They can be a space for ideas to be shared and built upon, or they can become a ‘who can shout loudest’ competition.
We get it Debbie – you have great ideas, but others do too you know!
But imagine putting all that time in to gathering participants only to come away empty handed. What a waste!
There are various methods, however, that can be followed and adapted to keep a brainstorm on track, and to get the most out of those attending.
Here are just a few methods which we follow to inspire creativity in brainstorms:
Think about the parameters of the brainstorm beforehand – what are the objectives? Is there a set timescale and budget? Who are you presenting these ideas to, and who is the target audience for the end product?
You should also decide on who you would like to be involved. Typically, we would recommend around six to eight people from a variety of levels and experience (e.g. we would include our PR, social and digital teams). But don’t feel the need to have a room full of bodies – choose the participants carefully and ensure there’s a good mix.
Once parameters are established and participants have been chosen, an informative brief should be developed. Some find it helpful to share the brief with participants ahead of the session, and this can allow people to start thinking about ideas before they get in the room. If you choose not to share the brief beforehand, then make sure it’s ready to present at the very start of the meeting.
Plan to run the session for around an hour, however this will depend on the amount of areas you’re trying to cover and how many ideas you need. If it’s any longer, breaks are a must!
During the session
There’s no strict format to follow, but we find it’s good to switch it up every now and then so that people don’t get too used to it. Routine is the enemy of creativity, as they say.
If you need some inspiration, here is one method we recently followed, born from past experience, creative training and the father of brainstorming himself: Alex Osborn.
1. Play a game: A short two to five minute game gets everyone’s brain buzzing and ready for the task at hand. This could be a word association game, such as name all the different chocolate bars. Whatever you choose, make sure it wakes people up and gets them thinking!
2. Word association: Get out a flip board and ask for word associations based on the objectives you’ve set:
a. Objective 1 (the topic) – E.g. for the topic of lighting: what do they associate with it, how does it make them feel, how does good lighting affect them, how does bad lighting affect them?
b. Objective 2 (the target audience) – Put yourself in the shoes of those you’re targeting. If it’s a business role for example, again for lighting, what would that role care about when it comes to lighting? What challenges would the role face in which lighting is concerned?
3. Tactics: What are the different types of activities which could fall under your brief? For example, an integrated plan could include PR activities such as press releases, media tours, and reviews, whilst digital could include videos, VR, web build etc.
4. Ideas: Now comes the exciting part. Give everyone post-it notes and a pen and ask them to think of three ideas each by pulling together the different word associations and tactics. Then go around the room and have each person talk through their three ideas and have the rest of the group chip in to build off that.
The point is, we’re trying to exercise the mind and get people to think differently. Ideas don’t necessarily even need to come off the back of the associations, we could ask people to think of how a certain brand would deploy a campaign, or have them follow the six thinking hats method for individual thinking.
Amongst all of this, it’s important to remember that if you are the host don’t participate, lead. Give the brief, take notes, steer ideas, and make sure everyone has their say. Importantly, don’t let anyone be negative towards other’s ideas – make everyone feel positive about sharing their thoughts. Be a YES person.
The brainstorm is over and you’ve got loads of great new ideas – this is your yes or no moment. Look closely at each one and remember that to every 10 ideas there could be two or three really stand out ones. As Linus Pauling says: “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”
So, edit edit edit and condense down into a fantastic idea which is realistic.
Staff want to work on big ideas which are fun and that they’ve contributed to. Businesses want ideas which match their objectives and will make them stand out. So, let’s get those creative juices flowing.