The idea of the "brainstorming meeting" implies creativity works on a schedule. However, the opportunity to bounce ideas off others can be invaluable. If you have a brainstorming session coming up, don't walk in empty-handed. You'll get more from it if you come in with a few nuggets of inspiration to polish.
Photo by Nagyító Alapítvány.
How many meetings does your company schedule that are intended to get everyone around a table to "brainstorm" or hash out a problem? It's difficult -- creative thinking and solutions generally don't come when you're under pressure. Instead, according to Mikael Cho, start with time on your own where you incubate and nurture ideas. Come up with ideas that you think might work or that are leads to a good destination. Then, after you have a few ideas of your own, join a group session with others where you can build on those ideas, shape them and get feedback on them.
He explains that taking that time to come into a brainstorming session with a few boundaries and ideas will make sure the whole session is more productive. Coming in with a blank slate essentially forces people to come up with solutions on the spot, which is counterproductive and contrary to the idea of brainstorming in the first place. Plus, he notes, it sets the stage for fear of judgement from management or peers, and discourages great (but scary) ideas because the group would rather talk themselves out of something big than talk themselves into the work required.
The whole post is worth a read, and you can see it at the link below. The real takeaway though is that the next time your department head calls a "brainstorming" meeting for a problem or project you're all working on, it's a good idea to come with something in hand to toss out, rather than just ignore it until it's time to show up.