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Kiyoshi Takahase Segundo/iStockphoto

Brainstorming was all the rage a decade ago, but now there's a realization that too often it can be ineffective. On entrepreneur.com, journalist Nadia Goodman sets out four steps to be more effective in brainstorming sessions that are presented by psychologist Art Markman in his book Smart Thinking:

Think independently: Brainstorming focuses on collaboration – the group. But it's important before you begin that joint sculpting of ideas to make sure you are inspiring a good selection of ideas as a foundation. So carve out some time at the beginning for individuals to each come up with his or her own ideas.

Share ideas: Compile all those ideas in one document and make them available to the group by e-mail or a sharing system such as a wiki. When everybody sees the menu of ideas, it might stimulate further thinking (and ideas).

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Review separately: Before the group starts working together, have each person take notes on the other ideas, setting out the potential advantage they offer. Note that at this point, the team has still not worked together in a group format.

Discuss together: Now comes the time we usually rush to, where everyone comes together for a meeting. Have each person nominate the ideas that seem the most promising, and then discuss the pros and cons. Mr. Markman believes that because each person reviewed the ideas independently, you will have a better discussion and end result.

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