to hear from you.


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