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Productivity tips, calendar hacks, & product updates from the Reclaim team.

4 Types of Brainstorming Meetings: Tips for Productive Ideation Sessions
April 21, 2022

You know the feeling when your team is perfectly synced in a brainstorming session? Diverse ideas are bouncing around, great questions are being explored, actionable plans are coming together, and you leave feeling connected and motivated around a clear objective. 

Brainstorming and ideation meetings can be a powerful addition to your team’s workflow by facilitating collaboration and creativity to develop new ideas, solve complex problems, and create actionable goals. But, when brainstorming meetings are ill-planned, misused, or organized without a purpose, they can actually have the opposite effect and leave your team feeling uninspired and overrun – but most unfortunately, completely waste everyone's time.

The method of brainstorming was famously created by advertising executive Alex Osborn in the 1940s to foster quantitative creative ideas. But the sad reality is most meetings aren’t fueling great results. The average professional sits through a shocking 39.3 meetings/week – but employees report 71% of meetings are unproductive and keep them high-value task work. 

To turn this narrative around, organizations must become more intentional about time spent (and time wasted!) in group meetings. When properly executed, brainstorming sessions have the potential to boost productivity, develop breakthroughs, foster cohesiveness in a team, and maximize innovation for the company.

In this post, we’re going to explore the different types of brainstorming meetings, their benefits and challenges, and how you can plan for a productive ideation session to boost your team's brainstorming results. 

What is brainstorming? 

First things first – what exactly is brainstorming, and what is ideation? Brainstorming is a creative process used to efficiently generate ideas and solutions around a defined objective or problem. In professional teams, brainstorming sessions, or meetings, are organized to get together a relevant group to discuss a specific objective, share context, make decisions, and ultimately push projects forward. In the same category, the ideation phase comes from the ‘Design Thinking Methodology’ process, where teams similarly explore and develop ideas using techniques like brainstorming, among others.

Here are some top benefits of brainstorming:

  • Diversifies perspectives 
  • Limits bias on project plans
  • Generates high-quantity ideas 
  • Fosters creativity
  • Creates collaborative discussions
  • Boosts team morale 

While brainstorming meetings can produce amazing results when properly executed, there are also common hurdles to take into account when planning a brainstorming session for your team. Oftentimes, people think if you just get enough people together in a room you'll come up with your next big idea, but brainstorming meetings should really only be used to ideate around a very specific problem that you need to solve. 

Challenges of brainstorming meetings: 

  • Waste of time when organized without an objective.
  • Unequal discussion when certain members dominate the meeting.
  • ‘Anchoring Effect’ limits value when the discussion gets stuck on the first points. 
  • Lack of contribution due to unpreparedness leads to only surface-level discussion.
  • Dispersed teams face technical and social challenges of virtual group meetings. 

To be productive, these meetings require a huge amount of preparation before it makes sense to get everyone together and take time away from your busy team members' workdays. Whether you’re exploring a new feature design, reviewing technical issues, or kicking off a new development project, each person needs to come with a clear understanding of the objective, their strategic assets, research and data, basically any pre-work that will ensure the discussion is not cut short due to missing information on the opportunity.

Different types of brainstorming meetings

Here are the 4 most common types of brainstorming and ideation meetings that you’ll find scheduled across product teams: 

Design brainstorm meeting

These meetings are used to ideate and decide on the design direction for a new product feature, generate shareable assets, and align design, engineering and product management on UX goals. You’ll find your design lead, product manager lead, engineering lead, and occasionally engineering management present at these meetings. The big consideration around this meeting is if product management and engineering have properly set constraints so design can move forward.

Technical / operational review meeting

Also known as the “how will we build it” meeting, these are used to review customer needs and requirements and technical UX constraints. The overall goal is to decide on architectural and technical requirements and generate shareable assets that can be used to take the project to the next stage. You’ll find your engineering lead, architecture lead, project management lead, and occasionally engineering management and design leads. 

Kickoff meeting

These meetings are used to create a plan outlining all of the development needs for the project, to align key stakeholders, and for the entire project team to understand the project objectives and outcomes. Kickoff meetings tend to be a bit larger, including the core product team for the project which consists of design, engineering and product management, as well as outside stakeholders in marketing and sales, and key managerial stakeholders. With this large group, and usually a much longer time block for the meeting, some participants may only need to attend a portion of the meeting relevant to their role.

