Brainstorming is a powerful tool for idea generation and fostering creativity. It involves gathering a group of people to generate new ideas, solve problems, or identify opportunities. However, brainstorming isn’t just about bringing people together and expecting great ideas to magically appear. The environment in which brainstorming takes place is equally crucial.
Let us explore why the environment matters in brainstorming.
A Larger Space than Normal
A good starting point is to book a room that is double the size needed for a regular meeting. While constraints can be beneficial for the creative process, spaciousness encourages free thinking. An alternative is a room that feels open due to large glass walls, skylights, or a magnificent view.
Flexible Furniture Arrangement
The traditional boardroom is not designed for brainstorming, with its large fixed table, a few chairs, and not much else. Unlike a decision-making room, a brainstorming room should have many small tables that can be grouped and rearranged efficiently.
Being able to write on tables, paper placed on tables, whiteboards, post-it notes, plain white paper, flipcharts, and more is crucial. Many ideas go undocumented because there isn’t enough writing space or pens available. Ensure there’s never a shortage of something to write on.
The creative process is facilitated by a cheerful atmosphere, and one of the easiest ways to put people in a good mood is through music. Welcoming music, and background music during group work, is mood-enhancing. Make sure the sound system is of good quality, but don’t play it too loudly.
There’s a reason why Lego comes in many colors. Color, toys, and games inspire playfulness and an accommodating atmosphere. If the environment lacks this from the start, placing Lego on tables or having simple games and competitions that can be used during breaks can create a positive atmosphere, even if they are not part of the brainstorming.
Minimize Unnecessary Distractions
Brainstorming sessions are often held away from the regular work environment to avoid reminders of everyday tasks and prevent others from interrupting with non-relevant matters. Similarly, you should avoid venues with distracting noises, excessive heat, poor air quality, uncomfortable seating, or anything else that negatively affects the physical environment.
Aim for Inspiration and Comfort
Things that inspire, such as quotes, personalities, unique places, are often beneficial. However, remember that everyone has different needs, and the most crucial factor is creating a sense of safety for sharing ideas. For example, if participants suspect someone is recording everything said, or if the location has direct visibility from other workplaces, some individuals may immediately feel uncomfortable sharing.
We all have a connection to nature, and natural materials often create a better brainstorming atmosphere than sterile environments and many computer screens. Although technology can also be beneficial in brainstorming contexts, for example, to inspire with videos and other media.
Engage the Senses
When designing the environment, make sure you cater to the five senses:
– Sight (what participants see – colors, etc.)
– Hearing (what participants hear – silence, music)
– Touch (what participants feel – chairs, tables, writing surfaces)
– Smell (how it smells – flowers, open windows)
– Taste (food, snacks, candy, fruit)
Using all senses can work as a checklist for providing a good environment.
You’ll notice the difference if you incorporate the environment into your next workshop planning. The reaction is often positive, even though most people don’t realize that the environment made a significant difference. Good luck planning your next brainstorm.