As the world watches the Rio Olympics, we can also learn from these exceptional athletes to improve our innovation.

Consider the relay races and how each person relies on the ones before them. Innovation is really based on this same method. Every breakthrough stands on the shoulders of those before. Each brainstorming session is built on the ideas that came before. Each person’s new ideas are spawned by the last ideas. It is important to give freely of your input and ideas, because this will show your commitment to the process and make innovation work.

To improve your idea-generating sessions to an Olympic level, use this following list by Tom Kelley, the author of Creative Confidence.

Twelve tips on how to run a killer brainstorming session:

1. Circulate the question or topic before you start. For those who generate ideas best without the looming presence of others, knowing the topic in advance is key. This allows them to come prepared with several creative options.

2. Seat the group at a round table. It worked for King Arthur and his knights! It also keeps everyone close.

3. Keep each session short. Ten minutes at the end of a regular meeting is fine, as some people might get a case of the woozies if they see a 60-minute session pop up on their calendar.

4. Number the group list of ideas as it is generated. Skip the Post-its and just use big pieces of paper on the table, or a whiteboard if there happens to be one. The numbering part helps people feel especially accomplished as they go.

5. Aim for a specific quantity of ideas. Twenty-five, say. Let people know the goal at the start, and don’t stop till you get there.

6. Start at your left and go around the circle. Each person gives one idea at a time. No one gets skipped over. This will help you hear from all members of the group—and not just the ones with the loudest voices.

7. The default mode for a successful brainstorm is “Yes, and.” As in comedy improv, good brainstormers don’t waste time tearing down silly-sounding ideas. Instead, they either improve on the idea by adding something awesome to it, or generate a new idea quickly.

8. Write down every single idea that’s mentioned, and take a neutral, respectful stance toward each one. Consciously or subconsciously, others will cue off your lead. You want everyone in the room to feel heard, to have permission to speak their piece, and to defer judgment during the brainstorm. Pro tip: Don’t attach people’s names to ideas.

9. Share back the unfiltered ideas list after the brainstorm ends. You can share this in an email, as a Google Doc — whatever’s best for your team. You never know which stub of an idea might spark the next great thing for someone else on your team.

10. If the word “brainstorm” doesn’t work for you or your group, don’t use it. Call it design improv, call it a pitch jam, call it a “five-minute think” — whatever.

11. Modification No. 1: Passive brainstorm, five-day version. One successful alternative to an in-person group brainstorm, if you’re all physically in the same office, is to tape a large piece of paper to an office wall near the kitchen or bathroom, with your question at the top and a pen for writing in answers (at IDEO, blackboard paint on the bathroom wall worked well). Leave it up for five days, then take a picture and transcribe it.

12. Modification No. 2: Passive brainstorm, five-minute version. A second alternative to a meeting-room brainstorm is to throw a five-minute inspiration break around 3 in the afternoon, when people tend to need a boost anyway. To kick it off, send a group email (or whatever works for your company culture) with the subject line: “Five-minute inspiration break: [your question here]” — and ask them to discuss. One caveat: This method works best when you start the email string with a few options you’re already considering, and keep it time-boxed to five minutes.

These recommendations are tools for your use, but to really work you need more. The “more” you need is to believe deeply that you will be a great innovator.

Keep innovating!

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