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Effective Brainstorming Strategies: Involving Key Stakeholders for Small Business Success

01/18/23 | Dana LaRieal Morales

Project brainstorming is something that can honestly make or break your project. It is the time you and/or your team comes together to think of the pros and the cons, all the things that need to happen, and the assumed order in which those things should take place. It's a time when your team feels heard and all ideas are considered safe.  No matter whether the team is made up of internal employees or a Client and their employees, it's a great time to build team moral and the overall excitement for the project.

As the team leader you can observe how your team is working together to identify problem areas, personality conflicts and overall strengths and weaknesses.  I love this time in a project, because it really shows what I have to work with...it is the one time everyone is a little vulnerable and is on the same level. It's new beginnings and the energy that enters the room that is truly amazing. 

How to Start the Brainstorming Process

There are many ways to go about the brainstorming process. The one thing as a small business owner you don't want to do, is brainstorm completely by yourself (unless you are a solopreneur). You also don't want to conduct a brainstorming session with non-workers. You need worker bees to give their input and buy-in because they are the ones really doing the work. 

If you are able to, you want to get some feedback from the people who are actually using or those that you want to use the system, product, space, etc. These individuals in the project management world are referred to as your key Stakeholders, Clients or Target Market. The people you will be servicing or who will benefit the most from whatever it is you are providing. The worst thing you can do is create something for yourself assuming others will think it is just as great as your mind makes it out to be. 

The reality is that you aren't the customer. You are the person providing the service or product or developing the system. You are biased so you need to get as many unbiased opinions as possible. This is how you build a full plan...this is how you begin identifying requirements and risks. This is the one piece of the puzzle you don't want to miss or it could be extremely detrimental to your timeline and possibly your project as a whole. 

Brainstorming Techniques

 On Instagram, we covered many different brainstorming techniques.  Lets talk about two of my favorities: 

The Sticky Note Brainstorming Technique

One of my favorites is the sticky note technique. It is basically when you give all participants a stack of sticky notes and you give them a topic and say go! They begin to write down things that need to be done or questions that they may have around the topic. You put those under the section so everyone can see all the input. 

By seeing it in this fashion, some of the items will trigger other thoughts and action items and in some cases, it may breed a brand new topic area that you hadn't thought about.  Participants can also add an identifier of agreement on the sticky to "bump it up" in importance. Now, this can be used for virtual teams as well.  You just need to have everyone submit their ideas via chat and whomever is the designated scribe, would add bullet points under the necessary sections on the screen.  Make sure you can easily move things around too.

The Kanban Board Brainstorming Technique

 Another favorite of mine is the kanban board. You basically take a number of different columns/channels and you create a grid on the wall/board/sheet of paper. The most common categories I use are - backlog, active, pending, complete/closed and hold. You aren't bound by these specific categories, but they are very common. Every to do, issue, and question goes under the backlog section. Your team then would work from this master list ...picking off things that are most important (this can be done by view or using a scoring method). They move the items through the categories until they reach the completed/closed column. Usually there are rules as to how many items you can have in play at one time...and sometimes there is a limit as to how many low vs. high items you can pick at a time. These rules are determined by your project team. 

The Mindmap Brainstorming Technique

The mindmap brainstorming technique rounds out my top favorites.  This technique uses a tree root type of development system. Each thought brings on other thoughts which builds out your plan or root system of thought.  You start with one topic/idea, and you let that branch off into other areas that need to be explored.  Each area can branch off into areas related to them, ultimately creating a full root system of ideas.  This is a great technique to use when you have no idea where to start. Let your thoughts dictate which branch to develop and brainstorm.  

Now there are other techniques out there, but these are three of my favorites. 

Brainstorming as a Solopreneur

If you are a solopreneur or a small business owner with only one employee, don't fret...you can use brainstorming methods too. You just won't have a lot of input from others...it will mainly be just you and your contractor, if you have one. I often times will recommend letting an independent person look at your brainstorming results and see if they can poke a hole in it or ask questions maybe you didn't ask. This is a great peer to peer exercise, because we are sometimes so close to something that we can't see the forest for the trees.  You can also conduct a focus group with some individuals from your target market or your peer group.  The key is you want to get someone else's feedback prior to proceeding. 

The Benefits of a Success Brainstorming Session

 Once your brainstorming session is over you can review the information received and often times it will jump start the development of your project plan.  It can begin to build your issues and/or action log.  It can also help you develop your project requirements list.  A successful brainstorming session is definitely a valuable tool that you should use on as many projects as possible.  So how often do you use brainstorming on your projects? Is this a step that you have missed in the past or did you make the mistake of conducting it without any outside input? Let me know in the comments below. 

Check out our Instagram posts for more information about brainstorming and other organization and productivity tips.