What to do if Darth Vader rocks up at your brainstorming session

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Star Wars - Darth Vader
Star Wars - Darth Vader (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do you know when you have Darth Vader in your brainstorming session?

When everyone has clammed up, is afraid to speak up and scared that their ideas will be dissed.

“I find your lack of faith disturbing,” says Darth Vader, destroying the confidence of all timid souls and crushing your quieter participants.

“The force is with you, young Skywalker, but you are not a Jedi yet,” is bound to demotivate all but the strongest members of your team who may believe they have the “force” of innovation coursing through their veins.

Strong personalities can present a challenge to brainstormers. Especially when the strong personality dominates and puts other team members down.

As a business owner or facilitator running a brainstorming session, you need to be sensitive to all members in your session.

The main point is to make people feel comfortable to express their ideas.

No one likes their ideas being shot down, particularly when they come to the brainstorming session with the clear expectation of giving their ideas freely.

What to do?

Make sure that you let everyone know that they have an equal voice in the room.

You can’t very well tell the strong personality to shut up.

So probably you need to gently (and calmly) tell the loudmouth to give others a chance to present their ideas.

Even setting a time limit on participants when they present their ideas may well send a strong hint to everyone to let others speak as well.

Give every participant the chance to be heard. Address naysayers and doomed lovers quickly without being confrontational.

You may want to handle this in a fun way.

For example, you might make a game of it.

Tell those who are more vocal and outspoken to wait awhile and give the quieter ones in the room a chance to present their ideas.

After the unobtrusive ones have had the chance to tell the rest of the room about their ideas, give the more vocal participants the chance to present theirs.

If you’re going to play this game, just make sure that you understand the personalities in the room well and be sure that they will take this in all good spirits.

Many things can make a brainstorming session a waste of time.

Social loafers, inviting the wrong mix of people and stifling creative ideas with the increasingly outdated “no criticism” rule, are just some.

The strong personality or “Darth Vader” can quickly squelch enthusiasm.

Not allowing one strong personality to dominate your meeting is one thing. But another is to crush discussion.

Carefully permit some challenging of ideas and good, healthy passionate criticism.

You can make brainstorming work far more effectively for your new product ideas or generating new life into your existing business by keeping the Darth Vaders in check.

You may even use Darth Vader’s own words to inject a bit of humour into your session when calming down your Darth Vader or dominant personality:

“You may dispense with pleasantries commander. I am here to put you back on schedule.”

Stay inspired.

Chesney Bradshaw

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