If you’re a total girlboss who knows how to shine at work, chances are that you’ve already mastered the professional #humblebrag, know how to handle interrupters and totally rock at email. And since you’re such a superstar, we bet you already know that there’s *always* more you can do to set yourself apart while helping your team be successful. So this week, why not offer up some fun and effective alternatives to the standard brainstorming sesh? Deborah Scaramastra, a PhD and career coach extraordinaire, gave us a handful of fabulous ideas that you can share with your team to develop fresh ideas while solving your toughest problems. Scroll on for her suggestions and then go switch it up!

Multi-tasking creative team working in the office.

1. Try a new perspective. Switching things up for a quick session can do wonders for generating new ideas or solutions. Deborah says, “Most team members have clear roles (even if they aren’t formally defined), and people are pretty quick to fall into their assigned role, which in turn leads to the same way of thinking about and tackling problems. To combat this, trying assigning people different roles — even for a short period of time. The natural leader can take notes, the engineer can consider only how people might feel about the solution, and the HR guru can think through the best process.” Boom.

2. Move around — literally. We’ve heard that stress or overwhelming feelings tend to strike when we’re anxious or unsure about tackling something new. Deborah suggests, “When that happens, it’s time to start moving. Instead of calling a brainstorm session, schedule a walking meeting, head out to the range and hit some balls or just get up and do some jumping jacks.”

3. Play devil’s advocate. Though playing devil’s advocate can be annoying from time to time, Deborah says it can be a great way to address different parts of a problem. She instructs, “Have each person present a solution, but let them know that the team will do everything in its power to immediately and quickly (think rapid fire!) poke holes in the thought process. Let the idea presenter defend themselves for at least a few minutes before offering HUGE congrats and thanks, because it sucks to have your ideas torn apart.” Be sure to let everyone know that the process can help people think on their toes, and be sure everyone feels comfortable about not taking things personally before you kick off.


4. Host a competition. Friendly competition with a high goal can be a great alternative to the typical brainstorm — in fact, research has found that specific, high goals tend to produce better results than unclear ones, like a brainstorm. For an effective and professional competition, Deborah advises, “Split your team into groups and give each a stretch goal that’s higher than what you’d expect them to reach. For example, if you think they can only come up with a couple of solutions within an hour, ask them to give you 10.” Ready, set, go!

5. Write it down. Fast Company recently published an article that talks about how brainstorming aloud as a group is less productive than brainwriting, an activity where team members jot down ideas solo. Deborah agrees with the power that comes with writing it down and tells us, “Groups tend to stifle creative thinking because of well-known phenomena like group-think, and also because people can be hesitant to share untested ideas in public.” Instead, keep it private. Deborah says, “Share the problem and ask group members to print their ideas on individual pieces of paper and bring them back to the group. Appoint a team member to read the solution (or take turns) so everyone can discuss.” Crazy ideas welcome!

How do you and your team innovate and solve problems at work? Spill your secrets with us on Twitter @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)