Requirements review meeting

This meeting is organized by product management to align engineering and design with customer needs. Product management will use this time to share customer stories and data with the technical team to correct areas where there may be misalignments or disagreements around the purpose of the build. The group is then able to document or amend existing requirements to realign around the needs of the end user. Requirements reviews include the product manager, engineering lead, design lead, and occasionally engineering management or key GTM personnel. 

Tips for productive team brainstorming & ideation meetings

Now you know the different kinds of brainstorming meetings you could introduce to your team, it’s time to take a look at some essential tips to make sure the session is a success.

1. Limit the attendee list & assign a moderator

To keep discussion on topic, high-value, and avoid time wasted on context explanation – the attendee list for a brainstorming meeting should be limited to only team members who have the needed perspective and knowledge for the discussion. This also ensures that other team members aren’t wasting valuable time that could otherwise be spent on productive deep work vs. meeting that doesn’t pertain to them. So instead of sending four people from a single department, choose one representative who can share ideas on the behalf of their team.

It’s also a good idea to assign a moderator to help direct the meeting, make sure everyone gets floor time, and record detailed notes and ideas that can be used to generate next steps from the discussion. 

2. Define clear objectives

Even though brainstorming meetings are generally more dynamic and free-flowing, this doesn’t mean you should go into one without an agenda. Ideation and brainstorming meetings should never be organized without a crystal clear goal and objective oriented towards making decisions. And in order to have a productive discussion, you need a game plan before the meeting so everyone can come prepared.

So, if you’re planning the brainstorming meeting, set time aside to clearly outline the objectives in an agenda and share with attendees beforehand so they have sufficient time to prepare their own contributions. If you’re attending, schedule some focus time on your calendar to do some individual brainstorming, and be ready to share your thoughts around the outlined objectives.

3. Encourage contribution & foster inclusivity

Creating an environment where team members feel confident about sharing their ideas and perspectives is foundational to the success of brainstorming sessions – so be open-minded to all ideas and keep judgment out of this meeting room. Sometimes the most unexpected idea is the breakthrough you’re looking for!

Fostering an inclusive company culture and team-building outside of meetings is a foundational starting point. Positive feedback from managers and executives during group meetings can also help build confidence in more reserved team members. Implementing techniques like a Round Robin Brainstorm, where every attendee contributes a point to the discussion, is also an easy way to allow everyone’s voice to be heard and maximize perspective in the meeting. 

4. Make your meetings engaging 

The last thing you want is your creative ideation sessions to become another meeting the team dreads. To encourage innovative thinking and a positive disposition, explore different brainstorming techniques to see what works best with the dynamics of the team to keep the meetings engaging. Some interesting brainstorming examples to look into include: the Step-Ladder technique, Starbursting, and the Eidetic image method.

5. Schedule your meetings as-needed

Brainstorming and ideation meetings should not be recurring, as they’re only scheduled on an as-needed basis around the needs of a project and its timeline. Too many meetings are unproductive because they’re scheduled on a recurring basis when they really don’t need to be. So, schedule ideation sessions intentionally, and set a time limit for them – so that your team can bring their 100% every session.  

6. Set next steps

So you just experienced an inspired ideation session with your team and generated a ton of ideas to move forward with – now how will these decisions and assets get disseminated?

The product manager or assigned moderator will usually take the lead on documenting the high-level strategy and plan created during the meeting, but each design, engineering, or other team lead should be taking their own detailed notes on how these decisions will be incorporated into action items for their team. To effectively direct the creative momentum from the meeting, make sure that next steps for each participant are determined and discussed before the meeting ends. Follow up with attendees to share relevant project plans and to delegate additional task work so your productive brainstorming meetings go from ideation to action. 

Maximize your team’s brainstorming meetings 🧠

So why is brainstorming important? Brainstorming meetings are an effective way to bring together key players on your team to solve a specific problem through their diverse perspectives and knowledge so you can generate inspired ideas and solutions. They say “two heads are better than one” - but getting the right heads from your team together to solve a problem (and using their time efficiently) is what takes an ideation meeting to the next level.

With proper preparation, clear goals, fostered inclusivity, intentional scheduling, and a well constructed plan for next steps – brainstorming meetings can deliver huge value to your workflow by continuing to push progress across product development.

