Round-Robin Brainstorming

When you think about using brainstorming in your organization, you probably have mixed-feelings about what it offers. On the one hand, you need creativity in your business to succeed, and brainstorming sessions can be a great way to generate fresh ideas.

Round-Robin Brainstorming

Unfortunately, there are some downsides to brainstorming in a group setting, specifically when it comes to the issue of one or two people dominating the conversation. There is bound to be a wide range of personalities within any group of people, and some of those personalities are going to be outgoing and just plain loud. Those are the people who will take over the meeting, and everyone else will be left to just sit back and listen.

So, what is needed is a method of brainstorming that can take the positives of this method while eliminating some of the drawbacks. Notably, you need a method that is going to make it hard for individual people to take over your creativity meetings. After all, you want to consider the ideas of everyone in your company, not just the loudest people of the bunch. Toward that end, you may wish to consider using round-robin brainstorming to open up the floor to everyone included in the meeting.

Structured Creativity

In round-robin brainstorming, your meetings are going to take on a more organized format, one which will ensure that everyone is able to make their ideas known clearly. Traditional brainstorming is known for being rather free and open, but that is not going to be the case here, as these sessions are going to be focused on structure.

Structured Creativity and Round-Robin Brainstorming

Round-robin brainstorming isn’t going to be the right solution for every problem, or for every group of people, but it is perfect when the needs of many different personality types need to be considered.

To get started with a round-robin brainstorming session, you can simply follow the steps below –

  1. At the beginning of your brainstorming session, make sure everyone has a place to sit around the table, and provide all participants with a sheet of paper (or index card). Also, you are going to use the time at the start of the meeting to discuss the specific problem or problems at hand. Make sure to be extremely clear on the issue that needs to be solved, as clarity at this point will help you receive the kinds of ideas you need to move forward.
  2. With the preparations complete, ask each member of the session to write down one specific idea on the paper or card in front of them. You may wish to assign a time limit to this phase, just to make sure the process doesn’t drag on unnecessarily. For instance, you could tell everyone that they will have five minutes to formulate their idea.
  3. When finished, each participant will pass their card one spot to the right. Now, each person will be holding a piece of paper that contains the idea from another person. From there, everyone will add another new idea to the paper they now possess. The other ideas listed on the sheet can be used for inspiration, but that is not required (in other words, it is okay to have unrelated ideas on the same page).
  4. Continue this process for a predetermined number of rounds. In a small group, you may decide to continue until each person winds up with their original piece of paper once again. However, making that kind of full circle may not be practical with larger groups.

The Round-Robin Brainstorming Procedure

Right away, you can easily see some of the advantages to this method of brainstorming. First, no one will be talking during the session. With silence in the room, each individual will be free to focus on the task at hand without being distracted by conversation. Also, there will be no difference in terms of input between loud team members and those who are more reserved. Everyone will have an equal opportunity to share their ideas without having to compete for attention.

As another benefit to this method, the brainstorming session can gain momentum as it goes thanks to the ideas that will be shared one round at a time. Since some of those ideas may have never come to light in a traditional brainstorming session, round-robin brainstorming has the potential to greatly outperform a standard brainstorming meeting.

the Advantages of Round-Robin Brainstorming

With a growing list of other people’s ideas to reference the session moves on, team members may be inspired to conceive of larger and more creative ideas.

Potential Pitfall

If you are looking for drawbacks to this method, the lack of anonymity may be one glaring weakness. Some team members may hold back on their true ideas because they know that people will be able to assign each idea to a specific person. Even if you don’t list a name on the top of each piece of paper, it only takes some basic reasoning skills to figure out which participant authored which ideas.

Of course, in some settings, the lack of anonymity will be a good thing. If you want to know who developed which ideas, round-robin brainstorming is a great way to go. However, if you would like to keep the process anonymous to make sure that everyone is free to offer up their most creative and innovative thoughts, you will want to shuffle the index cards between rounds or opt for another creativity tool.

One of the great challenges that you face when running a meeting is making sure that everyone in the meeting has an equal opportunity to be heard. This can be especially difficult during a creativity meeting, when some of the more vocal members of your team might want to make sure they get credit for a given idea. To step around some of those potentially damaging issues, consider using round-robin brainstorming to facilitate a productive and efficient brainstorming session. You won’t want to turn to this model in all cases, but nearly every organization can make use of it from time to time. Thanks to its democratic design and efficient operation, round-robin brainstorming sessions tend to become one of the preferred ways for employees to air their ideas. It only take a bit of practice before everyone in the company becomes very comfortable with this technique.

You can read more about Round-Robin Brainstorming in our free eBook ‘Top 5 Brainstorming Techniques‘. Download it now for your PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, Kindle, eBook reader or Smartphone.

Key Points

  • There are some downsides to brainstorming in a group setting, specifically when it comes to the issue of one or two people dominating the conversation.
  • Round-robin brainstorming can help address this by making sure that everyone gets a voice.
  • The technique involves each participant writing down an idea on a piece of paper which is then passed on to another participant after a predetermined time.
  • This carries on for a predetermined number of rounds with each participant adding their own idea to the card, which may or may not be based on what has already been written.
  • If anonymity is important then it is possible to use a software tool.
  • With a growing list of other people’s ideas to reference the session moves on, round-robin brainstorming has the potential to greatly outperform a standard brainstorming meeting.

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