5 Tips on how to generate ideas when brainstorming

We’ve all been there before — well, some of us have: the Iranian New Year is nearing and we have an idea for a gift that can be given from our company — or maybe we don’t. “Maybe gifting our clients and suppliers with a power banks doesn’t truly show how innovative our company is. Maybe we can show innovation in the accompanying card?! Yes, the card — the card can be…? It’ll use our logo, but maybe we could adapt it to look like a fish… two fish… but one jumping out of bowl… in our company colours! Hassan! Hassan! Book the conference room and get me four of my best!”

Brainstorming sessions are gatherings in which ideas or solutions are found in collaboration. This method is often an effective way of triggering new ways of thinking through the casual exchange and development of ideas. Us creatives often brainstorm to generate creative solutions for projects, but we also occasionally facilitate local advertising agencies, our clients and even production teams by running brainstorming sessions with them. Getting the most out of a brainstorming session can be difficult though, and we’ve learned a thing or two on how to better go about them. So, to help you conduct your brainstorming sessions, we’ve put together 5 simple tips that we feel can help you arrive at better solutions; faster.

1. How to get the best out of your brainstorming session

Brainstorming sessions can occasionally go quiet — revealing only the chewing sound of the person who’s there just for the confectionery — but more often than not it’ll be the other way around. For either case you’ll have a person in a leadership role attempting to steer the process, while not restricting it. This person doesn’t necessarily need to be the most senior person in the room, or even the project leader — in fact, we find it helps if this designated moderator isn’t one of those two people. Your moderator need only be capable of commanding the room’s attention when it gets rowdy, or inspire the room when it falls silent. For this role, we’ve found that an effective moderator is one that mostly poses questions: “how would Sara’s idea be if it was to be placed in this location?”“Mohammad, would it be ok if somebody else could speak for a second?” or “Ali my dear, would you like us to get more chocolate sponge cake?”.

2. How to effectively capture brainstormed ideas

Brainstorming didn’t get it’s name for being a calm and coherent affair — ideas will twist around the room; smacking past attendees in a chaotic way; leaving fragments all over the place. Some brave soul will need to stand firm to reach out and grab ideas so that when the calm does eventually arrive, everyone will know what hit them. It helps if this brave soul can draw shapes that vaguely resemble physical object as well as draw stick figures with at least bendy limbs. Using these skills, this person should pen-up summaries in a way that all attendees can recall and visualise them development or rejection as the storm dies down.

3. How big should your brainstorm be

Whipping up the perfect storm is not necessarily about the amount of people in the room, but maybe more about the amount each person contributes. Having a large volume of ideas from a large volume of people — especially when they’re all fuelled up on coffee and confectionery — can be counterproductive. Experience has taught us that brainstorming with more than eight people in the room can lead to breakdowns into sub-storms of ideas with sub-groups raising their voices to be heard. Pick from people that are positive in outlook and are forthcoming with ideas — if they represent diverse backgrounds, even better!

4. How to accept shit in a brainstorm

If there are supposed non-creative sorts in the room, folk like us will stand before the group to proclaim, “guys, there are no bad ideas, ok — nobody poo-poo other people’s ideas, ok!”. This person’s reason will likely be that any negativity will stop the flow of ideas — and we’re inclined to agree. That gem of an ideas may not exit an intimidated mind, or that mind might be lost to a defensive disposition should criticism arrive. These days your author understands this rule in a different way. Through several bizarre attempts at improvised comedy over the last year or so, this author learned that acceptance of what comes at you, can turn what you might consider shit, into some pretty good shit. Should a peculiar idea come in your direction, grab it and add to it — you’ll be surprised at how this can inspire fresh thinking.

5. How to think inside another box when brainstorming

The ‘box’ is apparently the thing you usually think inside of, but when somebody cleverly frees you from it by simply suggesting you’re in it, you’ll probably start looking outside the window and imagining cats with trees for legs. This may be perfect for that campaign to sell pet arthritis pills, but that brief doesn’t come around very often. I’ve found that thinking inside another box can unleash some very usable ideas. To do this, your moderator can ask, “what would [insert name] do?”. I normally start by using a familiar advertising agency name, but will quickly move on the famous people or fictional characters, for example, “what would Asdolah from the popular Iranian book, My Uncle Napoleon, do?”. By repeatedly changing your mindset you’ll escape the looping of ideas you might have, while inviting fresh thought in an entertaining way.

This article was originally published on Medium.com

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