Introverts in brainstorming sessions

Guest contribution by | 16.05.2022

Brainstorming is very popular in companies and organisations. Unfortunately, however, most of them are not conducted optimally. There are many points to consider that can make creative group work imaginative and friendly, especially for introverts who prefer to work quietly within themselves. Therefore, in this blog post you will find out,

  • why you should definitely invite introverts to brainstorm.
  • how to prepare and conduct a brainstorming session.
  • which seven tips quiet personalities use to create ideas.
  • which creativity method also allows introverted participants to have their say.

Let’s first look at the silent introverts in the team. Why are they the way they are and what makes them an asset to any team?

Three strengths of many introverted personalities

The technical term introversion refers to an innate personality type that directs its focus inwards rather than outwards as in extroversion. Introverts do not push themselves to the fore, do not clamour for attention and behave in a reserved manner. They are often perceived as shy because of this, but they are not. They only pay attention to their words.

Introverts are among the quiet people who can develop great creative ideas. Because their strengths often include:

  • Concentrated observation and listening, so that they clearly perceive even inconspicuous information.
  • Imaginative and analytical thinking skills that help them recognise complex relationships.
  • Optimal solution finding, even for highly complicated problems.

With these skills, they are capable of peak creative performance when the conditions are right. Therefore, invite introverts to brainstorming sessions and also let them have their say.

How introverts often generate creative ideas

There are bound to be some introverted members in your team, as it is estimated that one in three are introverts. If we try to think our way into the idea generation process of a creative introvert, we can easily disguise that introverts

  • generate ideas more productively on their own in silence,
  • think carefully before they present their ideas,
  • are more imaginative in a written brainstorming session – also called brainwriting – compared to a verbal brainstorming session in a large team.

Just because introverts don’t rush in with ideas and don’t have 100 ideas bubbling out of them at the drop of a hat doesn’t mean they don’t have good ideas. They have them, and what good ones! It is the brainstorming facilitator’s job to give these creative people a method that will tease the ideas out of them.

TIP: Never underestimate a quiet person. They might have the loudest ideas.

How to conduct imaginative group brainstorming sessions

A good brainstorming starts with good preparation. Therefore, ideally, prepare the topic with background information in writing two weeks in advance and communicate this information to the team, for example, with a short presentation that you distribute by e-mail.

This preparation offers two advantages:

  • You activate the brains of the participants even before the brainstorming session, as the subconscious is already working on the problem solution before the actual exchange. On the one hand, this facilitates the start of the brainstorming session and, on the other hand, provides the first good ideas early on.
  • You show respect for the creative work and innovative ideas of your employees, especially the introverts. At the same time, you enable valued preparation, as the introverts can generate and write down ideas in advance. As an inviter or facilitator, you will often reap gratitude in the form of effective suggestions for solutions.

It is important to pay attention to the group composition when brainstorming. Even if it is a small project-based brainstorming session where a small team of about five people is sufficient, pay attention to diversity of participants. Try to invite team members who are different in age, education and experience. The origin and gender may also be different. The more diverse the team, the more diverse the ideas. However, it is also important to internalise some basic aspects:

  • Brainstorming only works in a lasting way if the participants treat each other with respect.
  • The participants should take part in the brainstorming in a motivated and benevolent manner.
  • And there should be a common interest in solving the problem or finding ideas.

In my personal experience, it makes sense to set a time for brainstorming that basically allows for creative brainstorming. I, for example, do not require my teams to do creative work on Monday morning or Friday evening. Interestingly, the most productive day of the week is often Tuesday and the best time of day to start is between 9:00 and 10:00.

A well thought-out process is essential for optimal brainstorming. Give participants about 5 minutes to get comfortable in the meeting room and take a breath. Don’t assault them with brainstorming right away. The brain needs time to switch between tasks and fully focus on something new.

Take another 10 minutes for these steps:

  • Introduce the topic again with the question to be answered.
  • Explain the rules and the method.
  • Point out all the tools, such as coloured pieces of paper, pens, pin boards, ….

TIP: Emphasise that all ideas are equally good in brainstorming, that no one should be laughed at and that ideas are only evaluated afterwards. Make sure that everyone has their say.

