BRAINSTORMING & IDEATION FACILITATION
WHAT’S YOUR BRAINSTORMING R.O.I.?
Think about it: when you're gathering a teamload of talent to spin up new ideas or creative solutions, are you getting the maximum out of that meeting? Are you realizing the best results from your usual idea generation process?
There are a lot of best practices involved in effective brainstorming: from where and when you hold one to how you program their brains for best results, what you feed your crew, and which specific activities unleash their fullest, brightest thinking.
A SCIENCE, AN ART, A PROVEN PROCESS
As a trained brainstorm facilitator and ideation process leader, I've spent 20+ years leading groups in generating award-winning marketing concepts and creative ideas for some of the biggest brands in the world, from Coca-Cola to Microsoft, Frito-Lay to Kraft, BigMachines to Motorola.
They offer huge benefits across multiple fronts:
- Concepting & Ideation
- Creative Culture Development
- Team-Based Problem Solving
- Insight & Strategy Development
- Team Building & Communication Enhancement
- SWOT Analysis
START WITH A FREE CONSULTATION...
It's not a "sales call" – I'll discuss your need with you, then lay out a few pointers and a plan of attack. If you like what you hear, I'll give you a quick estimate.
Plus, I can help with the logistics and locations of any brainstorm. Need an exciting offsite brainstorming facility for your next brainstorm in Los Angeles, Chicago or other markets? I'll give you a range of recommendations to fit all kinds of budgets.
THE INSIDE TRACK FOR THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
There's an effective, proven process for great brainstorming, and it's what I employ in helping clients optimize the output of their ideation sessions.
It's based on years of training in the nuances of creative coaching, leading brainstorms of all kinds, and witnessing the inspiring work of people like the late Gordon MacKenzie, and creative collaboration-driven firms like IDEO and others:
Pre-Brainstorm Interviews to Find Focus
- Meet with key personnel, management and other project stakeholders to determine what the real need is, whether it's about culture, communication or product
Define & Refine Brainstorm Objectives & Lines of Inquiry
- Determine the objectives: what's the work product we want from the brainstorm? Is the brainstorm meant to solve specific challenges, inspire a team, building employee/stakeholder motivation and morale? What areas make sense to explore, what guardrails should be observed?
Draft the Team
- I'll work with you and your organization to draft the right session attendees, based on the criteria in #2; not everyone is a productive brainstormer, if maximum creative output is the key deliverable. Plus, the attendees at a "divergence" brainstorm (see below) aren't necessarily the same as for a "convergence" session.
Pick & Prepare the Location
- The right venue can make all the difference, whether it's on-site or off-site, and preparing the environment with the right tools and stimuli is important, right down to what attendees eat and drink.
Assemble Tools, Exercises & Brainstorm Aids
- Good tools and exercises drive optimum impact and output, and make the session inspiring and fun, "fun" being critical to idea generation.
Provide the Team with Pre-Briefing Material
- Give attendees briefing and backgrounding material at least a day before the session, and mandate they absorb it, so the sessions can be devoted to pure brainstorming. Adding a briefing to the front of a brainstorming session compromises the free flow of ideas and creativity of everything thereafter.
Hold a Divergence Brainstorm
- The first brainstorm is "brain spackle," where wild ideas are welcome, and creativity should wander well outside the box, though I'll keep the session on track toward addressing the real objectives. Attendees for this session don't have to included in the follow-up session...
Hold a Convergence Brainstorm
- A "core" team of attendees who are close to the project and its specific requirements assemble to take "divergence" product and categorize, assemble and build viable concepts or platforms from it, or add new ideas that may spring from the divergent output.
Compile & Deliver Brainstorm Product
- Convergence output is turned into actionable, practical program writeups for dissemination across the organization or for forwarding to a client or other stakeholder.
Assessment & Session Evaluation
- Grading how well the brainstorming process succeeded, and extracting best practices and guidelines for future brainstorming or creative ideation.
ELEVEN TIPS FOR A SMARTER BRAINSTORM
TIME IT RIGHT: The best time of day for a brainstorm? Start no earlier than 10 A.M., end no later than 4 P.M. Give folks a chance to settle into the day, then avoid their getting antsy and restive as quitting time approaches.
KEEP A TIGHT TEAM: There's a technical term for brainstorms with more than 7-8 people in the room: chaos. Keep the number at a level where the group's attention doesn't splinter and people can listen, be heard and share more effectively.
SHELVE THE SUGAR: Ever show up for a brainstorm where they've laid out candy and soda, like that'll drive kindergarten-style levels of hyperactivity? What happens is crash time. What's good brainstorming fuel? Moderate caffeine and lighter fare. Nothing that'll drain the circulation and concentration from anyone's grey matter.
NOT EVERYBODY BELONGS IN THE ROOM: Some people just aren't good at brainstorming, and including them can actually sabotage the process. If your main intention is team building, then consider folks who might not bring anything to the mix. But if you're after creative productivity, limit it to those you know can make a contribution.
THINK IT OVER, OVERNIGHT: Brainstorms suffer if you're spending the first hour briefing people on the project. Give participants a brief the day before or have a separate download meeting. It's a proven fact we brainstorm better if we data-dump a day early, giving the subconscious a chance to mull it over.
YES, THERE'S "NO": There are absolutely bad ideas or suggestions that take you in the wrong direction, or down a rabbit hole of clichés and me-too thinking. Cut them off. A good moderator should guide the discussion back toward the light without summoning negativity or ridicule. Call it a teaching moment.
LET THEM DO HOMEWORK: Feel free to ask invitees to bring thoughtstarter ideas to the session. Some say that's giving people the unfair advantage of a head start. So? There's nothing wrong with encouraging competition by giving everyone a chance to work up ideas beforehand so they can jump-start things. Just make sure they know their ideas are a start, not a finish.
HAVE THE RIGHT TOYS: Kid's toys? Nope. Have the right creative and collaboration tools, meeting supplies and materials. One way to stall an ideation? Just run out of easel paper.
EXERCISE! EXERCISE! Do a loosen-up exercise beforehand, anything from having people tell jokes to reciting a mantra. Use other exercises during the session to disruptively generate off-the-wall ideas, from the classic 180º exercise to many others that make brainstorming fun...because without fun, you're likely not creating anything fresh.
GET UP, GET OUT, GET GOING: One tactic that works? Take the chairs out of the room. Whaaaat? Studies show our brains work better when we're on our feet. Better yet? Take the team for a walk. Go somewhere that'll stimulate invention. It doesn't need to be a museum or gallery, but just the design-y boutique up the street or the retailer where your client wants to place some dazzling P.O.S. or packaging ideas.
GO WIDE TO GET FOCUSED: Hold a divergence brainstorm first, where you can even bring in "outsiders" with fresh P.O.V.s, and get wide-open thinking. Follow it with a convergence session with your core team to refine those raw ideas into practical initiatives, focused against the challenge at hand.