There’s a conversation going on at the moment about the value of brainstorming. I think it has arisen because there are a lot of people who are doing it wrong.
Brainstorming is like any other discipline. If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t take it seriously, don’t have the right people running it and don’t plan, then you will fail. Doing it right is not rocket science nor is it revolutionary, contrary to many of the articles circulating right now. Going back to basics will ensure that you get useful and creative ideas to build out.
What are the 10 most important things to remember?
- Set a realistic intention – you aren’t going to solve global poverty in a brainstorm. But you can come up with some ideas to get you started. Work out how long you have and prioritize what you want to do in the time. Make sure everyone knows.
- Create stimulus material – After you have briefed the team they will need some way of remembering what they were supposed to be solving/creating/doing! Posters, images, quotes anything that reminds people should be put in the room.
- Get a mixed group – there is zero point having a group comprised of senior management in a brainstorm. There is also zero point having a group comprised of juniors. The whole point of brainstorming is to open possibilities by creating unusual ‘thinking’ environments. You also need to get different disciplines in the room, UX professionals and 2d designers will approach a problem from different angles. You want that.
- Appoint and empower an effective moderator – you need someone who will have the authority to stop the room talking, control an opinionated creative director and empower the quietest person to speak up without scaring them half to death. Make sure everyone knows that they have to listen to everyone else! Make sure everyone knows they have to contribute!
- All ideas are good ideas – don’t let anyone close down the ideas that are emerging up. Critiquing can come later. If you find it difficult tell everyone they have to use the phrase ‘Yes, and…’ make them repeat it back to you.
- Use an icebreaker – Yes they are cheesy. You hate them. I hate them. We all hate them….until we do them. The point of them is to break us out of our everyday lives and signal that we are in a different space. Don’t skip this.
- Set specific exercises – If you simply ask people to solve a problem by spewing out their brains at you, you won’t get effective responses. You have to create exercises of different kinds that allow people’s communication styles to emerge. Some should be verbal, some written, some physical. Need inspiration?There’s a great source over here at the Game Storming website.
- Time it – limited time creates pressure. Pressure is very helpful in stopping people thinking too critically and instead just getting on with it.
- Wisdom of crowds – have some way of getting the group to vote on the ideas that are generated. It doesn’t mean that these are the ideas that go forward (see Number 10 below) but it can help to narrow down effective ideas and prevent CD dictatorship. To some extent…
- Write everything up – you never know what idea might be useful going forward.
If you approach a brainstorm without going through these steps it won’t work.
That’s why at Imagination we have developed a brainstorming product that uses exactly the techniques I just described (and some more, of course) with clients like Ford, Lincoln, The Body Shop, Canon to name a few.