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See the top 5 work habits to try to boost your productivity. If you’re seeking a promotion, trying to pivot your career, or just simply looking to step your game up in the workplace, this is for you.
Calendar Heroes: Chris Hunt, Staff Site Reliability Engineer at Stack Overflow
September 10, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Chris Hunt, Staff Site Reliability Engineer at Stack Overflow

Working on a team that is spread across 10 different time zones and our Calendar Hero, Chris Hunt lets us in on how he is able to do it. Check it out!
Durable Identity: Employee-Friendly SaaS for Life Changes
September 7, 2021

Durable Identity: Employee-Friendly SaaS for Life Changes

The average person changes jobs every 4.1 years, but you shouldn't have to re-sign up for every SaaS app that often. The future of work will be more durable - your identity will survive life changes.
Weekly Status Reports: 3 Steps to Reduce Meetings & Boost Productivity
August 31, 2021

Weekly Status Reports: 3 Steps to Reduce Meetings & Boost Productivity

"This meeting could’ve been an email.” We're all thinking it. Even 71% of senior managers feel their meetings are unproductive. Reduce meetings and boost productivity with weekly status reports.
The Best Time to Meditate? Prioritize Self-Care
August 26, 2021

The Best Time to Meditate? Prioritize Self-Care

The best time to meditate depends on your intention and your schedule. But no matter when you meditate, you can reap the benefits. The important thing is that you make time for this healthy habit.
Top 6 ADHD Organization Tools
August 24, 2021

Top 6 ADHD Organization Tools

Staying organized can feel like a constant battle for people with ADHD before you find your ideal rhythm and workflow. Here are the top ADHD organization tools to help you become more productive.
No-Meeting Days: Top 4 Advantages & How to Start at Your Company
August 19, 2021

No-Meeting Days: Top 4 Advantages & How to Start at Your Company

Are meetings consuming your workweek? 78% of people feel their meeting schedule is out of control - see how one no-meeting day a week can improve your productivity, team morale and prevent burnout.
Calendar Heroes: Ben Hutton, JSON Schema Specification Lead at Postman
August 17, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Ben Hutton, JSON Schema Specification Lead at Postman

Working as JSON Schema Specification Lead at Postman, Ben shares how he balances priorities while developing the JSON Schema strategy and it's tooling, and supports the open-source community.
Calendar Heroes: Shay Kingsbury, Program Manager | Go To Market at Hootsuite
August 11, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Shay Kingsbury, Program Manager | Go To Market at Hootsuite

Shay Kingsbury at Hootsuite shares how she balances priorities while leading merger and acquisition integration and Go To Market for Sparkcentral at the social media marketing and management platform.
Using Slack ‘Scheduled Send’ + Reclaim.ai to Schedule Messages
August 10, 2021

Using Slack ‘Scheduled Send’ + Reclaim.ai to Schedule Messages

Slack released a much-anticipated feature in June of 2021: scheduled sends for Slack messages. This, paired with some awesome Status syncing capabilities from Reclaim, can help you become a rockstar Slack communicator and role model for your team.
Calendar Heroes: Michele Wiedemer, Manager of Customer Education at Snyk
August 9, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Michele Wiedemer, Manager of Customer Education at Snyk

Michele Wiedemer at Synk shares how she balances priorities while developing the education training program for security champions and developers at the open source security platform.
Best Time to Exercise? Morning, Afternoon or Whenever
August 4, 2021

Best Time to Exercise? Morning, Afternoon or Whenever

Exercising for as little as 15 minutes a day can increase your lifespan by as much as 3 years, and you’ll sleep better and feel less stressed too. Here's how to optimize your workouts for the best time of day.
Make Time to Read: 5 Practical Tips for Busy People
July 28, 2021

Make Time to Read: 5 Practical Tips for Busy People

Reading has amazing benefits, and 35% of people want to do it more. It increases verbal intelligence, makes you a better leader, reduces stress, and fends off Alzheimer’s. Here are 5 tips to try out.
Calendar Heroes: Rohini Pandhi, Product @ Square
July 26, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Rohini Pandhi, Product @ Square

Rohini Pandhi, a Product Lead at Square, shares her style, tools and methodologies for balancing priorities while leading the product efforts for one of the top digital payment companies in the world.
15 Best Slack Apps for the Future of Work
July 22, 2021

