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Guidelines for Successful Brainstorming Sessions

February 24, 2020

At the F10 FinTech Hackathons, we aim to generate new ideas and transform them into validated prototypes within 48 hours. After team building, it is time to start gathering ideas with your Hackathon group. We have listed five rules and tips to follow when brainstorming.

The participants of the F10 FinTech Hackathon in Zurich are invited to solve one out of four real-life challenges that the finance industry is currently facing – or promote innovation in the financial world by realizing their own ideas. The Premium Sponsors SIX and Julius Baer, as well as Hackathon host F10, have provided challenges. Would you like to use open banking to develop smart financial management tools that empower SME to focus on their core business without being crushed by administrative work? Do you have a bright idea of how rural areas can access cash in the future when the numbers of ATM are declining? Are you interested in developing models that help SME understand their position within the industry and to quickly identify areas for improvement? What about developing a prototype to enhance the private banking service value strategically and thus reshaping the future of private banking?

Team building will take place on Friday evening and please do not worry if you attend the Hackathon alone. Many participants coming from various backgrounds will be looking for teammates and you will find a like-minded group to join or build your Hackathon team with other attendants following the same mission. Who should the Hackathon participants team up with to tackle the current problems of the finance industry? We have analysed what makes teams successful. Most importantly, the teams should consist of members with complementary skills. The limitations of people’s information-processing capacity make it impossible for one individual to solve multi-faceted problems like the challenges of the global finance industry on their own. Bringing people with different know-how and abilities together does not only compensate for the shortcomings of each team member, but also leads to more objective decisions as people from different backgrounds often also have different styles and approaches to solving problems. The main ingredients to integrate those different perspectives into the team build are mutual trust and respect.

According to the Association for Project Management, “teamworking is most effective when people with complementary skills and behaviours are committed to a common objective and method of working”.After team building on the first Hackathon day, it is time to collect thoughts and ideas to address one of the challenges that the finance industry is currently facing. The group creativity technique of gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by all the team members is commonly known as brainstorming. Here are guidelines for successful brainstorming.

1. Define the objective clearly

Before starting, make sure every team member is on the same page regarding the aim of the brainstorming session. Do you want to tackle one of the four Hackathon challenges or realize your own idea? Has everybody fully understood the challenges? Is every member of the group aware that the ideas need to be transferrable into a business solution? Define the objective of the brainstorming clearly: you want to collect ideas that boost innovation in the financial world and transfer this idea into a first prototype within the next two days.

2. Value quantity over quality

Try to gather as many ideas as possible and have one team member write them down. Do not try to come up with the perfect wording or overthink your ideas, just say them out loud and continue coming up with more inputs. It is just as important to utter spontaneous thoughts as contributing ideas that have been dwelling in your mind for days or hours. Brainstorming is one of the few occasions in life where quantity matters more than quality. We cannot stress one crucial rule of brainstorming enough: there are no wrong thoughts!

3. Set time limits

At the F10 FinTech Hackathons, participants have 48 hours to develop validated prototypes that address the challenges the finance industry is currently facing. At the last Hackathon day, the teams have the opportunity to pitch their solutions in front of an expert jury. This means that business ideas need to be generated quickly so that the team can invest enough time in realizing these ideas. Set a time limit before the brainstorming session starts. Stop collecting inputs when the time is up and cluster your thoughts on a big sheet of paper or a digital diagram so that every group member sees the contents. Time limitations when brainstorming can increase efficiency as it might avoid overthinking and help the team stay focused on the topic.

4. Get moving

Most neuroscientists agree that moving positively influences cognition and its underlying processes. Instead of sitting in the same place during the whole brainstorming session, standing up and moving around can boost creativity. Even getting up and switching seats within your team may make you come up with fresh ideas. After having collected and clustered ideas, we recommend short breaks to drink water, maybe enjoy a delicious midnight snack and move around for up to five minutes before evaluating your options and taking the final decision on how to continue.

5. Be respectful

Every team member should feel free to express their thoughts, opinions and potential solutions during the brainstorming session. Pay attention to the inputs of your teammates and respect other perspectives. Show all the members of your group that you appreciate their openness and courage to reveal their thoughts. In successful teams, “people feel as if they are heard out and listened to by team members who are attempting to understand. Team members ask questions for clarity and spend their thought time listening rather than forming rebuttals”, according to a blog post by the career planning advisor “The Balance Careers”. Listen actively and ask follow-up questions. The individuals forming the group must recognize “that the strength in having a team is that every member brings diverseness to the effort to solve a problem, improve a process, reach a goal or create something new and exciting.”We cannot wait to create something new and exciting with the game-changers coming together at the F10 FinTech Hackathon in Zurich!

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