How to Run Brainstorms That Will Actually Generate Good Ideas

The majority of global leaders rate creativity as one of the most important leadership qualities in 2019. However, how to fuel innovation, creativity, or rather inspire creativity, has been the subject of much debate. How do you develop the capacity to think ‘outside your comfort zone’, or to come up with the next best thing to propel your Marketing strategy forward?

Brainstorming is the easiest and quickest way to collect opinions, ideas, and solutions. If you’re trying to build consensus around an issue, you can achieve it over one or more group discussions. But done wrong, it can waste a lot of people’s time.

In my work as a communications consultant at B2B Digital Marketing agency TopLine Comms. I lead a company-wide brainstorm session every week for both TopLine Comms and our sister agency TopLine Film. Based on what I’ve learned over the past year, here are some methods, guaranteed to generate good ideas.

Invite a broad mix of people to your brainstorm

Everyone is innately creative, whether they think they are or not. It is programmed into our DNA. Diversity in thinking is key to coming up with ideas that stand out. It doesn’t matter how senior you are either – we can all put new ideas on the table.

It’s also good to have people from different teams who may have a different perspective on what you are trying to achieve. For example, in our brainstorming sessions, we have people from the Video teams, PR teams, SEO teams, Management teams and Design teams to help broaden our thinking.

Always do a warm-up

Just as athletes warm up their muscles to ensure peak performance, we need to do the same with our brains. This helps to channel people’s thoughts in the same direction and prevent them from thinking about whatever they were doing 10 minutes before they entered the room. Warm-ups also set a relaxed, fun atmosphere – loosening everyone up and ensuring that ideas are more likely to flow freely.

A great warm-up game is called ‘Am I lying?’ This is where each member of the team proclaims a statement and everyone else has to guess if it’s true or false. You might even learn something new about your co-workers!

These exercises are particularly useful for sessions that need participants to think of the bigger picture, future possibilities and their brand or product in general.

Use random factors to stimulate ideas

One of the best tricks I’ve learned when it comes to brainstorming is to make sure there’s always some sort of random stimulus for people to look at/listen to. This can be a series of random images, a song or an object. It works like this:

Get each person in the room to write down words that describe the random stimulus. Ask them to try and link these words back to the problem/question you are brainstorming. For example, if you were trying to brainstorm new ideas for your company’s social media platforms and the random stimulus was a pair of headphones, you might write down ‘comfortable’ to describe the headphones.

Leading on from this you can think of how ‘comfortable’ could be related to your social media channels (for my role this would be focusing on PR) and come up with an idea like ‘get comfortable with PR’. This idea could then be transformed into, for example, a Q&A session of social media posts answering people’s PR queries and offering advice.

Don’t knock anyone’s ideas

Bruising someone’s confidence is guaranteed to prevent them from offering up more ideas – one of which could’ve been the mother of all ideas! Rather encourage everyone in the room to support one another’s concepts and make sure that no one’s idea is dismissed out of hand, even if you do think it’s bad. Just thank them for their idea and move onto the next one.

By bringing team members together in an informal and dynamic way, you can inject enthusiasm into what may look like a dull problem or project on the computer screen. Brainstorming creates a sense of belonging and purpose that routine work cannot and by doing it well, you’re bound to get decent ideas.

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