  • Give the participants 10 minutes to write down their ideas calmly before the group exchanges ideas.
  • Collect participants’ ideas for about 30-60 minutes, but no longer. This light pressure to perform encourages creativity and solution finding in an idea sprint. It forces us to leave our comfort zone.
  • Afterwards, a small coffee break of 10 minutes is useful to allow the mind to move from generating ideas to evaluating them, if you want to do the evaluation in the same group.

After the idea sprint, creativity continues. Just as it is difficult to generate ideas at the push of a button, it is also difficult to switch off creativity from one minute to the next. Therefore, offer the idea finders to submit ideas in writing even after the evaluation. Make a note of them in an idea pool, as you may need to refer to them in the course of the project. The more ideas they have, the better. This signals appreciation for around-the-clock resourcefulness and builds a culture of creativity in your organisation.

Seven tips for creative introverts

Group brainstorming sessions can be exhausting, and not just for people with a quiet personality. After all, the brain has to process a lot of information and stimuli from outside. This can inhibit mental performance, even of extroverts.

It becomes all the more difficult for introverts who have to expend a lot of inner energy for teamwork with a lot of self-presence and communication. Situations in which several people try to speak at the same time without a common thread can block any of us. Then we stop enjoying ourselves and just want to get out of the meeting room into a quiet environment.

If you are one of the introverts and recognise yourself in the situation just described, follow these tips to prevent a blackout and shine with your ideas.

  1. Think about the brainstorming topic in advance and write down your ideas.
  2. If you like, you can also submit your ideas to the boss or the moderator in advance. This will ensure that your ideas are included in the pool of ideas.
  3. If you prefer not to submit your ideas but to present them to the team, let the facilitator know in advance.
  4. During the brainstorming session, write down your new ideas in bullet points on a piece of paper so that they do not get lost.
  5. When it is your turn, feel free to say that you would like to present several ideas.
  6. Also focus on your own ideas during the group brainstorming.
  7. If you develop more ideas after the brainstorming, submit them in writing. Even if the evaluation has already been completed. The ideas will be added to the idea pool and can be used as contingency during the project.

 

An alternative to classic brainstorming

Many methods can serve as idea igniters in a brainstorming session. These include, for example, the creativity techniques SCAMPER or change of perspective. Usually, these are used to brainstorm ideas orally in small teams. A good alternative to oral brainstorming is silent, written brainwriting. The best-known variant is the 635 method. The process is relatively simple:

  1. The problem is presented clearly and visibly on a flipchart or PowerPoint slide.
  2. Each participant writes three solutions to the problem on a sheet of paper, which is usually divided crosswise into three parts. After a defined time, the participants pass their sheets clockwise or shuffle the sheets and then distribute them.
  3. In the next round, each participant again writes three ideas on the sheet by formulating some ideas or expanding the existing ideas. Afterwards, the sheet is again passed on or shuffled with the other sheets. Brainwriting continues until each participant has received each sheet once.

The method gets its name from the 6 participants, the 3 ideas and the 5 rounds in which the sheets are passed on. All the ideas put together add up to 6 x 3 x 5 = 90 ideas.

635 offers the following advantages:

  • Every idea is recorded in writing, so that introverts and extroverts can equally “have their say”.
  • Some ideas are based on each other, so that mini-projects with a common theme already emerge.
  • And the method can also be implemented virtually, so team members can also participate in the exchange remotely, regardless of location.

One disadvantage of brainwriting compared to verbal brainstorming is that spoken words reach all minds at the same time, so new ideas emerge more quickly than by writing them down sequentially.

TIP: Brainwriting can also be done wonderfully virtually. All you have to do is create 6 boards in a programme such as Conceptboard. The participants can then pin their 3 ideas next to each other on “virtual yellow slips of paper” and switch to the next board.

Just try it out next time and also use the ideas of silent personalities. It will definitely be worth it!

 

Notes:

Would you also like to generate brilliant ideas quite comfortably in everyday life, intuitively evaluate ideas or even bubble over with ideas in a group brainstorming session? Then get the entertaining creative German guidebook DEIN KREATIVER AVATAR on Amazon now and inspire your team and your boss with your unmistakable flashes of inspiration.

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Katharina Boguslawski

Katharina Boguslawski

Katharina Boguslawski is a physicist, trainer for technical creativity and presentations and author. She accompanies companies from the creation of ideas in brainstorming to the presentation of ideas and their implementation.

She lives with her family in Trier, believes in inspiration in a cup of tea and loves to dance out of bed in the morning to a happy song.