I facilitated a brainstorming session yesterday evening for a small group of dedicated and passionate people.
Ramping up it’s already successful ESL (English as a Second Language) program, the team at CrossPoint Alliance Church is seeking to meet the needs of the expanding international community within their local area. Seeing a need for more resources and a larger team of volunters and staff, the team is also balancing their willingness to replicate the program across the country.
My job was to understand the questions that are being asked, and to help light the stepping stones that need to be placed to successfully meet the needs in Summit County, and across the nation.
How I Set up a Brainstorming Session
Pastor Bruce Lyman understood that the ESL team was growing. The need to place more resources at its disposal is growing, and so is the need for funding and efficiency. Working with a variety of statements and sources of information, I developed a set of 12 questions that helped focus on the needs of this period of growth.
Questions like: How do we build program excitement? What types of volunteers do we need? How BIG can we grow without failure and fatigue? Partners? Tools? The big question of Funding, and even the program name were all up for discussion.
I preconceived a drawing and visual queues around these questions so that I would be able to draw and facilitate discussion at the same time.
Not only would these questions in iconic form be helpful, they would help frame the discussion for the attendees as each item was point to and discussed.
Getting Started in the Discussion
The beginning of a brainstorming session is often the easiest. Let’s get started with “topic A”. There is usually one resourceful person in the room ready to share their thoughts. The Big Paper kept everyone engaged, and many become enthralled with the graphic recording process and worked earnestly to help fill it. I was armed with re-orienting, big picture, and opposite thinking questions to keep the conversation moving, as it did a few times. My reorienting questions come from Roger Von Oech’s Creative Whack Pack. I’ve had this deck of cards for 20 years. Best. Purchase. Ever.
Being a graphic facilitator, part of my job is to record responses visually. When a meeting attendee sees that their words are recorded in picture and text, it provides positive feedback. When an attendee sees that I add a star or highlight to a previous response because the group is resounding in a “YES YES” chorus, the validation becomes a thing of beauty.
My Lopsided Brainstorming Drawing
I belong to a Slack Board called The SketchNoteArmy. This engaging group of sketch-noters share ideas, drawings, and daily challenges to hone the skills of its members. I posted my Brainstorming Facilitation image included here and I was met with a little criticism – some of the outlying topics did not meet well with the structure of the design. This was great constructive criticism, but, possibly, not avoidable.
The ideas came so fast, so broad, and in such awe inspiring ways that the recording portion overtook and overpowered the graphic structure of the drawing.
I was pleasantly surprised that the attendees were, overwhelmed. I had done my job as a graphic and verbal facilitator, the path ahead was shown to be crowded with opportunity, and the image was inspiring to the attendees taking pictures.