Brainstorming House Rules

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In the creative industry, we can’t escape for brainstorms and for those who have been to enough unproductive brainstorm sessions will know the frustrating feeling of losing precious hours in the day. Here are some key brainstorming rules to keep it productive from what i’ve experience.

  1. Designate a moderator – This person makes sure we start on time, keep on topic, break up disagreements and ensures notes gets circulated after the brainstorm with clear next steps.
  2. Keep the group small – Each person’s time cost the company money, so keep the group small. Many people does not mean many ideas. Just ensure the people who know the subject matter well and the creative people are in the room.
  3. Get everyone wired up – Set the environment. Coffee, snacks and the most important, provide stimulus. Links to youtube videos, articles, reports, great advertising, etc.
  4. Focus on Quantity – During a brainstorm, you want to get as many ideas as possible. Some seemingly not so good ideas might spark off new thoughts in others. Ideas can also be merged.
  5. Withhold Criticism – While brainstorming for ideas, don’t start figuring out execution, so don’t think too far down the idea and start criticising the ideas. Criticism might also cause people to stop contributing as no one likes to look silly.
  6. Welcome unusual ideas – Everyone thinks differently and some can come up with really obscure ideas. Welcome it as it adds an interesting mix.
  7. Build on Ideas – Some ideas can be merged, so feel free to build upon the ideas of others.
  8. Don’t execute – At brainstorms, avoid going into too much detail and start crafting out how the idea will be executed. There will be lots of time for that for the shortlisted ideas.
  9. Don’t worry - Don’t be too self conscious at brainstorms. Remember we are going for quantity, so don’t worry about what others think. Even if there is something semi good in a half idea, share it.
  10. Don’t look backward – Don’t let legacy or past failures haunt you. Some past ideas that could not be executed in the past or did not work out does not mean it won’t work now.
  11. Keep it short – If you can’t explain your idea in a simple succinct line, then its going to be hard for others to understand it. Reduce complexity, keep it short.
  12. Sleep on it – We don’t have to decide on the ideas in the first sitting. Let the ideas fester. Sleep on it.
  13. Use tools and techniques – Story Cubes (available on Amazon), De Bono’s Six Hats, Really Bad Ideas, What If, Pass-N-Build etc are really helpful to get some structure around the ideation process. (Contributed by Derrick)
  14. Pre-work – send out some top line background information about the client or issue a few days beforehand. Sets some context and saves you valuable time on the actual day for productive clarification and ideation. (Contributed by Derrick)
  15. Problem statement – write this out clearly and prominently on the board or flipchart so folks can always glance back to the mission at hand and not go too far off-course. (Contributed by Derrick)

Any other rules that works especially well in brainstorms you’ve been to? Do share below in the comments.

3 Replies to “Brainstorming House Rules”

  1. also I find that giving them a topic so that they come prepared seems to help.
    Like ten things around this area, and the discuss. All sort of start on the same level of engagement instead of allowing others to say and just comment on those ideas.

  2. Your list is great, Nick. Here’s what I’d add on which I found useful.

    13. Use tools and techniques – Story Cubes (available on Amazon), De Bono’s Six Hats, Really Bad Ideas, What If, Pass-N-Build etc are really helpful to get some structure around the ideation process.
    14. Pre-work – send out some top line background information about the client or issue a few days beforehand. Sets some context and saves you valuable time on the actual day for productive clarification and ideation.
    15. Problem statement – write this out clearly and prominently on the board or flipchart so folks can always glance back to the mission at hand and not go too far off-course.

    Cheers

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