Creativity and innovation are at the heart of everything The Walt Disney Company does, and these values have created a culture of teamwork and collaboration across our organization. Part of what makes this dynamic successful is the variety of forums available for Cast Members to share ideas. From interactive sessions to websites and social media, we use a combination of engaging outlets to stimulate the creative process. It doesn’t matter if you work in animation or finance, everyone has valuable information to share and what may seem like a wild idea can often spark the greatest innovation.
One of our favorite ways to generate ideation is collaborative brainstorming. While holding great potential for unlocking inspiration, brainstorming sessions don’t always result in creative gold mines. That’s why it’s critical to set your session up for success by creating an environment that encourages participation and out-of-the-box thinking. Below are four ideas on how to create an inspiring brainstorm environment:
Set Ground Rules – Start your session by outlining goals for the day and how you plan to achieve them. It’s important that everyone understand the roles they play in the process and how you want them to act and communicate during your time together. Develop a process that tells participants what actions can hinder creativity – such as using mobile devices that keep everyone from being fully attentive– and actions that can encourage idea development – such as capturing their ideas in full sentences or breaking larger groups into smaller, more intimate groups to encourage conversation. These simple guidelines can make a big difference by giving participants the tools to foster trust and idea sharing.
Give Ideas Room to Grow – How often have you been in a brainstorming session where half the group did not participate? For sessions to be successful, you have to create a safe environment where new ideas are protected so they can develop. At the start of your day, set guidelines for how you want everyone to communicate with the group and each other. For example, when participants want to respond to an idea use “Yes, and…” and not “Yes, or…” or “No, because…” This simple activity encourages everyone to think creatively about how an idea might be successful instead of looking for reasons it won’t work.
Encourage Questions – One of the keys to a successful brainstorming session is encouraging participants to ask questions. If your group is meeting to develop new ideas for existing processes or products, encourage everyone to ask each other “Where does go?” “What does it look like? “How do you see it?” Challenge your team to explore ideas by not taking them at face value and pushing the boundaries of possibilities.
Have Fun! – If you want to inspire out-of-the-box thinking, you have to get people out of their comfort zones. Kick-off your sessions with a fun, ice breaker activity. Or if it’s a creative session, allow participants to wear casual dress. Hands-on activities can also allow participants to interact with each other in a fun, relaxed environment. For example, before someone shares an idea, ask him or her to draw it and walk the group through the concept of the illustration. After all, Walt Disney said, “Of all our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.”
Here is a unique icebreaker activity your team can use to kick-off a dynamic session:
This activity is inspired by the world of improvisational comedy. Have your team split up into groups of two and designate one person as the storyteller and the other person as the word giver. The word giver will make up a title of a story and the storyteller will have to craft a narrative around that title. During the story, the word giver will call out random words that have nothing to do with the plot, and the storyteller will have to instantly incorporate the words into the story. This activity will have your team laughing and having fun. It will also start the creative process through the integration of disassociated words, which opens your mind to new possibilities.
Whether your organization is using a brainstorming session to navigate a challenge or explore new opportunities, the insights provided above will help you reach your goals. When you create an environment that combines trust and curiosity with a little fun, these sessions can ignite a powerful innovative process within your organization. Make creativity and innovation part of your company's culture to ensure your future success.
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