What is a brainstorming session?

Brainstorming sessions are dedicated time blocks amongst team members to discuss ideas and exchange information to solve a business problem or arrive at a solution. Since the goals of such meetings are to identify new approaches and business solutions, even with a defined objective, these meetings can go off track and become inefficient. Hence, the task of the meeting facilitator and meeting owner is extremely crucial to ensure that the discussion remains limited to the scope of the meeting.

For brainstorming sessions, having a meeting agenda and putting together a high-level framework for the discussion is critical. We have outlined a sample agenda to help you make your brainstorming session productive.

How to prepare agenda for a brainstorming session?

An effective meeting agenda for the brainstorming session should encompass the following four elements:

1. Problem statement

2. Meeting objective

3. Overview of the session

4. Next steps

Let's dive into each element in more detail.

1. Problem statement

This is the key element to ensure that all participants are focusing to solve the same problem statement. It is also a good idea to define the scope of the problem statement to ensure that participants are thinking within the defined scope. By doing this, meeting owners ensures that the ideas generated from brainstorming session are useful. This also prevents participants from unknowingly derailing the conversation by initiating tangential discussion.

Meeting facilitators or meeting owners are also encouraged to share any additional context, reading material, or documentation that might give participants more insights into the problem statement.

2. Meeting objective

Meeting objectives is important for meeting participants to set expectations for the brainstorming session - Are they required to just generate new ideas? Is the expectation to finalize a few ideas and then build on them later? Are they required to present their ideas - write a document or create a presentation?

Answering these questions before a meeting will help the attendees level set and prepare to deliver on what is expected out of them at the end of the meeting. It also promotes a sense of shared responsibility of arriving at the desired outcome by the end of the meeting.

3. Overview of the session

This agenda element should be detailed enough to give the participants a run-through of the meeting. This will make the participants more comfortable going into the meeting and remove the anxiety associated with unknowns. A few things that should be included in the overview are -

  • A breakdown of the planned activities within the session and should include details on how you plan to conduct the brainstorming session.
  • A timeline view of the planned activities. Once you have outlined the activities that would be taking place within the session, it is a good idea to estimate the amount of time allotted for each activity. As a meeting owner, this will also help you ensure that the discussion is going according to the prepared agenda and that you are not running out of time
  • Any additional details that the participants should be aware of before starting the discussion like - Do participants need to get access to the virtual board ahead of the discussion? Are there any criteria based upon which the ideas should be voted? Etc.

4. Next steps

It is important to outline what the next steps would be after the brainstorming session. Would the shortlisted ideas be implemented in the project roadmap? Will the ideas be presented to the leadership? Outlining these next steps clearly would keep the meeting participants motivated and make them feel that their time will be utilized productively.