Over the past few weeks, I have facilitated several brainstorming sessions for high-tech startup clients, mostly focused on defining product ideas for existing IP/technology. I have discovered a process that works very well in leading effective brainstorming sessions.
This is in contrast to many of the articles I have read online, most of which tell you that the goal is to get all ideas on the table, no matter if the ideas are at all related to the core IP/technology of the business.
I have found that effective brainstorming sessions for new product ideas require constraints to define the discussion. Once the business constraints are defined, this creates an environment where participants can focus on the core IP/technology of the business, and develop some interesting and innovative ideas.
Here are a few tips for facilitating effective brainstorming sessions:
Start by defining the IP/technology, market, and resource constraints for the business:
- What core IP/technology already exists?
- How is it being used, by customers, friends, family?
- What are some surprising ways that the technology is being used?
- Who is using the technology, and what problems is it solving for them?
- What skillsets do you have related to this technology?
- What funding or other resource constraints exist?
Draw a big circle on a white board, and list these constraints around the circumference of the circle. These constraints create the space inside the circle, which you will fill in with product ideas. If you create a big space on the board with the constraints defining the space, you are left with a big enough space for product ideas, with a few smaller constraints shown on the edges.
Now begin the brainstorming session. You will find that listing the constraints first, and visualizing them as creating a large space for product ideas, helps to focus the discussion on practical product ideas.