Tell stories. When grappling with a problem, ask employees to describe it as a “once upon a time” story. This forces them to reduce the issue to essentials and create a narrative that puts the challenge in context. It can lead to happily-ever-after solutions.
List obstacles. A contrarian approach to brainstorming is to get the group to identify all the reasons why a proposal won’t work. It’s easier to find fault and poke holes. Pose “what if” questions to force critical thinking.
Withhold judgment. Never label employees’ input as good-bad or right-wrong. Listen for understanding, clarify ambiguities and engage people in give-and-take. Grading everything stifles creativity.