Brainstorming can feel like a daunting task.

Say the word aloud in your office, and you’re just as likely to get a cringe as a smile. Yet, it’s also a necessary and fundamental part of the creative process, a space for melding ideas and visions early in a project’s lifespan. Brainstorming is also an excellent method for team building and fostering an office norm of open communication. We do it for every project. If your organization doesn’t, we suggest giving it a try.

Below are some tips that we’ve found helpful in setting up a brainstorming session for success.

  • Respect the brain.

    Set up a specific time and location for the meeting and invite the necessary folks. The meeting should be after people have had their coffee and before the afternoon slump sets in. For those that say you function well before your coffee, or that you don’t have an afternoon slump, well…you’re full of it.

  • Make it a field trip.

    No need to rent a bus, but getting people outside their usual workspace gets the noggin going and keeps people from falling into usual workplace ruts. The space should provide a layout where people can see each other at all times and, preferably, is not also a typical space for mind-draining meetings. You know what I’m talking about: weekly staff meetings, budget meetings, interviews, etc.

  • Think good thoughts.

    It’s all about positivity. The goal is to create a space where people feel safe to throw out ideas—good or bad. Negative energy inhibits communication and creative thinking. There should be no project or client bashing, no gossiping or slander. If you need a rabbit hole to follow, try a joke instead.

  • Imagine yourself as a Swiss Army Knife.

    Not all brains think alike…that’s kind of the whole point to the meeting. Bringing different brains together delivers better results through cross pollination of ideas. Be prepared to try a variety of methods that work with different sides of the brain. You might bring paper to have folks draw out ideas or list words and thoughts, maybe use a whiteboard for an idea map, or maybe try a timer to add an element of pressure. Break out your inner kindergarten teacher and get creative.

  • Be direct and constructive.

    There will be bad ideas in the meeting, and that’s okay. In fact, as long as there is a feeling of safety, they can lighten up the conversation. That said, a bad idea should be discussed and then shut down quickly. The response to bad ideas should always be direct, like “I don’t think that will work…,” followed by an explanation, “because…(with an explanation).” Never shoot down an idea without explanation or discussion. That leaves people feeling small and sucks the safe space right out of the room.

  • Give marching orders.

    One of the most common issues with brainstorming meetings is the lack of direction when the meeting breaks. Everyone should know their marching orders, deliverables and timeline when they walk out of that room. This, of course, is determined by the specific project, but there should always be a next step.

Need some other brains in the room? Give us a call and we’d be happy to help brainstorm. There’s nothing we like more than smushing neurons together.

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