There is never a question that there are different thinking styles in any room!
Judah Pollack and Olivia Fox Cabane wrote an article about how we can brainstorm without alienating introverts. The authors maintain that it is critical to acknowledge and respect the various thinking styles/creative processing approaches when it comes to brainstorming, and I certainly agree.
However, I disagree entirely with their approach in terms of introverts.
I believe there is a more effective way to make sure that the introverts in the room are both comfortable and contributing to the session.
How to encourage introverts to participate during group brainstorming
Before any brainstorming session, I always ask the guests to complete this ‘Charting Your Brain Operating System’ quiz. I do this several days before the session and ask the guests to send me their scores. I never tell them what their scores mean until they arrive at the session.
I then use the scores to create smaller teams of 4 or 5 people. This allows all the thinking/creative processing styles to be well and equally represented in each team. Introverts respond better to working in smaller teams rather than speaking out in a large group.
Once the teams are created with the help of the quiz, I always make sure that everyone has a chance to get to know each other for a couple of minutes on both a personal and professional level – for example, what’s your passion outside of the office?
To ensure the team has jelled completely, we then use a fun creative exercise to name the teams. Now the team feels like a real tribe because they have a name (sort of like Survivor)!
Provide different ways to communicate
It is pivotal for the guests to not only recognize the different thinking styles in their team, but also to be comfortable with letting everyone communicate in a way that best suits them.
Introverts will often choose to write their ideas on sticky notes rather than blurt them out. Always ensure there are plenty of large, colourful sticky note pads and new colourful fine-line permanent markers for everyone, but particularly the introverts.
Encourage positive team chemistry and keep your team together
Authors Pollack and Fox Cabane also suggest you should allow introverts to leave the room/come and go as they please during the brainstorming session. I disagree!
When you use a smaller team approach to brainstorming, the introverts feel less overwhelmed and more ‘protected’ by their tribe. Plus, if someone gets up and leaves the room, it can negatively impact the chemistry within the team.
Coming and going from the room also means that there are large chunks of the session that are completely missed. The true magic of a successful brainstorming session is building on other people’s ideas. If you were not in the room to hear the original idea, chances are you will not be in a position to contribute meaningfully.
Introverts have fabulous ideas and love to contribute, but it can be difficult to do if they are not in the room!
Acknowledge and respect an introvert’s thinking style by providing them with a tribe to support them and the right tools at their fingertips!
Need help with group brainstorming techniques?
If you’ve tried the above tactics but still need some extra help, reach out to us for support and ideas.