5 Steps to More Effective Brainstorming Sessions

What you’ll get from this post: A structured process for generating more original test ideas.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 34 seconds; approximately 515 words.

brainstorm_600x400When you’re first starting a testing program, there are likely a number of obvious pages and elements waiting to be optimized. But as time goes on, the opportunities become less obvious and it’s at this point some teams begin to struggle.

Having an effective, efficient brainstorming process that can generate new ideas is critical. Unfortunately, many brainstorming meetings end up following tangents, circling the same ideas, or getting hung up by internal disagreements. Tweet_this To supercharge your test brainstorming and ideation, try this process:

1. Define the Scope

Taking extra time to clearly define the scope of the next test helps ensure ideation energy is focused on the right page or element. After all, “deciding what not to do,” Steve Jobs taught us, “is as important as deciding what to do.” To do this, consider business goals and priorities, data that may indicate a functionality problem, and the potential return a winning test could achieve from the page. A test prioritization score can be used to decide which page to test first.

2. Understand the User

Once the scope has been defined, it’s important to develop a deep understanding of the user. Identify primary goals, use existing data to outline general behaviors, and create a persona from this information to guide the brainstorming process. This is a good time to consult other sources of data, too, like the results of a qualitative study, customer service logs, or comments.

3. Assess the Page

With a firm handle on the scope of the test and its primary user, it’s time to take a deep look at the actual website. Assess each element on the page—taking care to consistently reference the goals and personas established in the previous step—and write down any problems you notice. The Nobel prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling once said, “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” In this spirit, try to create a list of at least 10 problems that could inspire test ideas.

4. Capture Problems and Solutions

Typically, brainstorming sessions focus on discussion. This provides an opportunity for everyone to share ideas and solutions based on each individual’s unique perspective and expertise. In practice, however, groups tend to latch onto the first ideas shared and have trouble pursuing truly original approaches. To combat this, try adopting “brainwriting,” a process developed by Paul Paulus, professor of psychology at the University of Texas. By writing down problems and solutions at the beginning—or even before—a meeting, obvious ideas can be shared quickly and more time can be spent uncovering original ones.

5. Share the Results

Great ideas rarely exist in a complete vacuum. Instead, they are inspired and influenced, shaped and refined by groups and networks. Sharing the results of the previous four steps in a group will allow you to expand the number of ideas available and hone the best ones into effective tests.

Testing and optimization can drive innovation—but to accomplish this, ideation must remain inspired and be consistently effective. Initially, developing these ideas may come naturally but over time, a more formal, structured process is the best way to ensure sure quality is preserved. Tweet_this

Brooks Bell helps top brands profit from A/B testing, through end-to-end testing, personalization, and optimization services. We work with clients to effectively leverage data, creating a better understanding of customer segments and leading to more relevant digital customer experiences while maximizing ROI for optimization programs. Find out more about our services.