Facilitating idea generation – DOs & DON’Ts


Facilitation – what’s that about? The clue is in the word’s Latin roots – making it easy for people to: come up with new ideas, reach an agreement, get to something or somewhere better.

When making it easy for people to generate new ideas, it’s vital to focus as much on the process as the content – if not more. As the facilitator, your job is to make the environment easy and safe for people to say and do something different. These DOs and DON’Ts will help with that.


Prepare the venue – which is ideally light and bright – so it’s welcoming for everyone Use the same old meeting room
Clarify the objective: to generate ideas (not criticise them – that’s another session) Assume people know what’s expected of them and how the session will be run
Have ground-rules, e.g. about phones, and agree what will be done when rules are broken Play editor with the flip chart
Vary the activities – have some that are more taxing and energetic than others Keep everyone sat round the same table
Mix up quick and slow tasks for generating ideas Tolerate armchair critics and naysayers – refer them to the ground-rules
Get outdoors if at all possible; try an activity where people brainstorm as they walk Impose ground-rules – elicit them from the group
Get people on their feet and writing up their own suggestions and ideas on a flip chart, whiteboard or giant pieces of paper Expect people to just spout ideas; as facilitator one of your jobs is to frame tasks so that they are clear
Have one or two activities that are just fun; laughter is good Take too long – over each activity and the whole session
Explain that coming up with new ideas isn’t easy, because it’s forcing the brain to behave in new ways Have too few people – that can add extra pressure; aim for 10 or more people but keep mixing them up into different and smaller sub-groups
Have a mix of individual, pair and small group activities; minimise plenary (whole group) activity Keep people in the dark about what happened to all their ideas; send a thank you and follow up with an update of what’s going to the next stage


You may also find this blog post useful: 5 myths about brainstorm sessions – and what to do instead.

Dawn is the author of ‘How to be Zoomly at work’, available on Amazon.

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