One of the biggest problems with brainstorming sessions is that as a technique, brainstorming is overused. After years of open-ended brainstorming sessions that have gone nowhere, people are skeptical of their efficacy and probably tired of the exercise altogether.
Remember that there are many methods for idea generation that go beyond the typical brainstorm. One of the easiest things you can do to create a more productive idea generation session is to utilize structured exercises (some are found here) and guided conversations to attack your problems.
* Start with a clearly, succinctly defined problem you’re looking to solve (or a concrete goal you’re trying to reach).
* Plan your session so that it’s not completely open-ended.
* Set an agenda; be sure to keep things moving quickly so that people don’t get bored.
* Create an output worksheet so that participants have a structured format in which to place raw ideas.
Include time in your session for people to sit quietly and write to ensure that quieter individuals have a chance to ‘be heard.’ Balance this time with opportunities to share and discuss ideas. And most importantly: follow up with your team. Turn the skepticism around by updating your team on where their ideas are and what’s being done to move them forward.