32778270_MMany of the most successful companies in the world, including Google and Amazon, use brainstorming to help come up with innovative new ideas and initiatives. When was the last time your team or company had a successful brainstorming session? Did everyone leave the meeting encouraged and recharged or did they leave feeling like they wasted the last hour or two? Effective brainstorming sessions can help companies innovate. Ineffective brainstorming meetings can be time-wasters.

What’s the secret to brainstorming done right? For starters, don’t always keep the brainstorming topic a secret before the meeting. Some people are great at coming up with ideas on the spot. But many people need time to process and think through options. Make brainstorming a part of your company’s culture. It can take some people a long time to get used to the idea of sharing ideas and talking them out. Practicing brainstorming, like everything else in life, can help you get better at it.

It’s vital to make sure your employees feel safe in the brainstorming sessions. How do other employees or even managers respond to the ideas presented? What happens to those who go against conventional thinking or who question the aspects that have “always been done that way?” Are they made to feel unhelpful or, worse, chastised? The reaction to ideas can have a huge impact on further employee suggestions.

At DreamWorks Animation, for example, the company keeps brainstorming sessions to groups of no more than seven people. That way, employees know one another well and feel comfortable creating and testing ideas. The company makes sure that employees feel confident that they can speak up and that more vocal team members are not dominating discussions.

An idea is only an idea until it is implemented into your business’ practices. Don’t just ask for ideas but ask how they can be implemented.