Mitchell Rigie and Keith Harmeyer, co-authors of SmartStorming: The Game-Changing Process for Generating Bigger, Better Ideas contend that problematic personalities can undermine the focus and collaborative efforts of a group. While it's difficult to prescribe a simple, one-size-fits-all formula for handling all these different personality types, Rigie and Harmeyer say there are a number of practical steps you (or the session leader) can take to more effectively manage disruptive behaviors to keep your sessions on track and productive:
Forget the Invitation-The simplest way to avoid problematic personalities in a session is not to invite them in the first place. If it's the boss or a senior-ranking person, assure him or her that you will share any good ideas the group generates afterward. Or here's a novel idea: You might simply tell the truth.
Establish "Rules of the Game"-Introducing a few rules at the start of a session can help eliminate, or at least significantly minimize, disruptive behavior problems.
Impose a Short Talking Moratorium-If a participant is dominating the session, being overly negative or judgmental, or being an attention hog, quickly shift gears and introduce a nonverbal brainstorming exercise. For example, ask everyone to silently write down five ideas and then read their favorite aloud.
Segregate Strong Personalities-A great tactic for managing strong personalities is to divide the group into smaller teams of three. Deliberately assign any disruptive personality types to the same team...and watch the sparks fly.
Create a Self-Policing Group-Explain early in the session that if anyone exhibits any type of negative or judgmental behavior, he or she is to be bombarded mercilessly by the group with crumpled paper balls. While it may seem silly, encouraging playfulness, minimizes transgressions.
Engage in Silent Idea Voting-Evaluating and selecting ideas can become problematic when strongly opinionated individuals assert their preferences or biases. Instead of ideas being selected based on merit, the evaluation process can devolve into a Darwinian contest for favorites. Using a silent voting technique can help eliminate coercion and level the playing field for everyone to vote.
Invite a "Dream Team" vs. "The Usual Suspects"-When planning your next brainstorm, why not invite your dream team? This group would be made up of knowledgeable individuals who possess a collaborative, can-do attitude-even if they are typically far removed from the project at hand.###