The same rule applies in a brainstorming meeting. When someone makes an observation or proposes an idea, affirm the comment and add to it. Otherwise, you shut down a potentially rich avenue of discussion.
Remember this rule the next time you watch improv comedy. If an actor exclaims, “Oh, I’ve stumbled into a pit!,” the next performer will accept the premise and build on it. He might say, “Watch out! The pit is full of yucky, slimy snakes.”
You would never hear a professional actor say, “That’s not a pit. You just imagined you stumbled.” The performance would grind to a halt.
When you affirm and add to what others say, you spark a livelier discussion. You give the seed of an idea a chance to expand and grow into something larger and more valuable.
Some managers fall into the trap of rendering an instant verdict on an employee’s idea. But if you rush to judgment, you squelch the group’s willingness to piggyback on each other’s input.
Resist the urge to share your first impression. Instead, seek more input.
You may wonder what’s wrong with saying, “Hey, that’s a promising idea! Let’s explore it further.” The danger is that others will feel discouraged if they do not hear you praise their suggestion from the get-go.
Brainstorming works best when you accept even the most outlandish ideas at first. Get in the habit of affirming and adding to what you hear to trigger creative thinking.