15 Best Slack Apps for the Future of Work

Check out the top 15 Slack apps productive teams are using today to build and support the future of work at their organization across calendar management, project management, status updates, HR and team building.
Calendar Heroes: Q&A with Connor MacDonald, CMO at The Ridge
July 19, 2021

Calendar Heroes: Q&A with Connor MacDonald, CMO at The Ridge

Connor MacDonald at The Ridge shares his style, tools and methodologies for balancing priorities while leading the marketing vision for the brand that brought the world the first RFID-blocking wallet.
Clockwise vs. Reclaim.ai: 8 Key Differences in these Smart Calendar Tools
July 7, 2021

Clockwise vs. Reclaim.ai: 8 Key Differences in these Smart Calendar Tools

We get asked almost every day: what's the difference between Reclaim.ai and Clockwise? While we're both in the smart calendar space, there are some key differences to consider.
Naming Calendar Events: 5 Calendar Etiquette Tips
July 2, 2021

Naming Calendar Events: 5 Calendar Etiquette Tips

Need to create better calendar event titles to communicate context to your invitees, colleagues and incoming schedulers? Calendar communication starts with the first thing people see: the event title.
Lunch Breaks: 5 Ways to Improve Your Productivity
June 22, 2021

Lunch Breaks: 5 Ways to Improve Your Productivity

Want to improve your quality of work, energy level, and creativity? In this article, learn 5 ways in which taking a lunch will actually boost your productivity.
Effective Meetings vs. Pointless Meetings: How to Tell the Difference & Prioritize Your Own Time
June 17, 2021

Effective Meetings vs. Pointless Meetings: How to Tell the Difference & Prioritize Your Own Time

Learn the 5 key differences between effective vs. pointless meetings, and 3 tips to avoid unnecessary meetings getting booked on your calendar.
3 Ways to Find Work-Life Balance in the New Normal
June 10, 2021

3 Ways to Find Work-Life Balance in the New Normal

You want work-life balance, but work and life can't separate into equal halves. Forget balance, here are three ways to make work-life harmony a reality.
Reclaim just raised $4.8M in seed funding! 🎉
May 26, 2021

Reclaim just raised $4.8M in seed funding! 🎉

We're excited to announce that Reclaim has raised $4.8M in seed funding led by Index Ventures. Here's what comes next.
Pareto Principle: Using the 80/20 Rule for Priority Management
May 25, 2021

Pareto Principle: Using the 80/20 Rule for Priority Management

How to use the Pareto Principle 80/20 rule to block time for your priorities.
3 Single-Tasking Tips to Improve Your Focus
April 28, 2021

3 Single-Tasking Tips to Improve Your Focus

While you may think multitasking is a skill you can master, only 2.5% of people can do it effectively. Your brain performs best when “single-tasking”, focusing on only one thing at a time.
How to Create a Smart Calendar
April 22, 2021

How to Create a Smart Calendar

A smart calendar can help you simplify calendar management and boost productivity. Here's how to create a smart calendar so you can take control of your busy schedule.
Time Management Advice - Top 3 Problems & How to Solve Them
April 9, 2021

Time Management Advice - Top 3 Problems & How to Solve Them

Most time management advice is out of touch with reality. Here are the top 3 problems with it and how to solve them.
Announcing the Planner Beta: a New Way to Manage Your Workweek
April 5, 2021

Announcing the Planner Beta: a New Way to Manage Your Workweek

We're excited to announce that Planner is now available in public beta for all Reclaim users. Planner lets you prioritize and schedule all your Tasks and Habits exactly the way you want, every week.
4 Time Blocking Planner Approaches to Squeeze More From Busy Schedules
March 25, 2021

4 Time Blocking Planner Approaches to Squeeze More From Busy Schedules

Time blocking is the habit of mindfully scheduling daily and weekly tasks to get everything done as efficiently as possible. A time blocking planner is used to organize your new, efficient schedule.
Context Switching Is Destroying Your Workday: Here's How to Fix It
March 16, 2021

Context Switching Is Destroying Your Workday: Here's How to Fix It

How do you stop context switching from eating into your productive time? We look at tactics to help you reduce task switching and improve your concentration at work.
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